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Update: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile offer $99 unlimited calling plans on same day

Sprint to do the same, analyst says, making competition fierce

February 19, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile today all announced similar unlimited wireless calling plans that each cost $99.99 a month. With the announcements made just hours apart, analysts said competition between carriers is obviously white hot.

Verizon's plan is now in effect, T-Mobile's takes effect Thursday, and AT&T's goes live on Friday. Jeffrey Kagan, an industry analyst, said Sprint Nextel Corp. is expected to announce a similar plan soon.

T-Mobile's plan, apparently the last of the three announced today, is arguably the best, since it includes voice, unlimited text messaging and picture messaging for only $99.99 a month, a spokeswoman said. Meanwhile AT&T's plan is for unlimited voice calls, while Verizon's provides unlimited voice and Internet access -- including Web-based e-mail. No other information on T-Mobile's offer was announced.

The all-you-can-eat approach "is an acknowledgment that wireless has evolved and more people than ever depend on it as a primary means of communication in every aspect of their lives," Verizon Chief Marketing Officer Mike Lanman said in a statement.

But Kagan said that the $99.99 unlimited plans are "really for power users" who make more than 2,000 minutes of calls each month. Currently, $99 buys 2,000 minutes of talk, he noted.

Kagan said that the only people who would find the new offers meaningful are the estimated 10% to 15% of wireless customers who actually use that many minutes. But since there are 255 million wireless users in the U.S., that is still a market of 30 million people. Verizon, which made the first announcement today, is hoping to attract higher-value customers from competing networks, he said.

In its announcement, AT&T included a statement from CEO Ralph de la Vega taking note of the ultracompetitive marketplace. "This is a highly competitive market and we're committed to moving fast to meet customer needs," he said.

Verizon's $99.99 service includes domestic roaming and long distance voice service, as well as Internet access and support for mobile Web 2.0 use. A $119.99-per-month plan adds unlimited messaging for anyone in the U.S. and a premium $139.99-per-month plan includes VCast video, VZ Navigator and Mobile E-mail functions.

In comparison, AT&T's $99.99 plan provides unlimited voice calling, with a variety of messaging plans that start at $5 per month and go up to $35 per month for unlimited messaging on standard phones. Apple Inc.'s iPhone and smart phones are not considered standard wireless phones.

Verizon also announced so-called BroadbandAccess plans that support sending and receiving data wirelessly from laptops. Those plans go into effect March 2. For $39.99 a month, customers will get 50MB of usage; for $59.99, they get up to 5GB of usage.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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