AT&T Makes Another Attempt to Be Like T-Mobile
NEWS ANALYSIS: First, it was the move to drop contracts, and now, it's a return to unlimited data. T-Mobile started both moves, and AT&T is following.The plan by AT&T has made sense from the beginning. The company agreed to buy DirecTV in June 2015 as a way to provide more compelling offerings to its customers. AT&T was already contending, on one hand, with Verizon, which was attracting customers with its triple play offerings of cable, phone and wireless. On the other hand, T-Mobile's aggressive marketing and offerings of inexpensive no-contract phone service were costing it customers. It was last year, after all, when T-Mobile overtook hapless Sprint to become the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States through a series of what the company calls "Uncarrier" moves that eliminated contracts, provided dramatically reduced costs and included a series of other moves, such as free unlimited data nearly anywhere in the world. While AT&T is still far larger than T-Mobile, the trend was clear. T-Mobile was growing, and AT&T wasn't growing as fast. Worse, AT&T was rapidly becoming irrelevant in the world of wireless. No surprise, then, that the company had to do something to regain at least some of its former initiative. What AT&T has done is to emulate T-Mobile. Contracts are gone, customers can buy phones on an installment plan, and they can switch carriers whenever they wish, as long as their phones are paid for. This is a big deal for customers, since these days the differences between an AT&T phone and any other phone are essentially non-existent.
The differences between AT&T and T-Mobile are minimal anyway since both carriers use GSM for their voice calls, and for the most part, they share frequency bands. In fact, the only difference in Apple's iPhones is one extra Long-Term Evolution (LTE) band for AT&T. In all other respects Apple makes the same phone for everyone. All that's required to change carriers is to change to a new SIM card.