Biggest U.S. wireless service says $4.99-a-month fee would apply to about 4.7 million subscribers with TDMA and analog cellphones.
July 31 2006: 7:43 PM EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Cingular Wireless, a venture of AT&T (Charts) and BellSouth (Charts) said Monday it would start charging customers with older phones an extra $4.99 monthly fee as early as September unless they upgrade their phones as it moves toward using a single network technology.
The biggest U.S. wireless service, said the fee would apply to about 4.7 million subscribers, or about 8 percent, of its 57.3 million customer base unless these users upgrade their phones.
It is part of Cingular's plan to phase out phones based on older TDMA and analog technology, the technical standard for the first cellphones produced more than 20 years ago.
Cingular has been working for years to phase out these technologies in favor of GSM (Global System of Mobile Communications), a newer technology that is the world's most popular wireless standard.
Cingular, which hopes to create savings by converging to a single network, said last month on a conference call that it would risk an increase in customer cancellations for the rest of the year as it works to eliminate the older technology.
Customer discounts on new phones will depend on issues such as how long they have been customers at Cingular.
"Some customers will qualify for discounts on their new phones," said spokeswoman Rochelle Cohen, without specifying the number.
Cohen said the quality of service on Cingular's GSM network is better than on its TDMA and analog networks.
It is planning to shut down its TDMA network in early 2008 and under Federal Communications Commission rules it must keep its analog network in place until February 2008, Cohen said.
I wonder how long it will be till other carriers follow suit.