Confirmed: U.S. Cellular to raise unlimited prices but plans ‘payback’ offer

U.S. Cellular coverage area (U.S. Cellular)
U.S. Cellular offers nationwide coverage through roaming agreements. (U.S. Cellular)

U.S. Cellular confirmed a report that it will overhaul its pricing plans in a move that will raise the cost of its unlimited plans by roughly $5 per month. However, the carrier is also planning to introduce a “payback” feature on its unlimited plans that will give customers a $10 credit if they use less than 3 GB of data in a billing cycle.

Droid Life first reported on the changes, and they were subsequently confirmed by a U.S. Cellular representative.

Specifically, U.S. Cellular plans to get rid of its 6 GB per month plan and will increase the price of its Unlimited and Unlimited Plus plans to $65 and $75 per month, respectively. The changes will go into effect Aug. 23.

The news is notable considering most of the rest of the nation’s largest wireless operators have made similar moves to increase the cost of their unlimited plans or at least to introduce a more expensive tier of service. For example, Sprint recently introduced a new top-tier unlimited plan that’s more expensive than its current offering, as well as a “basic” plan that costs roughly the same as the carrier’s Unlimited Freedom plan. That move came just weeks after AT&T tweaked its unlimited plans, and Verizon introduced its Above Unlimited plan, which costs fully $100 for one line of service and $240 for four lines of service.

T-Mobile, meantime, introduced a less expensive version of its unlimited plan, offering four lines of no-frills service for $120.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—The era of nickel-and-diming wireless customers is back

With roughly 5 million customers, U.S. Cellular is the nation’s fifth largest wireless network operator.

During the second quarter, the operator reported that 20% of its postpaid customers were on its unlimited plansintroduced just a year agoand that customers on those unlimited plans use an average of over 8 GB per month.

“I'd call the environment still aggressive, although the focus of competition has now shifted back to device-related pricing, buy-one-get-one-frees and other types of discounts,” said U.S. Cellular’s Kenneth Meyers during the company’s second-quarter conference call with analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. “Service plan pricing has remained relatively steady, and you see the positive impact of that starting to show in the average revenue per unit and total revenue.”