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AT&T Cellphones Networking The Internet Wireless Networking

AT&T Expects Data-Only Phone Plans Within 2 Years 97

An anonymous reader writes "AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said today that he expects wireless carriers to start offering data-only cellphone plans within the next 24 months. 'Analysts see such plans as a logical extension of trends in wireless technology. Smartphones with data service can already use it for Internet phone calls and texting through services such as Skype. Phone calls are also taking a back seat to other things people do with their smartphones. AT&T has been recording a decline in the average number of minutes used per month.' He says there isn't a specific plan in the works — he just think it's inevitable."
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AT&T Expects Data-Only Phone Plans Within 2 Years

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  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:03PM (#40187269) Homepage Journal

    Now you see the real reason they are killing off unlimited plans. they know that data is the future and want to screw us as much as they can.

    Thankfully if you manage to find wifi access most of the time you can avoid being raped on 'voice' service, and not use much of the soon to be like gold data ...

    • Why don't we require all cellphone companies to bill based on the number of packets you send via their online network? Then billing would be like your water or electricity bill. If you use more you pay more. Voice packets and data packets and text packets could all be considered equivalent. Phone hogs wouldn't make the network slow for the rest of us; we'd all pay for what we used.

      • by yotto ( 590067 )

        But how then would they screw us over?

        Other than hidden programs on your phone that send and receive data, of course.

      • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:25PM (#40189193) Homepage
        Because the real issue is not packets but concurrent bandwidth.

        This is not a commodity problem like molecules of water flowing through a pipe or electrons moving down a wire (although electricity does have a little bit of a dual issue with respect to concurrent use since power generation has to be ramped up or down to meet demand). If you send or receive a packet at 3AM when nobody else is using the lines, it doesn't matter. What matters are those packets you want to send and receive at 5PM in the city when everybody is trying to stream pandora or watch a youtube clip on their commute home.

        If you aren't going to support unlimited, its actually kind of a hard problem to solve. Things that made sense with the voice paradigm--local calls being free since there are lots of local interconnects while long distance calls were charged per minute since they only had a limited number of lines in and out of your community--don't make sense in the digital age of packets and little chunks (since you don't need continuous monopoly over a piece of wire). Any sort of price put on data transfer is not related to the cost of sending a packet at all, it is merely an attempt to thwart usage to a point where peak usage is less than peak capacity.

        • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:38PM (#40189955)

          Because the real issue is not packets but concurrent bandwidth.

          But that problem has been solved already, time and time again.

          Off peak electricity can be had cheaper than peak, with a different meter.
          Off peak phone calls essentially become free (nights and weekends).
          Off peak express/toll lane [wikipedia.org] use is cheaper than peak use.

          Demand period billing is easily managed in an industry where you know precisely the time of day that every packet transited the wire.

          The problem comes in the uncertainty of the bill at the end of the month. People can budget their $30 bucks or $60 bucks, but how do you budget demand period adjusted usage? Yes, newer phones these days have the ability to keep track of this usage built right in, but the risk of a few dollars overage charge is deterring people from using their phones the way they want.

          The whole concept of the need for demand period based billing and data caps is, I suspect, pretty much of a fraud. The carriers aren't even deploying all of the bandwidth they licensed, and regardless of Verizon's protestations to the contrary, they are simply hording it [techradar.com] to justify high prices. I suspect that a complete analysis would show that there is plenty of bandwidth even for peak periods, and it is being artificially constrained.

          We went through all of this before with the telephone companies. Its not exactly like they have been playing straight with us up to this point. Its the same game they played on us with "scarcity of long distance circuits". Now I don't know a single person that pays long distance charges. Its free with your basic phone service in most places.


        • water pipes would suffer the same problem if everyone decided to flush the toilet at the same time.

          the difference being the plumbing network was designed with big enough pipes to handle the typical peak concurrent bandwith/water use...the phone network was not.

          • Peak usage in water pipes hasn't skyrocketed over the past few years. You can reliably predict the water consumption of X households for the next decade or more, not true with our ever increasing demands for wireless data.
            • indeed you are correct, but i still think the gp's analogy was poor. The water pipe could theoretically suffer the same problem as the network. it is just that they spec'ed the water pipe to be big enough to handle the required throughput, but did not do the same with the data network, quite possibly because it wasn't easy to estimate growth for the wireless data usage.

