ATandT Netbook Deal Offers Broadband Service for $50 a Month

AT&T is offering netbooks for as low as $49.99 with the purchase of its monthly mobile broadband plan, "squeezing PCs into the cell phone model," as one analyst puts it. Available as a trial in Atlanta and limited Philadelphia stores, it includes netbooks and mini-notebooks from Acer, Dell, LG and Lenovo.

AT&T has a deal for residents of Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The wireless carrier has announced it is offering prices as low as $49.99 for mini-notebooks - or "netbooks" - in combination with the AT&T "Internet at Home and On the Go" broadband services plan, as part of a limited trial offer in select company-owned stores.

More specifically, AT&T says that in Atlanta it will:
- Offer a variety of ultra-portable mini laptops with built-in AT&T 3G wireless capabilities at promotional prices starting at $49.99 with the purchase of AT&T "Internet at Home and On the Go" broadband services.
- Trial 30-minute in-store technical support - part of the AT&T ConnecTech suite of services - at select locations for customers who purchase qualifying data plans.
- Feature, as part of the same trial in select stores, an Internet at Home and On the Go package that combines home and mobile broadband starting as low as $59.95 per month, including access to the AT&T 3G network and unlimited domestic access to 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots.
- Pre-installed AT&T Communication Manager on mini-laptops, enabling customers to manage their mobile and Wi-Fi connections.
In eight Philadelphia-area locations, AT&T is offering similar promotional rates for mini-notebooks, with the purchase of AT&T DataConnect plans.
The mini-laptops and netbooks on offer include the Acer Aspire One, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 and the LG Xenia.
With the purchase of the AT&T Internet at Home and On the Go plan - which includes an AT&T DataConnect plan and AT&T Fast Access DSL, and starts at $59.95 per month - the netbooks are being offered for between $49.99 and $249.99.
The mini-laptops come preloaded with AT&T Communication Manager software, which helps customers to manage their usage and connections and alerts them of AT&T hotspots networks or other previously used Wi-Fi networks.
Also on the table, with the purchase of the Internet at Home and Go plan, is the option of a Lenovo ThinkPad X200 ultraportable laptop, with built-in 3G capabilities, for $749.99 - or, for $849.99 with a two-year Data Connect plan only. (Retail pricing for the ThinkPad X200 is approximately $1,350.)
Mini-laptops present a new way for carriers to grow subscriber numbers, with the devices' low price points opening a door for the carriers to offer the same type of "nearly free" deals that they offer around cell phones.
"The idea is to squeeze a PC into the cell phone model," says Roger Kay, president of Enpoint Technologies.
"The problem 10 years ago was that the PC was too expensive to fit neatly into the subsidized model. The resulting monthly costs were too high and the term of contract, (three years) too long. In addition, the PC itself was too low a specification."
Now, Kay explains, "For $400-$500 AT&T can get a nice netbook and subsidize it without creating pricing distortions. The Europeans have been doing this for months already."