Subsidized Laptops With Locked In Wireless Broadband Contracts

from the good-or-bad? dept

A few years back, after noting the trend of laptop companies to start building in cellular data modems into their laptops, we wondered when it would reach the stage where mobile operators would subsidize the cost of a laptop, just as they subsidize the cost of mobile phones in many cases. In early 2006, we started to see such subsidized laptops go on sale in Europe, with the mobile operators selling the laptops directly for well below list price, as long as you bought into a long term data plan. The whole idea seemed a bit strange, as mobile operators have long ranted long and hard about how much they hate, hate, hate subsidies, and how they wish they could do away with them. So, why add them to laptops?

However, the idea has now traveled over to the US as well, in a deal between Acer, Radio Shack and AT&T allowing people to buy an Acer netbook for just $100, so long as they agree to a 2 year $60/month contract for an AT&T mobile data plan. It's still a little confusing as to why the mobile operators are agreeing to this, following so many vehement arguments against mobile phone subsidies, but perhaps they're finally realizing that those subsidies aren't such a bad thing when they get people using their services. Still, how long will it be until buyers start complaining about early termination fees for laptops like they do for mobile phones?

Filed Under: contracts, netbooks, subsidies, wireless broadband
Companies: acer, at&t, radio shack

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  1. identicon
    mike, 17 Dec 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: Where did people learn math?

    To Steve R:

    first your contract is predicated on the use of that phone& plan, upgrading or original purchase of phone. Using your thinking I could go to T-Mobile sign up for a plan, get the G1 then bail out immediately. That would put TMO out of business, and the same for other companies.

    Second the courts have already decided that a)changing terms of service is legal as long as there is not a material difference in cost or service during your contract time. That means that if you contract for 300 minutes at X price and overtime minutes at Y price for two years, that is all you pay. Once you pass that two year point your price can change. Upgrading your phone, pay services or insurance can legally trigger a new contract to obtain the best price for those items.

    Third, changing your phone number is not a legally defined opportunity to materially change your plan/contract. I am sure some Sprint employee tried to do that because all telcom corporate policy is tied to the idea of locking you into a longer contract. However they cannot legally require a new contract on a number change. They can charge you a fee to change the number but not force you into a new contract.

    Sprint is notorious for bad business practices such as that. TMO has the best rep and cust service rating of all of them and frankly I can change/add/delete services on line with them online at 3 a.m. and know that unless it is clearly marked as triggering a new contract there will be no additional charges. I Have been with them since their beginning and there has NEVER been one mistep in any upgrade or service request.

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