Within the next two years, consumers will be able to choose data-only mobile device plans that consider voice and texts just another form of data. That’s according to AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, who posited the idea at a New York investors conference—although he declined to say if AT&T had such a plan in the works.
The Wall St. Journal reports
the idea of a data-only plan makes sense, as smartphones today already use their data allotments to handle calls via data services like Skype or texts via services like WhatsApp. In addition, AT&T has been recording declines across the board in average number of voice minutes used per month. While AT&T declined to say it was pursuing the data-only option, Stephenson did say the operator is set to offer plans that let subscribers share their data allowance across several devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
Yankee Group Senior Analyst Rich Karpinski comments
“We've reached a true tipping point in how mobile operators deliver and monetize their services. Precisely what comes out the other end isn't 100 percent clear quite yet, but with Stephenson's comments here yet another piece of the puzzle comes clearly into view. The key cogs:
Everything is delivered, and priced, as data
Accounting moves from individuals to accounts (family, multi-device)
Consumption moves from basic tiers to more usage-based and service-aware measurement
And perhaps most controversially, some form of content-provider-pays or toll-free pricing comes into play, with content and app providers helping to subsidize end-user data consumption.
“These changes won't come overnight, and how they ultimately all work together will be complicated. But fundamental change seems fully in play at the operators; it’s a question of when and how, not if.”