The copycat nature of the wireless industry continues

July 10, 2014
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Recently, T-Mobile launched a Test Drive program offering customers the ability to take home an iPhone 5s for seven days. Right after T-Mobile made the announcement for their Test Drive program, Sprint reinstated a 30-day satisfaction guarantee program that it had previously killed-off in 2011. Sprint’s program allows customers to get a full refund for their devices along with all service/activation charges.

Must be a coincidence, right? Well, no, that is rather common amongst wireless carriers. We need to look no further than T-Mobile to see just how little AT&T and Verizon like to make moves that are remotely pro-consumer. Think AT&T or Verizon would have changed their upgrade plans or end their absurdly long contracts without T-Mobile forcing their hand?

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AT&T and Verizon have been matching each other for years now as a good duopoly should do. When Verizon offered a cheap unlimited calling plan, AT&T countered with one too. When AT&T switched to tiered data, Verizon had a similar plan unveiled shortly.

AT&T, ever the sneaky one, rolled out its own shared data plans to match Verizon recently, and you’ll never guess what it includes. Yep, tethering. They don’t make a big deal out of it, but AT&T saw the advantage Verizon was being forced into, and had to match it.” - ExtremeTech

Because of the lack of legitimate wireless competition in the country, the major players really do not need to make major moves in order to continue making money. Looking at AT&T and Verizon’s history of patty-cake, it is no wonder why they are so upset seeing T-Mobile slash contracts, pay off ETF’s, etc…

“When AT&T makes a price move, Verizon will respond,” Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics in Dedham, Massachusetts. - Bloomberg

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In February of this year, AT&T announced their “Best Ever Prices” that gave families a 10GB, $160 plan. Not even a month later, Verizon changed their “MORE Everything” plans to copy AT&T’s prices.

“Verizon does not want to fall too far behind AT&T when it comes to their overall pricing — especially in the 10-gigabyte-plus category, as that is the most valuable sector of customers,” said Weston Henderek, an analyst with Current Analysis. - Bloomberg

Last year, T-Mobile made a significant move to change the way that consumers upgrade their phones. AT&T and Verizon responded to this move by offering upgrade plans that mirrored each other.

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As The Verge notes:

“But scratch past that surface layer and the Edge plan is just the same shell game as AT&T Next, designed to sucker customers into paying both the device subsidy built into Verizon’s already high monthly fees and the full retail price of their phones. (Like AT&T, Verizon discloses that the subsidy exists in its SEC filings, but declined to divulge the exact amount when I asked.)” - TheVerge

In 2010, Verizon lowered prices slightly and decided to eliminate a number of wireless plans. AT&T didn’t even wait a week before shockingly doing the same thing with their wireless plans. In fact, AT&T matched Verizon’s pricing changes within hours.

In 2012, after Verizon launched their ‘Share Everything’ plans, AT&T launched its own ‘Mobile Share’ plans. Both plans had similar if not exact features across the board.

As Forbes noted after these plans were announced:

One question increasingly asked in telecom circles is when will the regulators finally grow restless about the way Verizon and AT&T mirror each other when they implement new pricing strategies.” - Forbes

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