Us Cellular

U.S. Cellular, the nations number six carrier, has just announced that they will be changing the way they do business with news of "The Belief Project".  The Belief Project is simple -- finish your current contract, or sign up for a new one, and when it's finished it's finished.  You still get all the perks that an in-contract customer would have -- discounted phones every 18 months, point to use for accessories or to upgrade early, and the same overage forgivness.  There's no fee to participate, simply finish a standard two year plan and enroll in The Belief Project.  You can quit whenever you want -- with no ETF, because you're not tied to a carrier contract.

While I applaud U.S. Cellular, I also have to question the other carriers.  If the little guy (U.S. Cellular has about 6 million customers) can afford to treat their customers well and earn customer loyalty instead of enforcing it with contracts and outrageous ETF's, why can't the big four?  It's awful tempting to just dump what I have here and head over to US Cellular and get a shiny new Desire -- all that holds me back is coverage.  I urge all of you to check US Cellular's coverage for your area, if for no other reason than to question your current carrier about why they can't offer what the little guy can.  The full press release is after the break.


U.S. CELLULAR LAUNCHES INDUSTRY-FIRST PROGRAMS THAT ELEVATE THE WIRELESS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, REWARD LOYALTY

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The Belief ProjectSM Offers “One and Done” Contracts, Rewards Program

To Get Earlier Phone Upgrades, Overage Caps

CHICAGO – [September 30, 2010] – Today, United States Cellular Corporation [NYSE: USM] took its strategy of delighting customers with innovative services to a whole new level with its launch of The Belief Project. The carrier announced an array of industry-first initiatives designed to give potential customers several compelling reasons to switch to U.S. Cellular and reward loyal customers.

The company will offer wireless customers the benefits they want including “One and Done” contracts, a robust rewards program with points that never expire for active accounts, simplified national rate plans, protection against “bill shock” with overage protection, caps and forgiveness; the industry’s only phone replacement program, and savings of up to 5 percent on their monthly bills for setting up auto pay and paperless billing.

“We noticed wireless customers shared some common frustrations, and we wanted to fix them,” said Mary N. Dillon, president and CEO of U.S. Cellular. “With The Belief Project, we’re elevating the customer experience by emphasizing a human relationship with our customers, not a contractual one. We believe our customers will stay with us because they want to, not because they have to, and that potential customers will want to be a part of something better.”

In a recent Weinstein and Associates survey, 1,000 wireless consumers revealed strong feelings about some of their biggest frustrations.

- 90 percent said wireless providers should earn their loyalty, not require it by having to sign a contract.
- 87 percent said they shouldn’t have to sign a service contract just to stay with their current wireless carrier.
- 84 percent said 24 months is too long to wait to get a good deal on a new cell phone.
- 80 percent said wireless providers should do something about overages and the big bills that come from them.
Dillon added that enhancing U.S. Cellular’s customer-centric strategy will further solidify the carrier’s reputation as a company that cares.

“Wireless customers deserve something better,” Dillon said. “And they’re getting it from U.S. Cellular – especially with the new offerings we announced today. But as excited as we are about The Belief Project, this is not the final chapter. We’ll continue to innovate and find new ways to upgrade the customer experience by demonstrating to both current and potential customers that U.S. Cellular puts their needs first.”

No Contract After the First One
With new “One and Done” contracts, new customers who fulfill an initial two-year commitment with U.S. Cellular never have to sign a contract again. Existing customers can simply finish the remainder of their current contract on one of the company’s National Single Line or Family Belief Plans without extending it. After that, customers are free to enjoy benefits without signing a new contract – like a new phone at promotional prices every 18 months that can be accelerated with points. Customers who have previously completed a two-year commitment and are currently on a month-to-month plan can easily switch to a Belief Plan without signing a new contract.

Belief Rewards
Loyal customers often feel new customers get the best deals. At U.S. Cellular, all postpaid customers on Belief Plans can earn points simply for being a customer. The Belief Points can be redeemed for things customers actually want, like earlier phone upgrades at promotional prices, additional lines, phones, accessories, ringtones and forgiveness of overage charges. Customers are automatically enrolled and start receiving points when they sign up for any U.S. Cellular Belief Plan. Belief Points are earned based on a customer’s monthly service plan, the number of lines on the account and how long they’ve been a customer. There are no membership or enrollment fees, or blackout or expiration dates for active accounts, and points are easy to redeem in stores, online or by calling customer service.

