Starting Aug. 1, AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) is introducing a $15 upgrade fee for customers who choose to activate a device on its Next equipment installment plans, the first time such a fee has applied to Next plans. Also as of Aug. 1, AT&T is increasing the activation fee for one- and two-year contracts from $40 to $45.
In June 2014 AT&T bumped up its standard activation fee for customers who choose a two-year contract from $36 to $40.
The changes to the Next plan are particularly notable since AT&T has marketed the EIP program as a "$0 down" commitment. However, the new fee will not apply to existing Next customers, at least for now. "We are making a few adjustments to our activation and upgrade fee structures. Any lines already on a Next plan before August 1 are not affected at this time," an AT&T spokesman told FierceWireless.
According to PhoneScoop, the $15 activation fee that is coming to Next plans also applies to new customers who bring their own handsets.
AT&T has been heavily emphasizing Next. This past spring AT&T's national retail partners and third-party dealers began moving toward offering just AT&T's Next equipment installment plan option, in which customers do not get a subsidized device, but instead pay off their phones through monthly payments and can upgrade to a new phone earlier. For now, AT&T still offers two-year contracts through its own online sales channels and at its more than 2,000 company-owned retail stores.
AT&T said 65 percent of its postpaid smartphone gross adds in the first quarter came from its AT&T Next plans, up from 58 percent in the fourth quarter. AT&T has said that as of the end of the first quarter, 62 percent, or 35.4 million, of its postpaid smartphone subscribers were on no-device-subsidy Mobile Share Value plans. Those plans typically have discounted service pricing.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) charges customers a $40 upgrade fee when they purchase a new device at a discount. However, Verizon said that customers are not charged an activation fee on its Edge EIP program.
Sprint (NYSE: S) charges a $36 activation fee, including for its Easy Pay EIP program. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) says that any new customers choosing its no-contract Simple Choice plans will be activated without a fee, though it does charge $15 for a "SIM starter kit" on activations.
T-Mobile unveils 'Jump On Demand' program, lets customers upgrade 3 times per year
Verizon: Edge customers now must pay off smartphone before upgrading, but get to keep old phone
AT&T's de la Vega: 2-year contracts will eventually go away
AT&T increases activation fee by $4 for customers with 2-year contracts
Article updated July 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET to ntoe that T-Mobile charges a $15 fee for a "SIM starter kit" on activations.