Americans have close to 10 wireless provider choices. With skyrocketing smartphone usage, wireless service providers are competing for customers who likely already have a wireless plan and a wireless device.
Why Do People Switch?
Money is the largest reason people switch wireless service providers. People want the most service and the best coverage for their money. Now, with the demand for data increasing, people want the most data for their money.
Beware of the Networks
Devices and carriers are not all interchangeable. Wireless carriers use two basic networks: CDMA and GSM. Devices from one do not operate on the other. Carriers who use GSM are more likely to use a device from another GSM carrier because they use SIM cards.
Some CDMA carriers allow you to bring your own CDMA-compatible device, but it is up to the provider whether they allow it. If allowed, the previous provider may need to unlock the device before it works with the new provider.
The type of network also may not always be evident. For example, some wireless providers use a host network.
Competition Favors Consumers
When one wireless service provider offers incentives to consumers to switch, others usually follow. Some companies will offer to pay the rest of a service contract, while others will pay the early termination fees or offer enough incentives to cover the cost of the switch. These deals are not always available and are often available only for a limited time so pay attention to how wireless service providers are competing for your business.
BYOD: Bring Your own Device
Prior to the smartphone, providers could lock consumers into long-term contracts in exchange for a free or cheap phone, but that trend is ending. Smartphones are more expensive, and consumers tend to choose a phone that works for them. Once we decide to choose a particular brand, we tend to keep that brand because we can transfer our app purchases, music, and books from one device to another within that brand.
T-mobile was one of the first wireless service providers to divert focus from the service contract. Not only do they offer simplicity in plan pricing, but also device financing. If you already have a device, you can keep your phone and phone number by purchasing a SIM card through T-Mobile, for example. Keep in mind that you’ll want to verify that your device will work on its ever-expanding 4G LTE network.
BYON: Bring Your Own Number
Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring all wireless carriers to allow Wireless Local Number Portability, consumers can keep a mobile number when switching providers. The catch is that the number needs to stay local. If you move across the country and switch providers, you will unlikely be able to keep your number. Other rules and stipulations exist, so do your homework before switching.
War of the Plans
When switching, determine what features are most important to you before choosing one. Do you need multiple lines, international calling ability for business, a solid national network that works in rural areas, or capacity for plenty of data use? Good research before making a move will save you from headaches later.
It’s All About Data
Data usage in America is growing, and some wireless communications experts project this growth to continue over the next five years. To meet the need, wireless service providers have rolled out unlimited data plans, but you should still read the fine print. After a certain amount of usage, the wireless service provider may manage bandwidth speeds. For example, after using a number of gigabytes, the wireless service provider will decrease the speed of downloads: Unlimited plans may not be truly unlimited.
Extensive smartphone use has turned the wireless communications industry into a consumer-driven marketplace. Wireless service providers are responding with incentives to entice consumers by offering cost-effective, data-driven plans and the ability to bring your own device and keep your own number. Despite these favorable incentives, take some time to research offerings before you switch to make sure a new wireless service provider will meet your needs.
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