Belief Plans
U.S. Cellular’s new simplified National Single Line and Family Belief Plans are designed to be easy and affordable for a wide range of customers. Whether customers use their phones a little or a lot, the Basic, Unlimited Basic, Essential, Essential Plus, Premium and Premium Plus plans offer simple bundles of voice, text and data with built-in value. Select plans include U.S. Cellular’s industry-leading Overage Cap and Phone Replacement programs. In addition, postpaid customers automatically receive Belief Points with all Belief Plans.

Phone Replacement
Phone Replacement allows customers on Premium or Premium Plus Belief Plans to get a replacement phone if something goes wrong with their handset. Customers who bring in their accidentally broken or malfunctioning phone can get a replacement of the same or a similar model – even if the phone is no longer under warranty. And, if a customer’s phone is lost or stolen, they can receive the same or similar replacement phone for $100 – far less than the typical cost of a phone. Phone Replacement is available at U.S. Cellular retail locations and through customer service. If a replacement phone isn’t available in store, it will be shipped to the customer to arrive the next business day.

Overage Cap, Forgiveness and Protection
With Overage Cap, U.S. Cellular customers don’t need to worry about excessive overage charges. The service prevents voice overage charges from exceeding $50 for a National Single Line Belief Plan or $150 for a Family Belief Plan, and customers have the option to use points for overage forgiveness to eliminate overage charges. U.S. Cellular also has its customers’ backs with Overage Protection, which sends customers a text message when they reach 75 percent of their allotted minutes or text messages, and again at 100 percent, so there isn’t a surprise when the bill arrives.

Earlier Phone Upgrades
For years, one of the most common frustrations for wireless customers has been waiting two years to upgrade to the latest handsets, like U.S. Cellular’s Android-powered devices. The standard phone upgrade time under a Belief Plan is only 18 months. U.S. Cellular customers can upgrade a phone as early as every 10 to 11 months depending on their plan by redeeming their Belief Points.

Save Up To 5 Percent Using Auto Pay and Paperless Billing
U.S. Cellular is the first wireless carrier to offer monthly service discounts to customers who use both paperless billing and auto pay. Customers who sign up for both with a debit or credit card get a 3 percent discount on their monthly bill. Customers who sign up for both and use their checking or savings account will receive a 5 percent discount.

Even More to Believe In
The Belief Project complements U.S. Cellular’s other free, innovative offerings like Battery Swap, My Contacts Backup and Free Incoming Calls, Texts and Pix.

Starting Oct. 1, you can visit uscellular.com for more information about The Belief Project.
Financial Expectations
U.S. Cellular anticipates that The Belief Project will accelerate growth and have a positive impact on long-term profitability by:

- Driving incremental postpaid gross additions of at least 10 percent,
- Incremental growth in average revenue per customer, and
- Contributing to the improvement of its already low postpaid churn rate.

The 2010 benefits and expenses associated with The Belief Project were incorporated into U.S. Cellular’s 2010 financial guidance from the beginning of the year.

About U.S. Cellular
U.S. Cellular is committed to fixing wireless one project at a time. The Chicago-based carrier, named one of Forbes Magazine’s 2010 “Most Trustworthy Companies”, recently unveiled The Belief Project, a series of industry-first, innovative solutions designed to elevate the customer experience. The Belief Project complements U.S. Cellular’s growing catalog of cutting-edge phones, all backed by its nationwide 3G network. To learn more about U.S. Cellular, visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com. You can also check out U.S. Cellular on Facebook.

