Explain US Carriers to a European
- You have cell phones, we call them mobile phones (at least in the UK anyway).
- You have a dizzying array of bands and incompatible network technologies, we take interoperability for granted.
- Your carriers seem to dictate handset design and branding, we get our phones in pretty much the same chassis with varying degrees of network operator software additions.
As a European, or pseudo-European since the UK has a strange mentality towards Europe in general, I don't really understand the way that US carriers work. I hear about the ongoing power plays between them on this site and others, but I don't feel like I've ever gotten the full picture. These questions will seem like naievety at it's most ridiculous, but my defence is that I've never lived outside the UK; I only really know about the status quo here and when I'm travelling around Europe, so every time I hear about these fees on the Vergecast, I'm genuinely surprised.
In terms of land mass, Europe is just under half the size of North America, although the total population here is somewhat higher. I get that a larger land area dictates a difference in the way that carriers need to operate, but considering how many countries make up Europe, logically we should have a far more fragmented system. I get that all carriers need to be able to compete, but from what I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong) it seems that the end result for US consumers is that you make more significant tradeoffs compared to here when you choose between networks.
Also, paying so much for a subsidised phone has never made much sense to me; why do you pay so much for your device on contract if you're already paying so much for the contract? How much would you pay per month over there if, for example, you had a phone plan with 500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1gb of data? Also, why do you have connection fees and upgrade fees? Is it also correct that some carriers charge to receive calls and text messages? Most importantly, why do US carriers have so much power to influence handset design?