AT&T ditches prepaid GoPhone data options, will launch new plans soon

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is limiting the data options on its cheaper prepaid GoPhone plans. However, the carrier said it will launch new GoPhone plans in the next few weeks, according to a CNET report. AT&T did not provide prices for the new plans, saying only that there would be a "variety of plans."

Currently, AT&T's $65 prepaid GoPhone plan comes with unlimited voice, texting and 1 GB of data, and is available for smartphones. The carrier's $50 plan includes unlimited voice, texting and data, but is only available on feature phones. AT&T's $25 monthly plan comes with 250 voice minutes and unlimited texting. As add-ons, AT&T charges $25 for 1 GB, $15 for 200 MB and $5 for 50 MB.

Under the new changes, the $25 plan will only be able to access the $5/50 MB data add-on, and the $50 plan will not be able to access any of the add-ons. The $65 plan will remain unchanged.

"We're making some changes to our AT&T GoPhone prepaid plans to simplify our offers and better align with what customers are choosing and telling us they want," the company said in a statement to CNET. "We've begun letting customers know about the changes in advance, and we'll have more information on new, additional plan options soon."

The changes come shortly after AT&T added HSPA+ and LTE data support to GoPhone customers who use devices capable of accessing those networks. Presumably, that will lead to speedier data service, and more data consumption, which is why AT&T may be gravitating toward the data-heavy $65 plan option.

Separately, AT&T last month launched its new "Aio Wireless" prepaid brand, which runs on the company's HSPA+ network. The Aio brand also supports a wider range of devices than AT&T's GoPhone option, including the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 620 for $179.99, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 for $649.99, the Samsung Galaxy Express for $249.99, the Samsung Galaxy Amp for $99.99 and the ZTE Prelude for $49.99. Aio also offers a handful of feature phones.

Other carriers continue to be aggressive in the prepaid market. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ recently increased the amount of data available to prepaid customers on its 3G network in a bid to drive prepaid 3G data sales. On its existing $60 per month prepaid plan, which includes unlimited calling and texting, Verizon increased the data allotment from 500 MB to 2 GB. On its $70  plan, Verizon raised its data allotment to 4 GB per month, up from 2 GB previously.

Further, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is working to promote its new "uncarrier" service that includes unlimited voice and texting and 2.5 GB of high-speed data for $60 per month. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) continues to support a range of prepaid plans through its Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands, and Sprint just announced that Boost will launch the Samsung Galaxy S III, which can run on Sprint's LTE network, for $399.99 without a contract.

The carriers are clearly seeing the need to play more toward data-focused consumers in the prepaid market. Nearly one-third of U.S smartphone sales in the first quarter were on prepaid carriers, the highest on record, according to a report from the NPD Group. According to NPD, prepaid smartphone unit sales doubled year-over-year in the first quarter, representing 32 percent of total smartphone sales, which is an 11 point increase year-over-year and a 10 point increase from the record-high share of 22 percent reached in the fourth quarter of 2012.

For more:
- see this CNET article

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