AT&T Changes Policies on Upgrades, Adds “Any Mobile”

In the wake of the Verizon Iphone announcement and Verizon’s own policy updates AT&T has decided to make some similar revisions to their upgrade policies.

The changes aren’t ending there though.  AT&T is also revising their changing policies on fees, international long distance rates and texting plans along with adding a-la-sprint style “any mobile” calling to the unlimited texting packages.

Read on to learn what’s new and how it may impact your service.

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“Mobile to Any Mobile”

Perhaps the biggest change of the wave of policy revisions is the most recent.  Beginning February 10th customers can sign up for unlimited texting with “mobile to any mobile."  This is a feature that Sprint pioneered, their version is called “any mobile any time.”  What this means is that you get free unlimited calling to any mobile phone regardless of carrier.  For many (not all) this could allow you to move off of that expensive unlimited plan you’ve been using.

Unlike Sprint’s feature AT&T’s any mobile is tied to having unlimited texting.  So primarily the change benefits people who already have unlimited texting, or people who have an expensive voice plan without unlimited texting who now may be able to move down to a smaller one by adding unlimited texting- thus getting more- while paying about the same amount.

Be advised that this change will not be automatic for current unlimited texting customers.  Rollouts of new plans almost never are.  So if you haven’t already, call or go online to have your unlimited texting feature updated.

Upgrades

The big change here is the elimination of the extra discounts that were available on lines that cost over $69.  These were similar to Verizon’s NE2 discount offers.  Depending on the line the discount was a waived $18 upgrade fee or a waived upgrade fee and an extra $50 or $100 off a device.  Extra discounts could not be used on the iphone.  These would pop on a line after it was completely out of contract or very near the end.

One thing that is not changing about the upgrade policies for higher cost lines, at least for now, is to have earlier eligibility.  For lines $69 and up upgrades will still be available at 13 or 18 months rather than the normal 20 months that less expensive lines have to wait.  (Now 20 months for all lines)

The discounts are gone as of the end of January, but if you happen to have a discount you have until July 23rd to use it.

Text Messaging

Formerly there were 3 options for texting for individual lines: 200 for $5, 1500 for $15 and Unlimited for $20.  The 200 plan and the 1500 plan have been eliminated and replaced with 1000 for $10.  Unlimited for a single line remains at $20.  Unlimited texting for all lines on a family plan was and will remain $30.

Feature Requirements

The old requirement for $20 worth or texting or data features, and the new requirement for unlimited texting for Quick Messaging devices have both been removed all together.  So now you can get a phone with a touchscreen or qwerty keyboard and not be required to have any features on top of your voice plan.

This is somewhat of a surprise because the new requirement for unlimited texting was rolled out a mere 2 weeks before being removed all together.  Some form of feature requirement for quick messaging phones has been in place for nearly a year prior to this reversal.

Fees

The only fee that is changing is the activation fee for add-a-lines on a family talk plan.  Formerly if you came in and signed up for service on a family plan you paid the normal $36 on the first line but you got any additional lines for $26.

This is different for existing lines.  Customers getting a new phone for an existing line pay an “upgrade” fee.   The term “activation fee” is used for newly activated lines.  Upgrade fees will remain at $18.

International Rates

The biggest change here is the long distance rate to Canada which is raising 10 cents to 39 cents a minute.

Other international rates for over 100 countries are changing as well.  To check and see if you’ll be impacted, those rates are published here:

http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/affordable-world-packages.jsp#long-distance

What does it all mean?

During first writing of this article the changes that had been rolled out were largely aimed at expense cutting for AT&T and increasing the average cost of most plans.

Prior to publishing more changes were rolled out, including a strange reversal of one of the changes from just a couple weeks ago.

This is all related to the Verizon release of the iphone.  It is causing a minor shakeup of the wireless industry.  The first wave of changes was clearly a response to Verizon’s policy changes.  Sprint even took advantage of the general disgruntlement in the customer ranks of the big two and raised their data plans for smartphones by $10.

This new set of changes (any mobile, removal of feature requirements on QMDs) will reduce costs for many customers and happens to not-so-coincidentally to take effect on February 10th—  the release date of the Verizon iphone.

Now is probably a good time to sit back and enjoy the competition.  Customer trends will likely have large impact on all carrier’s pricing and policies over the next several months.  If Verizon’s iphone sales are below projections will they go to any mobile? Perhaps something else?  Will sprint have to drop prices further now that their premium package for an individual smartphone is only $5 cheaper than AT&T’s?

I don’t know exactly what the future will hold but today it seems less certain than it has in a long time.  That’s a good thing.