Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bullet Point Analysis: AT&T Domestic International Messaging & Calling Move - Responding to Verizon Wireless & T-Mobile


AT&T announced it is proactively baking in unlimited international messaging (text and picture) from the US to the 'world' for its Mobile Share and Mobile Share Value customers. The feature will be available on Friday, February 28th.

AT&T is also introducing a new international calling package called World Connect Value where a customer can call 'over' 35 countries from the U.S. for one cent per minute. This package is priced at $5 per month.   


Just like that, AT&T's single move addresses vulnerabilities brought about by competitors' moves last week and the week before.
  • Domestic based international benefits are becoming table stakes in the subscriber retention/acquisition war. Though it overtly benefits consumers with friends and family abroad, other beneficiaries are business/enterprise users who choose to use their smartphones for immediate international contact instead of standard email and landlines.
  • All mobile carriers' unlimited stateside international messaging fights, to some extent, the free OTT applications that perform voice and messaging including, WhatsApp, Skype and Tango.  
  • AT&T Mobile Share & Mobile Share Value plans are now at stateside international messaging parity against Verizon Wireless' More Everything plans. However, it is still at a $5 pricing disadvantage at the 1 & 2 GB options when looking for Verizon Wireless switchers. Additionally, if it looks for further plan parity, it is missing 500 MB and 3 GB options.  
  • The international calling changes the playing field against T-Mobile. T-Mobile's plan is looking for a $15 price point that provides unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling to 30 countries, unlimited landline calling to 70 countries coupled with unlimited text messages. AT&T offers a lower $5 price with 1 cent/minute to mobile and landlines in 35 countries. Clearly it's difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison and the benefits are user dependent. 
  • AT&T's World Connect Value plan meets the same $5 price point as Verizon Wireless' International Long Distance Value plan though Verizon claims 230 destinations.  Note that destinations as a code word may not include country.   

  • Verizon Wireless really doesn't need to do anything as AT&T is just reaching international messaging parity against the More Everything plans. One possible decision is whether to proactively give its Share Everything subscribers this feature or just move them to the new More Everything plans without fees.
  • T-Mobile just made a move and competitors' responses don't really undercut it. This may or may not be an issue as it tries to acquire multinational business customers.
  • Sprint already has a $15 International Freedom Call and Text.  It now needs to decide whether meet larger competitors' $5 price point and include unlimited messaging as part of its domestic plan structure or stay the course to be on par with T-Mobile.  
  • These Tier 1 carrier moves are at a brisk pace that may impinge on regional carriers, chiefly US Cellular. Can they keep up?
Unlike the old days where it took a month or more to react to competitive vulnerabilities, large carriers have shown that it can react rather quickly. In this case, AT&T did it in about 11 days.  But AT&T still seems to be mulling over the 500 MB, 1, 2 and 3 GB options, whether to match its long standing rival or let it ride for a while. Let's see what happens.