Analog (and in the case of AT&T, TDMA) is dead the the big boys are partying like it's 1999. Little T-Mobile wants in on the fun, too. Sprint...wll e'll see about Sprint...
First came the announcement from Verizo: Unlimited voice for $100 per month. $20 more for messaging, $20 on top of that for data services. PDA data is $30 extra instead of $20. So the highest-end cellular plan, with all-inclusive goodness (minus that dastardly 5GB per month cap, darn you little cap) is $150 per month. Minutes only? $100.
Next came T-Mobile. Hoping to attract some attention, they intro'd their own $100 unlimited plan. Even though their network hasn't changed one bit, as they've been a PCS digital-only arrier from the start. Their offer? $100 per month for unlimited talk and messaging, $20 less than Verizon's offering. Then again, one might say the extra Verizon coverage is worth $20 per month, but if T-Mobile works, it works, and you can alwys get a Hotspot @Home phone and use WiFi to augment lousy coverage, right? Another T-Mobile factor: their plans are cheaper anyway...you basically get unlimited here for $84.99 per month, a bit below their 2500 minute per month plan.
Third in line? AT&T. Like Verizon, their $100 per month offering just gives you voice. Unlike Verizon, their data rates are pretty decent. Unlimited messaging is $20 extra, unlimited data (and this time it's REALLY unlimited, unless you use your phone as a modem for your computer in any way) is $15 extra on top of that, for a total savings of $5-$15 per month over Verizon's offering of the same thing. Personally, I'd take Verizon over AT&T on this one due to VZW's large high-speed network (and AT&T's small one) but then again, you may be able to get this unlimited plan ith a 1-year contract, or even contract-less, though I'm not sure abut the last bit, No habla PR-ese.
Sprint? Oh Sprint, where art thou? Well, if you count Helio, the first to the party of course. Unlimited EVERYTHING is $100 per month on Helio, including web and messaging. Sprint also has an unlimited plan for $120 that includes, once again, everything (and Sprint's network has high-speed internet right now, unlike T-Mobile's). But Sprint's unlimited service is only being tested in a few areas right now, a restrictuion that I'll bet will go away in the next few days.
Alltel? Nothing yet, but I'd think they'll go unlimited sooner or later, though they still have a lot of network to keep up since they're a big roaming carrier. US Cellular might go unlimited, but I'm not 100% sure, as they also have a few networks they're still sitting on. Smaller carriers are either unlimited already as an option or will convert soon to having that as an option, if my crystal ball doesn't deceive me.
All this begs the question: why didn't Sprint and T-Mobile pull the unlimited card sooner? They have no legacy network to keep up, never have, but whatever...at least SOMEONE started the change. Granted, unless you use more than 1500 minutes per month or so you're not going to feel the impact of this service right now, but I'm sure it'll filter down as we enter another round of carrier price wars...finally! Let the insane plan competition begin, and let the customer benefit!
What about the current unlimited carriers? Maybe they'll be absorbed by Sprint or Verizon for their network structure and expertise with the business. Maybe they'll lower prices low enough that nobody in their right mind would get a landline. I don't think they'll go extinct. Whatever happens, I'm for a shakeup of the "big four" for the better, and maybe some customers will fallout so Sprint will actually get some, heh.