AT&T CEO: Data-only phone plans coming in two years

Could we soon be paying just for data plans for our smartphones and mobile phones? That's what the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, predicted could happen and that it might show up in the near future.

An Associated Press story (via USA Today) quotes Stephenson as saying, "I'll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don't see people in the market place with data-only plans. I just think that's inevitable."

Wireless phone carriers offer talk and text plans, in addition to data plans, in their contracts. However, more and more smartphones now have apps, such as Skype, that allow users to access their data plans in order to make phone calls.

If mobile phone owners start to cut down on their talk and text minutes in order to use their data plans to accomplish those same tasks, it does stand to reason that some wireless carriers could begin to transition to a data-only business model.

Of course, most carriers now have tiered data plans with caps and overage fees, with Sprint now a rare exception to that rule. Those businesses could generate more money from a data-only contract.

Stephenson states, "It's not us going out and mandating this. The content guys are coming in asking for it. If you don't allow those kinds of models to flourish, you're going to inhibit the potential of these services."

This type of move has been predicted for some time, we even made the claim about a year ago

Source: AP via USA Today

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19 Comments

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The whole '5 Gig' thing is way too small for caps, by the way. I can't believe every company out there has 5 gigs as their highest tier. WTF...

Before branching out into new areas, why fix the simple problems you already have?? What good is anything without a solid foundation? Does "bubble" come to mind.

I think it's a cool idea, but at some point, you have to stop calling it a 'phone'. If the primary purpose isn't calling people, it's just a computer that you carry in your pocket.

ffenliv said,
I think it's a cool idea, but at some point, you have to stop calling it a 'phone'. If the primary purpose isn't calling people, it's just a computer that you carry in your pocket.

We just need to now BAN all "computers" and "phones" in theaters - not ask to turn them silent but BAN them or require them OFF. I get so damn tired of watching a movie and someone few rows down opens one up to read facebook... if you want a slap in the back of the head go on and do it!

sava700 said,

We just need to now BAN all "computers" and "phones" in theaters - not ask to turn them silent but BAN them or require them OFF. I get so damn tired of watching a movie and someone few rows down opens one up to read facebook... if you want a slap in the back of the head go on and do it!

And how is this relevant to the article or comment how...

how about data only plans but still have a phone number via a VoIP service with no "minutes" just what ever you can use on your data tier... and messaging all over data... all for oh say $50 a month.....

neufuse said,
how about data only plans but still have a phone number via a VoIP service with no "minutes" just what ever you can use on your data tier... and messaging all over data... all for oh say $50 a month.....
100 minutes, unlimited text, 5GB of 4g data (up to 42Mb down) on t-mobile for $30. Already been Done.

Rudie32 said,
100 minutes, unlimited text, 5GB of 4g data (up to 42Mb down) on t-mobile for $30. Already been Done.

yeah, well lets see that on of one the big ones here then we will talk... Verizon, AT&T...

neufuse said,

yeah, well lets see that on of one the big ones here then we will talk... Verizon, AT&T...

Wait, T-Mobile isn't considered a big network in America? Wow, it's so different here in the UK; there's pretty much five big networks (O2, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, and 3) of roughly the same size that all cover most of the country, and then dozens of smaller networks that all piggyback off the big five.

MightyJordan said,

Wait, T-Mobile isn't considered a big network in America? Wow, it's so different here in the UK; there's pretty much five big networks (O2, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, and 3) of roughly the same size that all cover most of the country, and then dozens of smaller networks that all piggyback off the big five.

T-Mobile isn't in the top, its number 4 right now by size I think at last check, but being #4 doesn't mean its big, at&t and verizon are drastically larger.. AT&T has about 75 million customers, verizon has 72 million customers, sprint has 50 million then t-mobile has a whole 30 million... and a lot of t-mobiles network is leased access on at&t's GSM network so they can reduce tower builds

MightyJordan said,
Are AT&T really that far behind? The tariff I'm on (giffgaff) has had data-only plans since October. No fixed contract, either.

The entire United States is that far behind.

I've tried not using any voice and only data by using Skype and there still bugs to be worked out. Every now and then I had to resort to voice because of bandwidth issues or Skype dropping calls.

muggerfugger said,

This is for those who do plan on using it, and not voice.


I think I must have misread the article. I took it as the were getting rid of voice-only plans.