Safe Harbor Statement Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: All information set forth in this news release, except historical and factual information, represents forward-looking statements. This includes all statements about the company’s plans, beliefs, estimates, and expectations. These statements are based on current estimates, projections, and assumptions, which involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Important factors that may affect these forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: The ability of the company to successfully manage and grow its markets; the economy; competition; the state and federal telecommunications regulatory environment; the value of assets and investments; adverse changes in the ratings afforded our debt securities by accredited ratings organizations; industry consolidation; advances in telecommunications technology; uncertainty of access to the capital markets; pending and future litigation; changes in income tax rates, laws, regulations or rulings; acquisitions/divestitures of properties and/or licenses; changes in customer growth rates, average monthly revenue per unit, churn rates, roaming revenue and terms, the availability of handset devices, or the mix of products and services offered by the company; and the ability to obtain or maintain roaming arrangements with other carriers. Investors are encouraged to consider these and other risks and uncertainties that are discussed in the Form 8-K used by U.S. Cellular to furnish this press release to the SEC, which are incorporated by reference herein.

 
There are 24 comments

myriad46 says:

...the big 4 never will, simply because they don't have to. The fact is that the total cell phones being operated is going to keep going up until the population is saturated. You have a new generation of kids getting cell phones daily, but the people that are dying every day don't have them. That means until the first cell-phone generation starts dying, the market will keep growing at a staggering rate. Thus, the cell phone companies don't have to give a crap. A good example is $0.25 text messages. A 250% increase in cost for something that costs them nothing, just to force people to up their monthly contract.

Evo2DroidX says:

@myriad46 'NUFF SAID

technomom says:

Exactly. Until VZW and AT&T get pushed by their stockholders to "DO SOMETHING!" in the way that US Cellular is, it isn't going to happen.

Companies aren't nice because it's the right thing to do.
Companies are nice only when it will help them make more money than they did yesterday.

myalover says:

I had U.S. Cellular before. Very decent company and I had great service and coverage in rural Wisconsin. I only switched out because they tend to have a very poor phone selection. While the Desire is a decent phone, they JUST got it. The rest of the carriers have had top tier Android phones for a while now (AT&T doesn't count). This is probaly the one thing that would keep me from switching back to them.

scoty024 says:

Thinking the big 4 might actually make some decent changes to the way they conduct business so to benefit their customers may very well be a foolish dream... but it's a nice foolish dream.

icebike says:

I don't see much difference in this than just continuing month to month after you exhaust your contract.

You want a new subsidized phone, you are surely going to sign

    something

.

Its the same with my AT&T plan, I just go month to month with my Nexus.

Yup. I'm with ya icebike. Until the next Gen dev phone comes out I'm milking at&t.
I saw their 15 dollar commercial yesterday and remembered that what they are advertising is capped. Hopefully the next dev phone is quad band 4g so I can pick who I want or continue to bleed at&t until the next next gen dev phone arrives.

ericab18 says:

There is a huge difference icebike. With US Cellular, you will only sign one contract per line within your entire time with the service. When you do want to get a new phone for the "subsidized price" you dont sign anything!!!! no contract just to get the subsidized price, you just have to meet one criteria which is that you line is eligible to recive a subsidized phone!!! Thats all!!!

Impulses says:

Meh, it's a nice idea on paper, but US Cellular has never had a lot of great phones to begin with... And this is the only part of the whole Belief Project that really sticks out, to me. I'd rather have the big companies simply add further incentives for me to sign a contract, besides simply subsidizing my new phone.

For instance, Sprint will let Premier customers (just about anyone w/a plan that includes voice+data) upgrade phones every 12 months, sure you have to re-start your contract but it still beats the heck out of waiting 18-24 months.

If you do the math, even w/the EVO or Epic's $10 monthly premium it is still competitive with T-Mo's plans, particularly if you upgrade every year. The difference in plans comes out to $240 a year over two years (easily the difference in what you'd pay for a new high-end phone w/o subsidy), or $480 over two years. Plus you get to call any mobile number for free w/Sprin's plans, and roam on VZW's network.

One thing's for sure, either option beats the heck out of whatever AT&T (2GB data caps /barf) or Verizon are offering, plan-wise.

DallasM says:

This sounds great, but it's actually not as good as T-Mo's deal. When you are done paying off your phone, your monthly rate actually drops. I would rather pay less and know that I can leave, rather than just knowing that I can leave.

mwm says:

T-mobile is also changing the game - but taking it in a different direction. They also have contract-free plans. They drop the phone discounts, etc - but also drop the monthly cost by up to $20/month. If you can afford to buy a phone without the discount, this is the most cost-effective choice I've found. It should be better than US Cellular, since the EFT-free plan only saves money if you terminate the contract.

