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New Unlimited Voice and Data Plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have announced new pricing plans for unlimited voice and data service. After all, we want mobile access to email and Web, and the carriers are happy to encourage more use of their networks for such data services.

Consumers are moving up from plain old cell phones to multimedia phones with cameras and picture messaging and some (sometimes painful) Web and email access, and then further on up to smartphones for a more satisfying online experience, albeit on a 3- to 4-inch screen.

The idea is to provide plans with bundles of minutes of talk time and megabytes of data for limited use, as well as unlimited plans for the new world of constant connectivity. (AT&T has rollover for unused minutes if not on an unlimited plan.) There are also family sharing plans for bundling service for a group of two or more phones, and friends and family options for specifying a list of favorite callers.

AT&T offers separate plans for different classes of phones, plus Texting as a separate add-on, $20 for unlimited, and $30 for Family Talk.

The AT&T plan for what it calls Feature Phones offers unlimited talk for $69.99 per month, and Family Talk (two lines) for $119.99.

For Smartphones (including the iPhone), AT&T offers unlimited voice and data for $99.99, and Family Talk for $179.99. The texting add-on is the same.

In comparison, Verizon Wireless offers unlimited voice plans with and without texting, and data plans for each type of phone.

The Verizon Unlimited Talk plan is $69.99 per month, and Unlimited Talk and Text plan (text, picture and video messages to anyone) is $89.99. The unlimited Family Share plan for voice (for two lines) is $119.99, and $149.99 with text.

The basic data plan for what Verizon calls Simple Feature Phones is pay per use at $1.99 per megabyte. The next tier, also for 3G Multimedia Phones is $9.99 a month for 25 MB, and 20 cents/MB additional. And the unlimited tier, for 3G Smartphones is $29.99. (Verizon has discontinued the $19.99 data package.)

The result:

- The two companies have matched pricing for unlimited voice plans, starting at $69[.99] for unlimited talk, and $89 for unlimited voice and text.

- For smartphones like the iPhone, AT&T then adds up to $119 for unlimited voice, text, and data, or $199 for the first two lines with Family Talk.

- For smartphones like the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Android, Verizon now adds up to $109 for unlimited voice, text, and data, or $179 for the first two lines with Family Share.

So -- If you're an existing customer for either company with a smartphone like the iPhone or Blackberry, it's time to re-price your service plan.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for details on the smartphone market and products.

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