Carolina West joins ‘best deals for all’ club

Carolina West Wireless serves a fraction of the number of wireless customers that AT&T boasts, but it’s following a similar strategy, offering its best smartphone deals to both new and existing customers.

Based in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the small regional carrier rolled out its “Great Deals for Everyone” program on April 11, offering new and existing customers the same deals on devices, according to Todd Elledge, director of Marketing at Carolina West Wireless.

The move is significant because there are now three carriers with the “best deals for all” approach, the other two being AT&T and C Spire, said Wave7 Research principal Jeff Moore, who spotted the offer this week. C Spire is another small regional carrier; it’s based in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

AT&T started the approach in the fall of 2020. At the time, Moore described it as sort of “breaking the rules” of wireless because for several years prior, the best deals from postpaid carriers were all about new lines and switchers – not for existing customers. AT&T said it was reacting to pain points it was hearing from customers who felt they were being treated unfairly when new customers were getting the best deals.

As for Verizon and T-Mobile, “they’re not there yet,” Moore said. Both offered something along these lines, “but they’re not all in on that,” in the same way these other carriers adopted it, he said.

During investor calls and other events, AT&T executives have been playing it up and saying how well it’s worked for them, he noted.

Corey Chagnon, general manager of Navi, a company that tracks daily pricing and promotional data across carriers, said what’s most impressive about AT&T's "best deals for all" strategy is just how long the carrier has kept it live in the market. 

“Typically what we see is carriers putting these offers in the market for a short period of time and they will often require the customer to take a premium plan. Since AT&T launched their strategy of offering max promotional trade-in credits to upgraders who take any plan in late 2019, their churn has improved substantially,” Chagnon said. 

Right now Verizon actually offers the same maximum promotional trade-in value to upgraders as AT&T on the iPhone 13, “but it's pretty rare that this is the case,” he said. AT&T just lowered the max trade-in value on the iPhone 13 series from $800 to $700 on April 8, which now aligns with Verizon's upgrade strategy of offering $700 to current customers on any plan, he noted. 

Carolina West Wireless was formed in 1991 and is owned by a partnership consisting of Skyline Telephone and Surry Telephone.

Light Reading reported in 2019 that Carolina West Wireless had about 90,000 customers.

Moore said the carrier’s store locator shows 27 stores in operation in North Carolina, generally north of Charlotte.

The operator already has launched 5G in the majority of counties in its footprint, with more to come.

In 2019, Carolina West signed a multi-year deal with Ericsson to provide 5G-ready gear, as well as VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling capabilities.

In 2020, it provided access to its 600 MHz spectrum so that T-Mobile could use it to boost its capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic.