The Cat And Mouse Game Between AT&T And Verizon Wireless Continues - InformationWeek

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2/19/2008
04:17 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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The Cat And Mouse Game Between AT&T And Verizon Wireless Continues

First thing this morning, Verizon Wireless announced a handful of unlimited calling plans. Just hours later, AT&T responded with a similar set of plans, centering around the apparent sweet spot of $100 per month. Is all-you-can-eat the next battleground, and can anyone win it?

First thing this morning, Verizon Wireless announced a handful of unlimited calling plans. Just hours later, AT&T responded with a similar set of plans, centering around the apparent sweet spot of $100 per month. Is all-you-can-eat the next battleground, and can anyone win it?First off, I don't think unlimited minutes for $100 per month is all that great a deal. I already get 1,000 "anytime" minutes that I don't use each month, and that's combining my business and personal line. I already get unlimited calling from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday for $40 per month. What is that extra $60 getting me? A whole lotta nothing.

C'mon. Raise your hands. How many of you out there actually go over your voice minutes each month?

Of course, there are plenty of people who practically live on their phones during the 9 to 5 time period (businessmen, teenagers), and unlimited calling makes perfect sense for that crew. Even so, most carriers offer 1,350 to 1,400 anytime minutes for $80 per month, and 2,000 for $100 (that's 90 minutes per day, for 22 working days of the month). For the common commoner, is unlimited necessary? I dunno.

Well, AT&T and Verizon are both offering it. What stinks is that messaging isn't bundled into these unlimited plans. Sprint has been trialling true unlimited plans for $120 per month. Sprint's includes unlimited messaging, e-mail, Internet, and more (but is limited to just a handful of markets). With AT&T and Verizon, you have to pay to add those features on. In the end, the dollar amounts are similar.

When it comes to messaging, almost all the carriers want you to bundle them. Shelling out $20 per month gets you unlimited SMS and MMS with most carriers. That's what I pay for. If you don't bundle, you'll be dinged 20 cents for each message.

So all-you-can eat is becoming the standard (unless you are a cable company like Time Warner, where apparently all-you-can-eat is out of vogue and charging by the megabyte is better).

What are the margins on these plans? What sort of usage do the carriers expect to see? What if people start talking for 5,000 minutes per month during peak periods?

Margins or not, one thing is for certain. The competition between AT&T and Verizon will continue to rage on. And in the end, consumers are likely to be the winners.

Update:

After I published this piece, T-Mobile sent me an e-mail saying that IT, TOO, will offer unlimited calling plans for $99 per month. T-Mobile's, however, also will include unlimited messaging in that plan.

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