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Millions of Americans are discovering talk isn’t cheap

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Millions of Americans are discovering talk isn’t cheap, at least on their mobile phones.

As the recession deepens, as many as 60 million Americans are cutting cellphone costs, according to a study published Thursday by the New Millennium Research Corporation.

“The true era of cellphone penny-pinching is here,” said Allen Hepner, a scholar with the New Millennium Research Council, in a conference call Thursday.

The survey, which polled 2,005 adults over the age of 18 by phone in early March, found that 39 percent of Americans with traditional, or contract-based cellphone plans were likely to downgrade their cellphone plans to save money. The study also found that 26 percent of consumers with a traditional cellphone plan were considering switching to prepaid and pay-as-you-go cellphone plans due to job losses and concerns about the tumultuous economy.

“A potentially major shift in consumer habits, at the expense of contract-based cellphone service, is underway,” said Graham Hueber, a senior researcher at the Opinion Research Center, a national polling firm that conducted the survey.

About 15 percent of cellphone users in the U.S have already cut back on expensive features and plans because of financial concerns, Mr. Hueber said.

As I reported last month, pay-as-you-go phones are winning over recession-battered consumers looking to cut costs and avoid the lengthy contracts and billing surprises that come with traditional cellphone plans. As prepaid carriers begin offering smartphones and other sleek handsets, the leap from contract to pay-as-you-go may become even more appealing for cellphone users.

The report comes at a time when major wireless carriers are facing considerable hurdles as they struggle to continue growing their subscriber bases.

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