Farewell, decent cell phone plans, it was nice knowing you

expensive-plansUnlike the rest of the Pocketables team, I’m not American. I live in Norway, and a lot of things work differently here. One of those things used to be cell phone plans, which for years worked differently from the US system. Most plans didn’t include any minutes, messages, or anything like that, but instead gave you various per-use price models offset by a monthly fee. Buying phones without a plan used to be very common, and buying a subsidized phone basically meant you got a cheaper phone but a more expensive plan.

Looking through various carriers’ available plans now, I’m horrified at how things have changed. Norwegian carriers are starting to adopt the US model of doing things, rather than the other way around. The old plans where you paid for whatever you used are near extinction, replaced by various plans that include a certain amount of minutes, messages, and data. What they all have in common is that if I ever left my grandfathered plan and had to choose one of the new ones, I would end up paying a lot more for a lot less.

Right now, I have a plan that doesn’t have a monthly fee aside from what I use, though with a minimum billing amount of about $8. It’s one of the benefits of having an older phone, as I don’t have to pay off the subsidy anymore. I have a data plan attached to it that gives me a gigabyte of data for about $15 each month, and since I actually consistently use less than that and less than the $8 minimum billing amount on the plan itself, my monthly cell phone bill has been about $23 for as long as I can remember.

If I were to switch, I would be forced to pick a plan that includes both minutes and messages that I have less than no use for. $23 towards a current plan gets me 100 minutes I don’t need, 100 messages I don’t need, and a measly 100MB that I need more of. Going up to about $40 a month gets me up to unlimited messages and minutes (that I still have less than no use for), as well as 800MB; enough, but still less than what I have now. From there on up, I just get more data the more I pay, and of course those unlimited minutes and messages.

To me, this development is horrible. The carriers know that data is the future, and so they’re trying to remove all ways of getting data that doesn’t also force a ton of minutes and messages on you. There’s no longer any plan that works the way my grandfathered plan works, with the closest being one where you have to buy data in bulk as you need it, resulting in a monthly cost that- you guessed it- is higher than what I have now.

It used to be that cell phone plans actually got cheaper for every year, at least here in Norway. Lately they’re getting more and more expensive, which is consistent with inflation, but also creates a situation where people like me are scared to ever touch anything relating to their accounts for the fear of losing the old plan. It’s rather ridiculous, and it has to make it much harder for these companies to get people on the new plan, or get new customers from other carriers.

I don’t know if this development is representative of other countries, but I sure hope not. Either way, it seems that my phone bill will see a sudden rise if I ever decide to change my plan.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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7 thoughts on “Farewell, decent cell phone plans, it was nice knowing you

  • Avatar of smk
    July 4, 2013 at 10:28 am

    unfortunately, it is.Germany already adopted that selling model and eastern countries might be slow too adapt but symptoms described in the article are noticeable. dark times are coming, for all of us.

  • Avatar of phanmo
    July 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Here in France, the opposite is happening. Thanks to Free (free DOT fr), who have come out with 2€ 2h calling to anywhere in Europe, North America and a bunch of other countries and unlimited texting without a contract, and 19.99€ unlimited calling, texting and data without a contract, all the other operators have been forced to drastically reduce their prices in order to compete. And if you have Free as your ISP (30€/month) at home, the 2h plan is free. I’m not with Free at the moment, but my operator (Orange) has lowered my monthly rate while upping my data limits and options 2 times in the past year.

  • Avatar of John Freml
    July 4, 2013 at 11:59 am

    It’s funny that lots of service plans are starting to look more American, while T-Mobile in the US is moving towards a more “European” model by offering cheaper unsubsidized plans, and more expensive plans if you don’t pay the full price of your phone up front.

  • Avatar of JRDemaskus
    July 5, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I think there are always going to be new users buying new plans.
    People like me with an unlimited data plan, are going away by closing accounts, or trying other carriers.
    I believe the phone companies metrics are based on new lines added or lost, more than overall users. Otherwise there would be no market for new phone company providers.
    Supply and demand and profit are what drive the markets and prices.

  • Avatar of skyliner34k
    July 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    REcently I cancelled my ATT wireless plan and moved to tmobile prepaid. At first I was worried about paying for a plan with only 500mb of hi-speed data however, I’ve come to realize just how widespread free wifi is and how much I use my home wi-fi. so far I haven’t even used over 400 mb of data a month and I;m happily paying only $55 a month. Even If a new phone comes out I can still come away cheaper over the year buying the phone out right, rather than subsidizing the phone and get it cheaper up front. After the galaxy note 3 is released I’ll have a hard time being able to justify upgrading to anything else for a long while(that and the reported 5.7-5.99″ screen is as big as I can reasonably hold, even with my large hands)

  • Avatar of chestchar
    July 8, 2013 at 5:52 am

    I think that as data becomes more mainstream in all facets of media viewing and experiencing, these providers should be doing the exact opposite of what they are doing now and begin to offer loyalty plans for long-standing customers. Grant it that it is unfair that people in Europe such as yourself have to eventually switch over to a less economical data plan, providers should recognize that most customers will be loyal to one provider given that the same provider be just as loyal and reward those customers accordingly I, myself, was with Bell for the better part of 20 years with my cell plans and neveronce complained or asked for upgrades or special treatment. I grandfathered a plan that was way more generous than any of the newer plans. However, when it came time to upgrade a to a plan for a smartrphone, I was treated as if my 20 years of paying monthly fees did not exist. At that point I was forced to seek another provider for better rates and had to go through the tedious task of carrying my number over and all other tasks associated with switching over. Had Bell recognized my loyalty to their company and decided to work with me to alter my old plan to suit a new smartphone they would still have me as a non-complaining, satisfied customer.

  • Avatar of p51d007
    July 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

    With VoIP becoming as widespread as it is, wonder how long it will take before using a tower, for more than anything than getting a signal to access VoIP
    will render “cell phone” plans obsolete and everything will be a data plan?


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