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Summary:

AT&T yesterday announced a package that combines wired broadband with mobile broadband via the carrier’s 3G cellular network and 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. Customers in Atlanta and Philadelphia can now sign up for plans that offer 200 MB or 5 GB per month of mobile data for […]

AT&T yesterday announced a package that combines wired broadband with mobile broadband via the carrier’s 3G cellular network and 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. Customers in Atlanta and Philadelphia can now sign up for plans that offer 200 MB or 5 GB per month of mobile data for $40 and $60 respectively. The bundle is a good first step in making it easier for customers to add mobile broadband to their list of personal communications services, although some of our readers are upset over the high price, especially for the smaller plan.

The cheaper plan costs 20 cents per megabyte while the pricier plan charges 1.2 cents per megabyte — quite a difference. Looking at the price differential between the two plans and the large middle ground between them, it’s clear that carriers win if they can keep forcing consumers to make this choice between paying more for a lot of data or paying a lot for a little.

However, there’s hope. I chatted today with In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar about bundled broadband packages, and he said one carrier in the U.S. is thinking about a prepaid bundle of bytes, where a carrier charges a consumer a certain amount for 5 GB of data to be used over time. When the customer is done, they just come back for a refill. A prepaid option, or even some more variety in packages, would drive greater adoption of mobile broadband. As 4G networks arrive with more capacity a carrier needs to fill, more consumer-friendly pricing will occur.

In the meantime, a home/mobile pricing package remains one of the key demands of consumers when evaluating mobile providers, according to a note out today by Schoolar. In that note he found that 80 percent of survey respondents said they had some level of willingness to switch from their current broadband provider to one that combines both home and on-the-go service. He also found that 40 percent would pay $10-15 more a month for such a package.

He also bolstered my argument that network performance will matter when consumers evaluate these services. He noted that over 40 percent of both Wi-Fi hotspot and 3G laptop data users said they had been discouraged from using wireless broadband in the past due to poor or slow network performance.

By Stacey Higginbotham

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  1. [...] wireless data business has so far been very good to carriers, just look at the prices they charge for data. AT&T’s 200 MB plan costs 20 cents per megabyte while Verizon’s smallest data [...]

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  2. Well, In Israel we pay Orange $20 for 5gb of data (which for me is unlimited)… how long will At&t be able to charge such a high price??

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  3. [...] fixed broadband package, it’s mirroring a trial plan offered by AT&T and recognizing that mobile broadband can be a good complement to wired broadband, especially as consumers start adding netbooks and other mobile devices to their [...]

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  4. [...] basis. We’ve looked at per-byte costs when writing about tiered broadband, and when looking at the value of different wireless plans. From the Ars story: The whole kerfuffle started last fall, when the head of the antitrust [...]

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  5. TexasYellowDog Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    The anti-trust division ought to leave Google book search alone and go after the telecom monopolies.

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  6. When you consider that most of the world accesses the Internet from their cell phones and that most of the population on this planet are prepaid customers, it’s just a matter of time before the wireless carriers wake up in America!

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  7. Certainly not enough bandwidth, but still a good idea. Not likely to catch on with hardcore internet users, but people who barely use the internet and just need a basic system for browsing and email should take a look at this. Overall though, it should get bring in some business which at this point is good for any company.

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  8. [...] from consumers when it comes to paying for wireless data services. Except for those — like Stacey — who see the value in the new prepaid mobile data [...]

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  9. [...] Droid Eris!!!) Verizon Wireless said it would offer prepaid data plans, something we’ve been saying the industry should do for a while. The company is offering folks the chance to pick up data on an as-needed basis, instead of having [...]

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  10. [...] buy an unlimited chunk of bytes without having to worry about when their minutes expire. That would speed mobile broadband adoption and make it far more [...]

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