    • Since there's not much competition there either, they're working on making that less of an option. At home, my cell phone connection is, at all times of the day, faster than my router as measured by speedtest.net. Both home connection and cell phone are AT&T. We're not talking comparing LTE to wifi, we're talking HSPA to ethernet connection.
  • Just get an unlimited data-only stick, throw thew stick away and put the sim-card in a phone. Voilà.
    No need to wait a couple of years.

    Just SMS, email, surf, skype, whatsapp, etc, don't phone with it or they'll get onto you.

    • I believe ATT knows about these things called IMEI numbers and in the past has used them to stop people from buying prepaid phones to replace broken phones instead of having to resign a contract.

      • In the UK, all of the carriers provide data-only sim-only plans. They can't tie the plan to a single device because they are not providing a device to tie it to. Don't US carriers do the same?
    • No one offers an 'unlimited data only' stick.

      They're all Unlimited* and it's the * that gets you.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:05PM (#40187319)
    They'll be twice as expensive to make up for that phone bill you're not paying.
    Can't have your bill going down now!
    • by zoloto ( 586738 )
      I've had an unlimited iPad data plan in my iPhone for the last two years before they axed the unlimited plan. With a simple APN reconfiguration (easy as pie) on the iPhone itself, I inserted the sim with a sim tray so it fits and was as good as gold. I can do iMessaging with those that have an iPhone/iPod/iPad (or the Messages beta), or google voice for text messaging and receiving voicemails. GV also works for other "free" voice service apps which may (most do) require you to listen to a quick audio adver
  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:06PM (#40187343)

    I speculated some time ago that voice minute usage will dwindle down to the point where they would be offered as unlimited on all plans eventually, with the plan levels (tiering) moved from minutes used to data used. Part two was right, but I didn't really expect a movement toward data-only plans.

    By the way those aren't new, before everyone had smartphones those of us with Blackberries and older units could get data-only plans.

    • With voice on LTE networks being converted to VoIP anyway, it makes sense.

      One day, our kids are going to laugh at us that "minutes" were metered.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        VoLTE/VoLGA is currently going nowhere in the US and even more nowhere in the rest of the world. It'll be at least five years we see any type of adoption.
      • One day, our kids are going to laugh at us that "minutes" were metered.

        ...because metering bits is such an improvement

        • Metering makes sense when there is a finite amount of capacity. Unless you want to be lied to, offered "unlimited", and then complain when throttling to maintain network integrity occurs.

          • my point was the kids don't have much to laugh at us for. they will still be metered. does it matter if it is bits verses minutes?

  • In other words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:08PM (#40187363)
    it'll be just like the way that data plans for the iPad work today?? Amazing, he must be able to see the future! It has to be getting cheaper, not more expensive though. An Optus prepaid data plan in Australia costs a $20 for 2 gigs of data. With Skype IP-based text message, you pretty much have voice & text covered. Now compare that to how much AT&T charges for data, voice & text.
  • Since it won't include all those bundled minutes and SMS messages, its going to be much cheaper than current "everything" plans right? right??

    Why do i have a nagging suspicion that it won't be...
  • add this one to the rest of the bleeding-obvious predictions, there are already defacto data only plans for those with G3-Wifi units and iPads. YAWN...

  • Not interested. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:12PM (#40187451)

    I'd rather have a voice-only plan for smartphones.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      att pay as you go on an iphone. I have no data plan.

    • hell YES!!! Just because I have a "smart" phone, which I only do non-call things where wifi is present, yet they insist on a fucking data package.
      • > hell YES!!! Just because I have a "smart" phone, which I only do non-call
        > things where wifi is present, yet they insist on a fucking data package.

        I have 2 (count-em; TWO) cellphones.

        1) An el-cheapo pre-paid voice plan on an old Nokia 6015i. http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/phone.php?p=514 [phonescoop.com]

        2) An HTC Desire HD http://www.gsmarena.com/htc_desire_hd-3468.php [gsmarena.com] I bought 2nd-hand. I use it as an FM radio, camera, ebook reader, and wifi-based web browser. I haven't bothered getting a SIM card and connecting

        • Well, I'm not too far from you!

          I'm actually USING a SE W810i as a phone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Ericsson_W810 [wikipedia.org]

          and an iPod touch for radio, camera, etc...

