Talking tech since 2003

Over the last five years or so, mobile phones have become more widely available and widely used in society to the degree that just about everywhere you go you will see at least one person – if not many – using a mobile phone to stay in touch.  Be it business persons communicating with colleagues or friends and families engaging in conversation, we have become a society where mobile communication is almost a natural component of our everyday lives.  As far as mobile networks go, each and every mobile user uses a network because it is the best option for them; often looking at the combination of cost and reliability of several carriers.  But how many of your friends use the same network that you do?  Think about it.  I highly doubt that you and all of your friends and acquaintances use the same carrier.

While there’s nothing wrong with communicating with users on other mobile networks, the fact of the matter is that by making mobile calls outside of your mobile network you often pass up the “unlimited mobile to mobile” option that many carriers offer, allowing users on the same network to talk to one-another without burning through airtime.  These perks have been widely a big selling point for mobile plans ever since cell phones went mainstream.  However, because of the number of mobile networks out there, these plans rarely save consumers such as you or myself a great deal of airtime (or money) because of the inner-network limitation.

AT&T, one of America’s largest mobile carriers – will be eliminating this restriction come tomorrow, allowing AT&T mobile subscribers to make and receive phone calls to any user on any mobile network for free without using any of the airtime on their monthly plan.

According to a press release and a placeholder page on AT&T’s website, this new feature will become available to all qualifying current and future AT&T mobile customers starting tomorrow; 10 February 2011.  In order to take advantage of this, you will need to be an AT&T customer with “an unlimited messaging plan and a qualifying voice plan.”  However, as of right now no one is entirely sure what voice plans will be deemed eligible for this new implementation.

Regardless, this development definitely sweetens the deal for AT&T customers.  Combined with AT&T’s well-known “Rollover” minutes which allow you to pool unused minutes from a given month for future use to avoid overages, this plan definitely can help talkative customers save a bit of money on their mobile calling.

However, at a current Sprint wireless customer, I honestly don’t think that this is all that attractive of a plan.  Having said this, Sprint has been offering their “Simply Everything” plan – inclusive of their “Any Mobile, Anytime” service for a couple of years now, and somewhat recently dropped the price of this plan for $99.99 down to $69.99 per month.  With this in mind, AT&T’s new unlimited mobile to mobile plan doesn’t seem all that innovative, but rather seems like their effort to make themselves more competitive in the mobile industry.  At the same time, AT&T’s implementation of this plan could give users a better value simply because of the size and reliability of their mobile network, whereas Sprint is only available in certain regions.

But why exactly is AT&T offering this plan now?  With Verizon just days away from selling the iPhone, I honestly think that AT&T is trying to steal the spotlight and make their plans more attractive to users who might otherwise be considering moving their accounts to Verizon.

Will this new offer pay off for AT&T?  Will it make users think twice about moving away from AT&T?  We’ll definitely see in the near future, but the one thing that is certain is that AT&T has stirred things up a bit now, and might force other carriers to follow suit in order to stay competitive.

Update: AT&T has gone live with the inclusive inter-network mobile to mobile promotion.  Even though this service is being offered for free, existing AT&T wireless customers still need to log in in order to check their eligibility and activate the new deal.  Additionally, AT&T is also including text messaging in this promotion; a feature that I was not aware about yesterday at the time of writing.

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