AT&T Will Be Charging More For Wireless Broadband

AT&T is once again dropping hints that the carrier wants to change (read: increase) wireless data pricing. Many investors have been pressuring the company to ditch the unlimited $30 iPhone data plan, and instead replace it with some kind of metered billing model. That’s largely because as carriers begin to open their networks to push IM clients and mobile VoIP, they’ll be losing a lot of money on voice and SMS. The only way to counter those losses will be to charge more money for mobile data. Enter AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who this week tells Reuters the changes will be coming soon:

Stephenson expects changes in how the wireless industry prices its mobile data services going forward, with heavy data users being charged more. Smartphone users currently pay a monthly fee of about $30 for unlimited data. “For the industry, we’ll progressively move toward more of what I call variable pricing so the heavy (use) consumers will pay more than the lower consumers,” Stephenson said.

What Stephenson calls “variable pricing” is confused by many to mean per-byte billing. While the idea of only paying for what you use sounds great to those not paying attention, the plans AT&T and Verizon actually wind up implementing are very carefully crafted to drive most user bills ever higher. Verizon for instance now offers users the option of paying either $9.95 for a phone data plan with a 25MB cap (20 cents per additional MB, 125 MB maximum), or $30 for “unlimited” (which actually means 5 GB a month) service. This is in addition to SMS, voice, and other monthly fees.
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