          I have a couple "smart" devices that ATT won't let me use without having a data plan. I've been on the phone for hours with those fucks explaining that I won't do anything to transmit data unless i'm on wifi. It doesn't matter, if they see the IMEI of this model phone that is considered "smart" they will throw on a charge for a data package!

    • I have a Droid with prepaid Verizon ($100 / year) and no data plan. Works great.
    • I'd rather have a voice-only plan for smartphones.

      Really? The thing I least like to receive on my phone is an actual phone call. Send me an e-mail so I can deal with you when I feel like it ._.

  • Data only plan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rjejr ( 921275 )
    But the data only plan will cost as much, probably more, than a calling plan and data plan combined. And if you buy a cellphone w/o a calling plan the smartphone is called a "tablet", not a phone. I'm sorry, it just isn't a phone anymore. I use my iPod Touch all the time for phone calls - Google Voice combined with some random Talk app I found" - but I never call it a phone. Because it isn't a phone.
  • Plans (Score:5, Funny)

    by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:14PM (#40187491)

    Available in 50($50), 500($100), and 1000MB($150) plans, with incredibly low overage fees ($1 per kb).

    Addons include a standard messaging plan ($0.20/instant message, messages sent determined by taking your used bandwidth and dividing my the average text message size).
    Automatic enrollment in their streaming media plan (only $50/month to stream from any source you currently subscribe to).
    And a set of voice packages of 100($20), 200($35), and 500($50) minutes ($1/minute overage fees, minutes used determined by taking your total bandwidth used and dividing by the average VoiP bandwidth usage rate).

  • data only pay for incoming calls and texts will they let you block calls like you can with texts?

    You do get billed for calls going to voice mail even when roaming at the roaming rates.

    Will you get billed at the per min rate for 911 use with a data only plan?

    • >>>You do get billed for calls going to voice mail

      Well that sucks.
      My cellprovider doesn't bill me for voice mail unless I listen to it (and then I'm charged for 1 minute).

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:16PM (#40187523) Homepage Journal
    I'd buy it. The idea of my mobile phone being merely one more extension hanging off the Asterisk system I have installed at home is VERY appealing. Yes, I know, there are all sorts of edge cases (home phone is down, there's an emergency, blah blah blah) and Slashbots love to be stupidly pedantic about edge cases, but by and large this is the kind of thing a lot of people want -- an "extremely cordless phone" that is part of the voice plan (and phone number) they already have. Bring it on.
    • by RKBA ( 622932 )
      The trouble with cellphones is that you cannot have extension telephones. I have a regular land line at home with extension telephones in every room I use. When I tried getting rid of my land line and using a cellphone only, I got very tired of either being forced to carry the cellphone around with me inside my home, or run like hell to try to get to the cellphone in whatever room it was in when it rang.
      • by kwark ( 512736 )

        You are missing the point, the cellphone (without voice remember) is a SIP client to his PBX over either wifi (at home) or 3G (outside). It will ring at the same time other extensions in the house are ringing (if so configured).

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        There are cordless [att.com] phones with multiple handsets that will use your cellphone for the outgoing line.
  • VirginMobile had one for $15, with unlimited texting. (Calls and data were limited to about 500 minutes and 200MB.) Then they got rid of it. I've not seen anybody else offer this deal so far. It was a real bargain for those who do nothing but text all day long.

  • I had one from T-Mobile for quite a while. You could still talk for a high per-minute price. Since I rarely used it as a phone, it was a good deal. Since then I've added voice on the monthly plan so I don't know if they still offer the plans.

  • by belphegore ( 66832 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:46PM (#40187881)

    I guess the dude never heard of his own company's iPad plans, which are ALREADY DATA ONLY

    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      Perhaps the news is that AT&T isn't going to slam customers to a voice and text plan if they happen to insert the SIM into a device whose IMEI says "phone".
    • Those existing AT&T iPad plans aren't really "data only" plans, even those 4G AT&T iPad plans aren't data plans at all. If they were just about data and quotas, they'd allow you to use applications like FaceTime at the very least.

      Those AT&T iPad plans are more like Amazon Kindle 3G plans, or some of those cable SmartTV plans. In other words, they're "data that we're getting money for providing to you plans" and sometimes they're "internet browsing plans", but they're certainly not "data only pl

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Those existing AT&T iPad plans aren't really "data only" plans, even those 4G AT&T iPad plans aren't data plans at all. If they were just about data and quotas, they'd allow you to use applications like FaceTime at the very least.

