AT&T's SIM snafu

As we reported yesterday, AT&T quietly made available a SIM-only service through its online store. The SIM cost $5 after an online discount and allowed new subscribers to sign up for AT&T's service without having to buy a phone, but the online offering indicated that the SIM still required a two-year contract--a puzzling caveat given that carriers generally claim the two-year contract is a way to help customers slowly pay off the price of their handsets.

According to AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, the online offering has been temporarily taken offline until the company clarifies the wording. The "two-year contract" is not usually a requirement for subscribers that bring their own phone to AT&T.

"This [offering] is really nothing new," Siegel said. "We have for several years let people bring their own devices--whether bought in a store or wherever--and given them service, given them a SIM, provided their phone worked on GSM and the right U.S. frequencies. Prepaid and postpaid plans with this offering generally don't require any kind of contract, unless [the users] are going to take a plan that we are offering as a special promotion."

While the misunderstanding rippled through the blogosphere earlier this week, AT&T's move to take the offering offline and clarify that the two-year contract was not generally required quickly diffused the hubbub. Not only that, the timing couldn't have been more perfect: Verizon Wireless announced yesterday that it would hold a developer conference for its open access plans on March 19 and March 20.

AT&T's poorly worded online offering only served to remind subscribers that they can already bring any GSM device to the carrier. No developer conferences needed. -Brian