AT&T Lowers Unlimited Data Charges
By Eric Lin, Fri Apr 23 22:15:00 GMT 2004

AT&T Wireless is informing their smartphone-owning subscribers they have finally brought down unlimited data charges to be more inline with the rest of the US carriers -- or at least the rest of the world.

Until recently Verizon, Cingular and AT&T all charged USD 80 per month for unlimited data, while T-Mobile charges $20 and Sprint charges $15. Verizon brought its rates down to $50 per month for unlimited 1xRTT data , but since they launched 1x EV-DO as a PC-Card only service, Verizon is able to still bill those users $80 per month to help defray the new infrastructure costs while giving smartphone users a break on their monthly bill.

Instead of just lowering its rates slightly, Cingular decided to compete head-on with T-Mobile and Sprint, offering unlimited data plus 1500 SMS and 200 MMS for $20. (Sprint offers unlimited SMS with its unlimited tariffs as well.) That's a small fraction of what the same services would have cost a month ago on their network. AT&T finally quietly brought its price down this week, but instead of matching future owner Cingular's price, it has slightly undercut Verizon coming in at $45 per month.

In America, where desktop broadband often costs less than $50 per month, Verizon and AT&T's unlimited data rates seem quite high, since 2.5G cellular data is slower and many handsets offer a more limited experience than the desktop. But compared to prices elsewhere, which range roughly from $40 to $60 for unlimited data tariffs, these carriers are right in line.

AT&T and Verizon have always had a strong number of enterprise subscribers. When they launched smartphone products (especially those running Microsoft or Palm OSes), they marketed them as business tools. When Sprint and T-Mobile launched smartphones like the Treo and Hiptop, they were marketed to everyday subscribers with fun advertising and affordable data plans. Cingular's new plan indicates they have chosen a consumer, not enterprise approach. The fact that AT&T matched Verizon's price leads us to believe they have chosen to shore up their position with enterprise users -- possibly because corporate accounts are less likely to churn than individuals, and we all know AT&T suffered major subscriber losses last quarter.