        Those AT&T iPad plans are more like Amazon Kindle 3G plans, or some of those cable SmartTV plans. In other words, they're "data that we're getting money for providing to you plans" and sometimes they're "internet browsing plans", but they're certainly not "data only pla

    • by bjb ( 3050 )
      I've had data only plans for years. Unlimited international, at that.

      The big difference is that if I actually make a phone call on that device, it costs me about $0.50/min domestic, and add on the roaming charge for international (e.g. about $2/min in the UK, $4/min in Poland, etc.)

  • T-Mobile has an "unlimited" data (up to 5gigs full speed) plan with unlimited texts and 100 talk minutes prepaid for 30 bucks a month.

  • Correct me if I'm mistaken, but doesn't the LTE spec eventually make ALL cellular traffic (voice, data, SMS) IP based?

    It seems logical that if all services over the entire network are provided via IP, that's what you pay for.

    It's a good thing we have visionaries like this guy running corporate america. Without guys like him the BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS might not be so.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      No, there are 3GPP extensions (VoLTE and VoLGA) that optionally do this. Neither has any serious momentum in the US at the moment. Also it will be a long, long time before every tower in the country has a fiber backhaul to enable LTE so phones that can fall back to GSM/CDMA will be needed for the foreseeable future.
  • Mr. Stephenson? You have a call on the clue-phone from a Mr. Ric Romero. Will you take it?

    Seriously? Expects? Within? I have a data-only cell plan today. Not just a phone-with-data plan that I only use for data, but I literally have no way* to even try to make a phone call with my plan.

    And I count as something of a late adopter here - A friend suggested I grab a VzW MiFi over a year ago, and I regret waiting until recently to do so. Full disclaimer, though - I have no "real" broadband available,
  • He expects wireless carriers to start offering data-only cellphone plans within the next 24 months.

    You mean like they've been doing in Europe for at least a couple of years now?

  • i.e the 3g iPad and mobile hotspots. I have a moblie hotspot. It's extremely useful for my line of work as I'm not tied to an office. I pay $50 a month for 6GB of data and have yet to use more than 4GB in a month. Granted I still have cable at home and that's where I do major downloading like software updates, etc..

  • Ting [ting.com] already offers data only, voice only, text only, or any combination thereof. Use as much or as little as you want. Add family members or employees for $6. Quite a future.

  • I have an "unlimited" data plan with AT&T. In the 20 months on the current phone I've used approximately 10 gig of data, total. Lately they've been throttling my data service to almost nothing if I cross 500 MB in one billing period. They claim they're still giving data service, but at a "lower" rate. This "lower" rate is so slow a web page cannot load before the browser times out (60 seconds). That is service denial, while I'm still under contract with a fat cancellation fee. Note that they're on

  • AT&T used to have something like a data only cellphone/plan. The OGO. It was like $14.95 a month, unlimited text messaging, IM with like MSN, AOL, and Yahoo messenger, and unlimited Email. There was no web browsing, but for email and messaging data it was unlimited and SMS was unlimited. It was great deal back then. Always hoped they'd bring back an updated OGO.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogo_(handheld_device) [wikipedia.org]
  • It's because all the iPhones (at least gen 1, 2, 3, and I don't know about 4) don't work worth a crap for voice and people have given up trying unless it's absolutely necessary. My wife has an iPhone 2 on AT&T in Riverside, Ca., and the chances of completing a call with her are about 1 in 20. Friends with iPhones in dental school in Mesa, Az. were also the same way.

    Yeah, I know- they are all just ignoring my calls because I'm such an a-hole...

    Excuse me while I don my flame-proof suit...

    OK, fire away!

  • The ipad data plan is data only. and you can take that sim and put it in a iPhone and use it data only.

    Did the AT&T guy even know what his company offers?

  • Tmobile has it data only plans for a long time. It brought was it out ,somewhat unadvertised, back when the original sidekicks came out (first phone with a keyboard I believe. That phone was a big hit with the deaf and speech impaired community and they had no reason to pay for a voice plan. But as for me, I am being ripped off. My family plans has no options for under 1000 minutes, and we typically use 100 or less a month on 2 lines.
  • They are already here.
    My HotSpot has a Data Only plan now. There is no voice component and doesn't use the phone number allocated to it at all.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"