Data is the new "minutes" and voice calls are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Of course, there will always be a need for voice calls over text or instant messaging or email. But since the mass adoption of smartphones, voice calling has taken a backseat to data and text messaging.
Instead of using the 500 or 600 minutes per month I would have used every month six years ago, I could probably get by with 100 minutes or less per month. Not to mention how much Google Voice and carrier perks like unlimited mobile to mobile (Verizon to Verizon, or Sprint's "Any Mobile, Anytime"), free nights and weekends and "Friends & Family" help. Even without calling perks, I could get by with 100 minutes per month, 200 on rare occasion.
This strong push for data consumption has put a major strain on wireless provider's 3G networks. Thus we have witnessed a scramble to go live with 4G nationwide and make that pesky unlimited data to rest. In their place, tiered data plans with relatively expensive "per gigabyte" overage rates have been administered.
Despite data usage on the rise and voice calls dropping across the board, calling plans have yet to really change. T-Mobile does now offer a data and text only rate plan. But Sprint, AT&T and Verizon only offer a minimum of 450 minutes for a base of $39.99 per month. (Sprint does offer a Basic talk plan, which begins at $29.99 for 200 minutes, but is not available to smartphone users.) On top of this, you must choose a data plan, which starts at $30 (for 2GB) for Verizon, $15 (for 250MB) for AT&T, and $30 (unlimited, for now) for Sprint. Unlimited text messaging is $20 per month for Verizon and AT&T customers, and is included with the Everything Data plan on Sprint.
Phew. If you're still with me, for the base minute plan, base data plan and unlimited text messaging, this puts you at a minimum monthly of: $90 on Verizon, $75 on AT&T and $70 on Sprint. If you are like me at all, that's $40 extra per month that you're paying for something you rarely use.
Just two days ago, T-Mobile and Wal-Mart came together to announce their newest 4G prepaid plan, available to "any compatible phone." The plan will set you back $30 per month for 100 minutes ($0.10 per minute overage), unlimited text messaging and unlimited data (5GB at 4G speeds). There is also a comparable service though a Sprint subsidiary, Virgin Mobile. Their plan is $35 per month for 300 minutes and unlimited text and (3G) data. The only problem with Virgin Mobile is a slim device selection.
Options are there. But the bigger issue here is that a lot of customers are uncomfortable taking the prepaid route, likely for fear they will be on their own with lackluster service. Maybe signing that contract makes customers feel more ... at home or "covered." That, or they cannot stomach the higher, unsubsidized price of prepaid phones.
Wireless providers here in the States obviously hate the thought of customers buying no-contract phones, and being able to come and go as they please. It makes me wonder why they have not done anything to fight or counteract the prepaid revolution. If people are calling less, why are they not offering smaller, cheaper rate plans? Sprint, Verizon, nor AT&T can really compete with $30 per month. But offering a $5 or $10 per month calling plan for 100 or 200 minutes – or even a pay by the minute plan – would make a huge difference in my bills.
What say you, pups? Do you still make a lot of voice calls? If not, would a cheaper calling plan or pay per minute plan help you out in your monthly bill? Have you considered a prepaid option like T-Mobile's and Wal-Mart's offering or Virgin Mobile?
Image via TmoNews