Jay Desio says:

I'm on Verizon in western Wisconsin, my girlfriend is on US Cellular in central WI. US Cellular has agreements with Verizon, so when she is out by me she still has good service thru Verizon (I do not know if there are any roaming charges though). They do offer some nice benefits, like free incoming calls and they will swap out a battery anytime for no charge, as long as it's not some outdated device.

icebike says:

The problem is that She is still stuck on CDMA, so she really has a smartphone only when not in a call.

You knew that going in, being a Verizon customer. She may not have.

icebike says:

Call me when Carrier's LOWER the monthly bill AFTER the contract device is paid off.

The way I see it is every carrier has the handset subsidy cranked into their contract prices, and it NEVER goes away, even if you start your contract and Bring Your Own Phone, like a Nexus One).

If you BYOP, you should get a better price. No warranty issues for the carrier. No price subsidies.

eahinrichsen says:

That makes sense and I'd love to see it, but no provider - big or small - will ever encourage people to not buy phones from them like that.

Hell, I'm on AT&T and I brought my own BB 9700 and any time a rep finds that out, it's like they redouble their efforts to sell me on whatever the phone du jour is.

Nirvana328 says:

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but doesn't T-Mobile does this anyways with their Even More Plus plans that are generally cheaper & have no contract, with the only caveat that you must pay full price for your phone?

DukeHatz says:

Exactly

AaronTV says:

The rewards and the one and done contract features are nice. However, their new plans are nothing special, at least not from my perspective as an Evo owner on Sprint. US Cellular's new family plan with unlimited text and 5 GB of data per line starts at 139.99 for two lines and costs $40 per additional line. On Sprint, it is 129.99 and 19.99 per additional line ($10 per premium data phone too of course). So, US Cellular did not set any new standards with regard to pricing...even though they'd like their customers to think so.

donnie623 says:

Verizon and AT&T are the largest and they have the arrogance to go with it. Until customers stop fueling it by using their overpriced services, expect it to get worse. I love when Sprint does something new to piss off the competition like driving down prices while the other two want to raise them. Ill stick to my unlimited plans while others check to see how much data theyve used lol

Agreed with others that T-Mo's making the bigger effort here to change things. Contract free service that's actually cheaper than the contract rate. Have a contract free plan with my N1 and get unlimited minutes/text/data for less than my 450 min plan on AT&T.

YMMV with T-Mo's offer though if you work for an organization that has employee deals with the other carriers. T-Mo won't apply corporate discounts to contract-free plans. Makes sense, of course.

deparson says:

This is a really great idea but the reality for us (4 lines of smart phones on a family plan with Sprint) is that US Cellular would cost us $55/month MORE than we currently pay or $1300 over 2 years.

Even if we had to pay an ETF on Sprint at some point we would come out way ahead.

Blah says:

I'd like to mention that Virgin Mobile currently has a $25/m plan that is unlimited text, data, web etc with 300 talk minutes. They are getting Android devices soonish I believe.

Virgin Mobile is using all Sprint towers. I'm switching to them once they get a phone I really want.

diggity says:

Interesting. I've actually considered going back to US Cellular since they came out with the Desire. Even went to a store to check one out in person. US Cellular offers a very dependable service that works damn near everywhere (everywhere I've been anyway, from Texas all the way up the midwest states). My last business trip to Missouri and Iowa found my Droid Incredible roaming on the US Cellular network part of the time.

ann1500 says:

I've had US Cellular since 1997, choice of phones is behind the curve. Because of the size of my town, the big guys weren't here for years. Now they want the market share, but I'm sticking with the pioneer of our community. The service has been outstanding, there have been times I've lent my phone to stranded people because their's wouldn't pick up a signal. For 7 years traveled 130,000 miles on a motorcycle on back roads always had service with some exceptions in extreme remote locations, only a sat phone would work in those instances. I think every subscription service should look at what they are doing. Instead of rewarding the new sign-on's, reward you loyal base! I wish they had better prices on data plans with unlimited use, I would cut out my cable internet.