updated 07:19 pm EDT, Sat June 2, 2012
Data-only plans within two years, data across devices coming
Speaking at a Sanford Bernstein investor conference in New York, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has forecast that cell phone plans charging users only for data were virtually inevitable, and would likely start appearing on the market in the next two years. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Stephenson stopped short of saying that AT&T has any such plan in the works, but he did say that the communications giant is looking at a number of novel pricing models for wireless data.
Stephenson said the increase in data usage among wireless customers meant that it was highly likely that one wireless player or another would introduce a data-only plan, which would allow users to make calls and text through services such as Skype. As voice becomes less essential for users, AT&T has seen a decline in the average number of phone minutes used per month. Calling plans and texting still make up a sizable amount of phone companies' revenues, however, and any switch to a data-only plan would likely include significant increases in data prices.
AT&T is looking at introducing wireless plans allowing subscribers to spread a data allowance between devices, and these plans are reportedly close to being introduced. The company is also considering allowing websites and services to pay for the data used to access them. This would function much in the way that toll-free numbers currently do for companies, but the plan could wind up giving larger websites an advantage over startups.