Notes from Spain and Beyond: 5G at Mobile World Congress and AT&T’s New Unlimited Plans

Mobile Industry News for the Week of February 27, 2017

One common theme that broke above the noise at Mobile World Congress this week was the (not so) imminent deployment of 5G. As companies continue to promise innovation in the form of self-driving cars and drones, there are still a lot of hoops to jump through before 5G will actually exist. Aside from 5G, wireless carriers are clinging to all forms of unlimited plans in the hopes to outdo their competitors. The stories on our minds are below.

5G Buzz — 5G continues to be a reoccurring theme in the telecoms space. According to TechCrunch, it was also the focus of several panels and press conferences at Mobile World Congress this year, even more so than at CES just one month earlier. Companies are promising self-driving cars, drones, and all types of Internet of Things, even though the reality of 5G is still far off. There’s still a lot of groundwork work to be done, such as defining how the technology will use wireless spectrum. As a Qualcomm spokesperson said, “The way people talk about it is that it’s going to solve everything in the world.” This eagerness to succeed in 5G indicates that wireless players have become bored with the usual differentiators like customer promotions, and have set their sights on the 5G “battleground.”

Unlimited Competition — Carriers continue to compete for the best unlimited offerings, and this week AT&T made another move by debuting two new unlimited plans. The Washington Post describes the first plan, Unlimited Choice, as a “no frills” plan that costs $60 per month and only allows a download speed of 3 Mpbs (no HD video streaming). At $90 per month, AT&T’s other new plan, Unlimited Plus, is fancier because it offers HD video streaming and 10 GB of tethering data. Additionally, AT&T is offering discount of $25 a month on TV service if you sign up for both Unlimited Plus and one of AT&T’s television services. As the fixation with unlimited continues among carriers, it will be interesting to see how consumer behaviour will adapt.

What news stories are on your minds this week? We’d love to hear what stories you’re dialing into.