You might wonder why AT&T gives customers who choose not to buy bundled phones a $15 a month discount on recurring costs of service. That amount fairly closely tracks the amount of the device subsidy for a customer on a bundled plan.
A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggests that, in those those countries where both bundled and “buy your own device” options exist, such as in France or the United States, the bundled option (including discounted smartphone) was, on average, between $10 and $20 a month more expensive than the “buy your device separately” option.
Looking at recurring costs, one can see the potential impact of device subsidies on recurring costs. A $600 device, sold at $200, implies a $400 subsidy. At $20 a month, that further implies 20 months to recoup the cost of what is in essence an installment plan.
Take that $20 out of the monthly cost and U.S. service plans cost the same as European plans. AT&T’s $15 a month discount for “access only” service tracks that figure closely.
The OECD report, however, concludes that, in broad terms, service pricing is only slightly affected by the presence of bundled discounts for popular smart phones.