Amazon is reportedly considering offering mobile connectivity to its customers alongside a US Prime subscription, according to a report from Bloomberg. It’s said to have held negotiations with existing US carriers, including Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish, and occasionally, AT&T about using their networks to offer mobile connectivity, which would then be available to Prime subscribers either as part of their existing subscription or for a nominal $10 a month fee.
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Bradley Mattinger denied that the company is currently actively planning to add wireless connectivity to Prime. “We are always exploring adding even more benefits for Prime members, but don’t have plans to add wireless at this time,” Mattinger said. Bloomberg notes that the plans could take months to launch and may be scrapped entirely.
In comments first reported by CNET reporter Eli Blumenthal, Verizon and T-Mobile denied being in negotiations with Amazon, and T-Mobile said it was told by Amazon that the company has no plan to offer wireless service. Dish and AT&T initially declined to comment, but later in an email to The Verge, AT&T’s Jim Greer said “AT&T is not in discussions with Amazon to resell wireless services.”
Amazon increased the price of Prime last year
News of the talks comes as Prime subscriber growth is believed to have slowed following last year’s price rise, which saw the cost of an annual Prime subscription increase from $119 to $139. In response to this, Amazon spokesperson Bradley Mattinger said in an email to The Verge that “Prime membership continues to grow year-over-year as the value members receive continues to increase,” without specifying if the growth is also increasing or decreasing.
Amazon is also facing increased competition from the likes of Walmart Plus, a $98 / year subscription service from the retailer that offers free grocery delivery on orders over $35. Walmart added a subscription to Paramount Plus to its subscription service last year, which competes with Amazon’s own Prime Video streaming service.
Although Amazon would be paying wireless carriers to use their networks under the plans, Bloomberg notes that partnering with the e-commerce giant could be a double-edged sword for them. If Amazon prices its wireless offering as cheaply as Bloomberg’s report suggests it will, it risks competing with carriers for their existing subscribers. Amazon has historically proven that it’s prepared to spend big for the sake of Prime subscriber growth.
Fellow tech giant Google already offers a wireless network of its own called Google Fi. Like Amazon’s rumored plans, Google Fi is what’s known as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, and runs on T-Mobile’s network nationally as well as a network of Wi-Fi hotspots.
Amazon’s past foray into the phone market was one of the company’s most high-profile failures. In 2014, it released the $199 Fire Phone only to discount it to 99 cents a few months after launch and discontinue it a little over a year later. It’s also developing a satellite internet service known as Project Kuiper, which it hopes to start offering to customers by the end of 2024.
Update June 2nd, 2PM ET: Added comments from T-Mobile, Verizon, and Amazon.
Update June 2nd, 3:47M ET: Added AT&T comment.