AT&T (s t), with its new $3-a-day, unlimited cell phone plan, appears to have gotten the prepaid religion that’s spread among wireless companies as consumers in this uncertain economy question the high prices of cell phone contracts. But The New York Times sees a more interesting motive that I’m inclined to agree with — the plan is really the beginning of sophisticated pricing options that will help AT&T appeal to more customers and make more effective use of its network.
AT&T’s aiming the $3-a-day unlimited plan at subscribers who are afraid of commitment, and as such don’t want to sign an annual contract. This makes sense given that like Verizon Wireless’ (s VZ) prepaid plans, AT&T’s $3 offer is pretty expensive. If a consumer wants to use it for more than 16 days out of the month, he might as well spring for one of the $50-per-month unlimited packages from Boost Mobile, MetroPCS (s PCS) or Leap Wireless (s LEAP). But if a customer is willing to pay more to avoid a long-term commitment, AT&T is happy to take his money.