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Making up for “bad” customer satisfaction…

… with higher data prices! 😉

Well, they have to recoup billions lost in the failed T-Mobile merger, somehow! :-)

I missed the announcement on January 18 that AT&T, the WORST wireless carrier in customer satisfaction in 2010, and again in 2011, according to Consumer Reports, has decided to raise the rates on the data plans that are required with the purchase of every smartphone. Existing customers can keep their current plans (until they expire, of course).

According to CNET:

“The company’s previous bottom-tier $15 plan will go up to $20, although the amount of data allocated also goes up to 300 from 200 megabytes. Likewise, the $25, 2 gigabyte plan goes up to a $30, 3GB one. Its high-end $45, 4GB plan–which includes the mobile hot-spot capability–goes up to $50 for 5GB.”

“The company also tweaked its tablet data plan, increasing it to 3GB for $30 a month, up from 2GB for $25. There’s also a new higher end plan that offers 5GB for $50.”

The new plans start TODAY!

Last week, Ralph de la Vega, the head of AT&T’s mobile and consumer divisions, told CNET that making smartphones more affordable is a major initiative at AT&T.

Does the data plan announcement mean that AT&T doesn’t like “initiative?” 😉 Or something more sinister…? :-)

Yes, I am still waiting for an iPhone (the most popular smartphone among mobile workers) to be available on the LTE network of Verizon, the highest ranked wireless carrier in customer satisfaction. AT&T is  still lagging in rolling out its LTE network. Ralph de la Vega said back in June of 2011 that AT&T’s data network will not be on a par with Verizon’s until 2013 or 2014 (1). Thousands of L.A. area AT&T customers were without wireless service in September 2011, and back in June of 2010, an AT&T Web site hole exposed 114,000 iPad user email addresses. Also in June of 2010, AT&T announced then-new data plans that included a $325 early-termination fee.

AT&T was the first major carrier to push through the idea of “capped data plans.” AT&T has been dealing with increasing data consumption and looking to “throttle” the connections of people who exceed their limits. The company is also working to create a “shared data plan” that would allow multiple devices to connect to the network, with one bill, “…but De la Vega said there have been complications with getting that plan rolled out correctly.

(Hint: It’s “new.” :-) )

Meanwhile, Maggie Reardon got busy answering the question of a reader who asked:

“When AT&T first switched to the tiered pricing plans, they claimed only a fraction of their users ever use more than 2GB of data per month. It seems like they are basically implementing a $5 price increase on all of their smartphone users with no added benefit. Right?”

Reardon answered:

“…in 2010 when AT&T introduced its tiered services, the company said that 98 percent of its subscribers don’t need more than 2GB of data per month.

When I asked AT&T’s spokesman Mark Siegel what percentage of consumers still fall below the 2GB mark today, he wouldn’t answer me. Instead, he said that traffic on AT&T’s network is increasing 40 percent each year. And he said that is why AT&T has lifted its data caps and started charging customers more for the service.”

and:

“But AT&T’s motivation for increasing the price of its service doesn’t seem to have anything to do with offering consumers more choices. It seems the real goal is to increase revenue and to get more unlimited users to choose the tiered offering. Even though $5 more a month may not seem like a lot of money, it adds up for consumers and for AT&T.”

and:

“My guess is that these new plans are designed to get more of those customers who were grandfathered into the unlimited data plan to convert to a tiered plan. AT&T has already tried to limit usage of unlimited data plan users by slowing down service for the top 5 percent of data users each month.

AT&T has never defined how much data on average someone needs to use to trigger the throttling. And that’s because it’s a moving target. But the company hasn’t really defined how it calculates the which customers are considered in the top 5 percent. For example, are these customers being compared to other unlimited users only? Or are they being compared to customers on tiered plans? Is the usage percentage calculated by region or is it nationwide?

AT&T has left its policy as vague as possible so that it has more flexibility in enforcing it. Meanwhile, it can still claim that it offers an unlimited data plan.”

I don’t know. Reardon sounds a little frustrated with AT&T to me! 😉 After you work with some of those folks for awhile (as I did), you REALLY start to “love” them! 😉 Personally, I would worry about “vagueness.” In my humble opinion (IMHO), some areas of that company are not very good with math. Do you see why customer satisfaction might be “a little off?” 😉

Also, according to CNET:

“Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has been testing out a 300MB plan for $20 a month in select markets in the south. It previously ran a promotion for 4GB of data for $30 a month, but it expired Sunday.”

Maggie Reardon offers EVEN MORE good advice in that particular column. If I had to make any wireless decisions anytime soon (I don’t! :-) ), I would READ it!

-Bill at

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