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AT&T promised it would create the first pan-North American service area when it bought Mexico’s Iusacell last month, and it’s wasting no time getting started on the multinational footprint. On Tuesday, Ma Bell announced its prepaid arm Cricket Wireless will make unlimited calls to Mexico part of its standard $50 and $60 plans.
Cricket is already a brand used by many foreign nationals — it offers unlimited texting to 35 countries on those same plans – so it makes sense [company]AT&T[/company] would start its cross-border feature expansion with its prepaid service. Today customers can buy a $5 add-on that will give you free calls to international landlines or $15 add-on that will give you 1000 minutes to mobile numbers. But when the new rates kick in on Wednesday, customers on any Cricket plan with 5 GBs of data or more will no longer have to pay extra for calls to any Mexico wireline or wireless phone.
Of course, this isn’t the same thing as created a unified mobile footprint where customers can wander back and forth between countries under a single rate plan –it’s only good for calls you make from the U.S. If you want to take your phone to Mexico without getting hit with big roaming charges, then you have to sign up for a $10 add-on and that only gives you a measly 100 minutes and 100 texts to use within Mexico each month.
I suspect we’ll see those policies change as AT&T completes its network integration work, which will include not just Iusacell but also Nextel Mexico – assuming its acquisition of that carrier is approved. I really doubt AT&T is just going to include Mexico and the U.S. in one giant “home” network where all voice, text and data remains part of your regular service plan, but it could definitely lower the mobile barriers that sit astride those geographic borders.
My bet is that Ma Bell will soon make calls from the U.S. to Mexico a standard part of its main AT&T Mobility plans – or at least an extremely cheap add on to its postpaid plans – and will do the same for Mexico-to-U.S. calls for Iusacell and Nextel customers. Then I suspect it will drastically lower the roaming rates it charges customers from either the U.S. or Mexico when they venture north or south of their respective borders.
As for a true multinational plan – say, a 5 GB monthly data bucket with unlimited voice and text that can be used in either country – AT&T may one day offer it, but likely at a premium price to customers who travel frequently between Mexico and the U.S.