WASHINGTON, January 28, 2011 – Wireless provider AT&T has reportedly begun allowing some of its iPhone customers to switch to an unadvertised unlimited data plan in an apparent effort to retain customers just ahead of competitor Verizon’s launch of the popular handset.
Apple fan sites are reporting that the AT&T’s customer service has offered them an unlimited plan to customers threatening to switch to Verizon. Verizon confirmed Tuesday that it will offer the iPhone 4 with an unlimited data plan beginning early next month.
With the introduction of the new handset, AT&T began offering two limited plans in June of last year to replace the prior unlimited data plan. The two-tiered offering provides one plan that allows user to download 200 MB of data per month, and another that allows customers 2 GB. Above that limit, users must pay an additional fee per gigabyte. AT&T claimed at the time that 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB a month on average.
Jamie Hull, a current AT&T customer, said that he had no difficulty changing back to the unlimited plan.
“I told [customer service] I was unsatisfied with how small my plan was, and that I was considering canceling my account as of February to move to Verizon,” said Hull. “When the representative said he was unable to help me, I requested to speak to the cancellation department, which immediately restored my unlimited plan.”
AT&T added more than 2.8 million total wireless subscribers last quarter – its best ever – according to the company’s latest financial report. Last year the carrier overtook Verizon in total customer base, though some attributed Verizon’s sluggish performance to a glut of consumers waiting to switch to the carrier based on growing speculation of a Verizon iPhone.
Verizon is slated to begin offering the iPhone 4 early next month with an unlimited data plan. For many current AT&T iPhone customers the unlimited data is a compelling feature for fear that an above average usage month would incur costly overage fees.
Both companies have begun running commercials touting their strengths in an attempt to win over new and existing iPhone customers. AT&T points out that it’s wireless network allows simultaneous data and voice connections. Verizon touts its network’s strength and overall customer satisfaction. Apple, meanwhile, has begun running even-handed commercials celebrating the iPhone’s availability to two wireless data networks.
According to a report from the Associated Press, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel indicated that the company does not officially offer the plan except to customers who wish to cancel their service
“We handle customers and their situations individually,” the AP quoted Siegel as saying, “and we’re not going to discuss specifics,”