In wireless, BOGOs and ETF buyouts quietly disappearing

Verizon store
Verizon no longer offers ETF buyouts or BOGOs. (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)

The U.S. wireless industry in recent years has been awash in promotions that seemed too good to be true.

For example, after T-Mobile launched an offer to pay off customers’ early termination fees if they agreed to switch, most of the rest of the nation’s wireless providers launched similar ETF buyout offers.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Sprint last year began offering a full free year of unlimited service to customers who switch to the carrier and bring their own phone—an offer the carrier recently extended.

And in recent months, top carriers began offering buy one, get one free promotions on smartphones. For example, Verizon in December launched a BOGO offer on iPhone 8s and Galaxy S8s, which AT&T promptly trumped with an iPhone X BOGO in February.

However, here at the end of the first quarter, most of those offers are gone.

For example, Verizon confirmed its BOGOs and ETF buyout promotions are over. The carrier instead pointed to its new 50% off promotion on the Pixel 2. And according to Wave7 Research, AT&T too has discontinued many of its BOGO and ETF buyout offers, though the firm noted AT&T continues to push a $650 ETF buyout offer in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles (partly aligning with AT&T’s new regional promotion strategy).

An AT&T representative confirmed that “select customers may be eligible for switcher credits,” but he declined to provide any further details. And Sprint and T-Mobile both continue to promise to pay the termination fees of customers who agree to switch to the carriers.

Nonetheless, market observers generally see a quieting in the wireless space as the second quarter begins.

“Wave7 Research believes that the scene is set for weaker competition in 2Q18, likely a positive for carrier margins,” the firm wrote in a recent report. “AT&T’s offers are significantly weaker and Verizon’s offers are weaker.”