It’s a long-running joke that most of us use our phones to make phone calls rather rarely, opting instead to use them for texting, Web browser, games, productivity, and social media more often. Perhaps that’s partly why AT&T
CEO Randall Stephenson suggested this week that data-only wireless plans are likely coming within two years.
According to CBS News
, instead of having separate options and pricing for calls, texts, and data, mobile carriers will fold all three into one “data” plan. AT&T isn’t necessarily saying that it’s developing such a plan, but Stephenson called the trend “inevitable”. This new plan format would also likely allow users to share data usage across multiple devices.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (Image credit: CBS News)
It will be a tricky balancing act for any carrier to make this work; voice, text, and typical data are very different beasts. For example, a voice call uses very little data with the current technology it uses, while a streamed HD video burns through the megabytes like fire though a tissue paper factory. On other words, not all data in created equal.
With the continuous rise of VoIP and video-chatting services, under this predicted shift, it’s possible that voice calling as we know it will eventually vanish. Essentially, that would turn these mobile carriers into full-on ISPs. That wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the bigs, as the likes of AT&T and Verizon already offer Internet service beyond just what mobile devices need.
An interesting development will be to see how mobile carriers would then compete with current, non-mobile ISPs. Might there be a flurry of mergers and/or acquisitions, or perhaps some bloody turf wars? Whatever the case, here’s hoping a major development will be price wars amongst the various parties vying for consumer dollars.