AT&T Makes Another Attempt to Be Like T-Mobile

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-01-11 Print this article Print
AT&T, T-Mobile

At Verizon, the only unlimited data belongs to customers who have had it for the last four years, and even there, it's going up in price by about $20 per month as the company tries to find ways to get rid of its unlimited customers.

At this point, AT&T has put itself into a pretty solid place in the market. It's got a way to leverage users of different services into staying with AT&T. In addition, the company has more ways to get the attention of customers, and more ways to encourage loyalty. In a sense, it's a better position than Verizon's in, because that company's only path to video and Internet use is with its FiOS service, which depends, in turn, on fiber-optic infrastructure that's still being built-out, but which will never expand much farther than it is now.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has been in talks for some time to join with Dish Network, either through an acquisition or a joint marketing agreement, as a way to offer video programming services to its customers. While a T-Mobile/Dish deal has been an on-again, off-again topic of discussion for many months, the move by AT&T may play a pivotal role in getting the two companies to get off the dime.

The next question is whether competition by both AT&T and T-Mobile with their unlimited data will cause Verizon to reverse course and start offering unlimited data as well. It may seem unlikely, considering Verizon's size, but it wasn't that long ago when Verizon also dropped all contracts, and started offering a purchase program similar to T-Mobile's.

It's worth noting that a change to unlimited data isn't all that hard for wireless carriers to implement. The biggest impediment is really more about the finances than anything else. Providing unlimited data really doesn't cost the carriers anything. The tiered data plans of yore were really just a way to suck more money out of the customers' pockets than they were about costs experienced by the carriers.

What this means is that the only real cost for Verizon to join the crowd in the unlimited data camp would be a small hit on profits. That's not necessarily too big of a hit to protect market share. If that happens, the battle between AT&T and T-Mobile will manage to net some big returns for Verizon's customers.


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