Mobile Service Providers Now are ISPs, Voice and Texting are Features

AT&T has changed its retail packaging in a significant way, now requiring that all new customers buy shared data plans, though existing customers have the option of remaining on their current plans, even when upgrading to a new device carried on the existing plan.

The change begins for all new customers signing up on Oct. 25, 2013. To be sure, shared data plans, where the major variable cost is the size of the shared bucket of data usage, with flat fees for voice and texting and then a per-device charge, have become the most-popular AT&T retail plans. 

Verizon Wireless also requires new customers to buy a shared data plan, but unlike AT&T Wireless requires existing customers on legacy plans to adopt a shared data plan when upgrading a device. 

AT&T and Verizon Wireless believe the new plans provide more protection from customer churn, and also encourages users to add their tablet devices to existing service accounts, since the incremental cost per tablet is $10 a month.

By making data services the key variable component of end user cost, and typically the biggest driver of gross revenue, the shared data plans illustrate the shift of revenue sources in the U.S. mobile business to Internet access revenues.

In a very real sense, mobile service providers increasingly earn most of their gross revenue from operating as Internet service providers, since voice and text messaging services are bundled in with the data access bucket.

In other words, mobile voice and text messaging now are features of a mobile ISP plan. 

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