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Prices drop for wireless plans

Prices are falling on wireless plans — but will you save money?

Starting Monday, Verizon Wireless is charging lower prices for its unlimited plans. New customers will pay $69.99 a month for the carrier’s unlimited talk plan, down from $99.99; for the unlimited talk-and-text plan, the price drops to $89.99, down from $119.99. Teenagers, rejoice!

Allan Keiter, president of MyRatePlan, which keeps tabs on the wireless industry, says Verizon is competing with new pricing from T-Mobile. Back in October, the German carrier introduced unlimited calling plans for as low as $59.99 per month, plus $10 for unlimited texting. “People believe that Verizon Wireless has one of the best networks, and to a large extent that’s true,” Keiter says. “But was it worth paying almost twice as much?”

The carriers haven’t stopped there, however. They are making changes — in many cases, raising prices — in these areas, too:

  • No-contract options. T-Mobile now charges $10 less per month compared with comparable contract plans (since you have to pay the full price of your phone with a no-contract plan); Verizon, meanwhile, will charge $5 more per month, presumably because you have the freedom to switch servicers.
  • Data packages. Get a new 3G multimedia phone with Verizon and you now have to buy a data package, which runs $9.99 per month. Data pricing for T-Mobile phones has increased by $5.
  • Penalties. Verizon has increased the termination fee on “advanced devices,” such as the Droid and BlackBerry, from $175 to $350.

So are wireless plans getting cheaper or more expensive? As Keiter writes on his blog, we’re moving toward the day “when there will basically be one plan for light users and unlimited for everyone else.” And you’ll have to think more about contract fees and the added cost of owning a smartphone.

To help, Keiter offers a few tools, such as this new early termination fee calculator that shows how much you’ll owe if you switch carriers while under contract (the penalties are prorated, typically decreasing by $10 per month over the period of service). In addition, Keiter helps you compare plan options based on your location.

It’s worth a look the next time you consider renewing your wireless contract.

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