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AT&T: Data-Only Plans Are ‘Invevitable’

The company's CEO says the industry will offer plans within 2 years


The traditional monthly voice, data and text plan for wireless devices will soon be joined by a data-only plan, according to AT&T (NYSE:T) CEO Randall Stephenson.

At a New York investor conference on Friday, Stephenson said that with Internet telephony and texting applications like Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype already available, it is “inevitable” that wireless carriers will start offering data-usage only plans for smartphone owners within the next two year.

Verizon Wireless to Unlimited Data Plan: C-Ya
Verizon Wireless to Unlimited Data Plan: C-Ya

While Stephenson didn’t offer any indication that AT&T will introduce a data-only plan, the company has noted a gradual reduction in voice minutes used by owners of smartphones. This presents a challenge for wireless carriers who derive most of their revenue from voice and text charges, the Associated Press noted.

AT&T executives have previously indicated that the company will unveil multi-device wireless data plans, spreading data service over smartphones and tablets. Such plans would allow consumers to share wireless service on different devices without having to purchase separate data plans for each device.

The company has also suggested having some websites pay for Internet traffic rather than the Internet users who visit them. Stephenson noted that such plans could appear some time next year, though he did not say whether AT&T would launch such an option.

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