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AT&T bumps up device upgrade wait time from 20 to 24 months

The carrier says the new policy is intended to align upgrades with its standard two-year wireless contract.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

Following the lead of Verizon Wireless, AT&T has increased the period of time customers must wait to upgrade their devices.

Customers who had previously had to wait 20 months before they were eligible for an AT&T-subsidized device will now have to wait 24 months, the wireless carrier announced on a company blog Sunday. The change applies to all new customers and to existing customers whose contract ends in March 2014 or later.

AT&T said the policy change is intended to align its device upgrade eligibility with its standard two-year wireless contract.

After completing six months of a contract, customers will be eligible for a partial discount off a device's retail price if they agree to a new two-year contract. Devices can also be purchased at full retail price without a two-year agreement.

The move mirrors Verizon's announcement in April that it was raising the wait time on subsidized device upgrades from 20 months to 24 months. The change drew a lot of questions during the company's earnings conference call, but Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said he didn't foresee any backlash from customers.