AT&T, Verizon Undecided on LTE Pricing

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless both say they are undecided on how they will charge for Long Term Evolution (LTE) data plans when they are launched over the course of this year and next. The GSM Association (GSMA) brought together two key LTE executives for a conference call Thursday, giving a US perspective on how future LTE networks and current 3G services will evolve over the next few years. Both Kris Rinne, SVP of architecture and planning at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), and Tom Sawanobori, VP of network strategy at Verizon Wireless , were asked about pricing models for LTE.

Data pricing is a tricky question for both operators. Some executives -- most notably Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone -- appear to believe that unlimited data pricing plans are unsustainable in the longer term and that operators will have to move to a usage-based model in the future. This is because carriers are making an increasing amount of revenue from data, so unlimited plans give operators less chance to make extra money over time. (See Verizon Mandates 3G Data Plans.)

Any time there is ever a hint of an operator moving towards a metered approach, however, it usually results in protests from wireless consumers. Thus, both AT&T and Verizon left themselves some wiggle room on the call:

"It’s worth thinking about something that is usage-based, but nothing has been decided yet," said Sawanobori.

"That's still being looked at," Rinne told the listening audience of press and analysts.

Verizon CTO Melone has been more vocal on this issue recently, however, telling The Wall Street Journal: "As much data as you can consume is the big issue that has to change." Melone said as much in this 2008 interview with Light Reading Mobile:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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