Don't be surprised if you start seeing more and more fees on your wireless bill.
That's one of the takeaways from a new report of the U.S. mobile market, according to Tero Kuittinen, a mobile analyst and vice president at Alekstra, a firm that works to reduce companies' phone bills.
Because fewer new customers are signing up for wireless plans, giants like AT&T and Verizon are looking everywhere they can for additional revenue, which means charging their existing subscribers more, Kuittinen wrote on BGR.
Only 1.1 million new wireless accounts were created the first three months of 2013, according to the report from Chetan Sharma Consulting, a firm that specializes in mobile trends and strategy. This represents a whopping 60 percent decline over the number of new connections in the same quarter of 2012.
That's a huge problem for the wireless industry, which thrived in previous years as new customers signed up for mobile subscriptions.
In the year 2000, wireless companies derived more than 20 percent of their revenues from new subscribers, according to a slide in Sharma Consulting's presentation. Now, that share is hovering around 2 percent.
"They don't have much choice but to increase revenue from existing subscribers, which obviously from a consumer point of view sucks," Kuittinen told The Huffington Post.
As an example, Kuittenen points to a $0.61 "Mobility Administrative Fee" that AT&T started charging last month. That may not sound like much, but that means an additional $775 million annually for AT&T.
And that fee is only the latest in a series of moves the biggest U.S. wireless carriers have made to extract more revenue from their customers. Earlier this month, AT&T said it would no longer offer early device upgrade discounts to its contract holders, and extended its upgrade period to 24 months. Verizon made a similar policy change in April.
So that means if you find yourself in need of a phone and it's been fewer than two years, you'll have to pay a penalty because you're not yet eligible for an upgrade.
So the question remains: Is there any hope of curbing expensive -- and increasing -- smartphone bills?
Chetan Sharma, who leads the consulting firm, said that if T-Mobile and Sprint, the two carriers that have for years lagged behind AT&T and Verizon, were to merge, then customers would have more options.
"If you just have two players who are dominant and the other two are struggling, then consumers might not get the choices that three players bring to the market," Sharma told HuffPost. "It's important for a third strong player."
But for now, AT&T and Verizon control a massive 65 percent of the U.S. wireless market.
"It's a duopoly," Kuittinen said. "It's clear when it comes to consumer prices, competition isn't working."
Earlier on HuffPost:
South Korea has long boasted some of the world's fastest and most accessible Internet. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/2300-17938_105-10012951-5.html" target="_hplink">More than 94 percent of South Koreans</a> have high-speed connections. In addition, the South Korean government has pledged to give its citizens access to 1 Gigabit per second Internet by the end of this year -- or <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/technology/22iht-broadband22.html" target="_hplink">more than 200 times faster than the average household in the United States</a>. "South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do," he said during his <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2011" target="_hplink">2011 State of the Union address</a>.
In 2010, Finland became the first country in the world to make broadband access a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/14/finland-broadband-access_n_320481.html" target="_hplink">legal right for all citizens</a>. That right: every one of the country's 5.3 million people will have guaranteed access to a high-speed Internet connection. Meanwhile, in the United States, about 19 million people have no access to high-speed Internet where they live. Finland isn't stopping there. It plans to make lightning-fast 100-megabit broadband service a legal right by the end of 2015.
Swedish broadband is twice as fast and costs one-third the price of broadband in the U.S., <a href="http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/price_of_the_pipe" target="_hplink">according to a study by the New America Foundation</a>. In 2007, a 75-year-old woman from central Sweden <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDwQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fslashdot.org%2Fstory%2F07%2F07%2F12%2F1236231%2Fworlds-fastest-broadband-connection-40-gbps&ei=l3RGUOzxDMjn0QGY3YDwCw&usg=AFQjCNEwTvCABgII17xzH-oyvMmMRVf0VQ" target="_hplink">made headlines</a> when she was given the world's fastest internet connection. She could download a full high-definition DVD in just two seconds.
Japanese has some of the cheapest connections in the world,<a href="http://www.oecd.org/internet/broadbandandtelecom/oecdbroadbandportal.htm" target="_hplink"> according to the OECD</a>. Japan's government has offered companies generous tax incentives to invest in fiber-optic cables. "The Japanese think long-term," a technology consultant told <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/business/worldbusiness/03broadband.html?pagewanted=print" target="_hplink">The New York Times in 2007</a>. "If they think they will benefit in 100 years, they will invest for their grandkids. There's a bit of national pride we don't see in the West."
"Consumer broadband prices in France are now among the most affordable in the world," <a href="http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/Berkman_Center_Broadband_Final_Report-Country_Overviews_15Feb2010.pdf" target="_hplink">according to a study</a> by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The study attributed the low prices to regulations that allow rival Internet providers to share access to broadband infrastructure. France is also one of several countries that have declared Internet access "<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,525993,00.html" target="_hplink">a basic human right</a>."