FCC says mo­bile phone costs down

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Alexan­der Soule Ca­ble, wire­less to com­pete [email protected]; 203-842-2545; @ca­soul­man

The cost of mo­bile tele­phone ser­vice plunged last year by the high­est mar­gin on record, ac­cord­ing to new data pub­lished by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, as Google and ca­ble car­ri­ers el­bow into the mar­ket dom­i­nated by Ver­i­zon, AT&T and T-Mo­bile.

The FCC re­leased the new es­ti­mates this week as ap­pen­dices to a Novem­ber re­port on the state of broad­band com­pe­ti­tion in the U.S., as­sess­ing ca­ble and tele­phone car­ri­ers as well as providers of wire­less ser­vices.

Us­ing data from the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics, the FCC cal­cu­lated a 10.8 per­cent drop last year in the con­sumer price in­dex for wire­less tele­phone ser­vice, even as CPI crept up 1.7 per­cent for the over­all econ­omy.

On av­er­age na­tion­ally, mo­bile sub­scribers paid less than $39 a month for ser­vice, with many pay­ing far more de­pend­ing on where they live and lev­els of ser­vice in their con­tracts.

The FCC lists Con­necti­cut as one of just three states last year to have had 100 per­cent cov­er­age for 4G mo­bile ser­vice, along with New Jersey and Rhode Is­land, with the over­all U.S. cov­er­age rate es­ti­mated at 89 per­cent, though at just 69 per­cent in ru­ral ar­eas.

Cov­er­age es­ti­mates are based on carrier tests, with the FCC an­nounc­ing separately on Fri­day an au­dit of the ac­cu­racy of those tests, as it fields on­go­ing com­plaints of in­ad­e­quate ser­vice from wire­less cus­tomers in ru­ral ar­eas. Ver­i­zon and AT&T are now in a race to roll out 5G ser­vices that will for the first time give home­own­ers a wire­less op­tion for broad­band ser­vice in the home, even as ca­ble com­pa­nies like Altice USA, Char­ter Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Com­cast of­fer new mo­bile tele­phone ser­vices to their broad­band and TV sub­scribers.

In the FCC study, Con­necti­cut con­tin­ues to trail neigh­bor­ing states for tra­di­tional broad­band internet speeds as de­ter­mined by Ookla, whose Speedtest.net web­site cal­cu­lates an av­er­age down­load speed of 64 megabits per sec­ond statewide. In ad­di­tion to Altice USA, Char­ter and Com­cast, other ma­jor car­ri­ers of­fer­ing broad­band in Con­necti­cut in­clude Cox Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Altice USA is on the cusp of un­veil­ing a new Op­ti­mum fiber op­tic internet ser­vice in por­tions of south­west­ern Con­necti­cut that will have ini­tial speeds of a gi­ga­bit per sec­ond — and even­tu­ally 10 times that rate — with the com­pany aim­ing to have fiber ca­pa­bil­i­ties across its en­tire Op­ti­mum ter­ri­tory base within five years.

“We’re go­ing to see a sig­nif­i­cant ac­cel­er­a­tion go­ing into 2019 of the roll­out, I think,” said Altice USA CEO Dex­ter Goei, dur­ing an early Novem­ber con­fer­ence call with an­a­lysts. “Maybe it takes us an ex­tra year or so to com­plete the last 10-20 per­cent of the foot­print, be­cause of the per­mit­ting process as­so­ci­ated with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, but by and large the bulk of it will def­i­nitely (be done) in five years.”

Jeff Chiu / As­so­ci­ated Press

Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai speaks in May in Moun­tain View, Calif., with a dis­play of a Google An­droid smart­phone as a back­drop. In 2017, the cost of mo­bile phone ser­vice dropped by the big­gest mar­gin on record, ac­cord­ing to new es­ti­mates pub­lished in De­cem­ber by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

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