Data services help mobile providers weather bad economy

Maybe people are using their cell phones to learn how much money their 401(k) has lost. Maybe they're checking email or the weather. Whatever the reason, data services are big business for wireless carriers-so big, in fact, that they're helping Verizon and AT&T weather an economic climate that's swamping many others.

Shiny new devices, led by Apple's iPhone, are keeping carriers in the black while the rest of the country goes red. Verizon Wireless expects to join the party soon with the BlackBerry Storm which is already creating a stir.

Lest anyone get too giddy about the ability of mobile providers to weather an economic maelstrom with new devices alone, it's quite possible, likely even, that the biggest gains are coming at the expense of the numbers three and four providers, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, who are bleeding subscribers who are finding new homes, and devices, with Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

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