Wireless carriers look at free voice, texts

One company in Austria has decided to charge users just for data consumption.

By Kim Peterson Mar 28, 2013 1:11PM
Businessman in car with smartphone © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesPeople don't talk as much on the phone anymore. The average call fell to 1.78 minutes in 2011, down from three minutes in 2006.

That's led to a bit of a crisis at wireless carriers, which once counted on phone calls as a major cash cow. Carriers that used to be downright stingy with their minute allotments are moving toward unlimited calls. The industry knows the big money is in data plans.

Now one wireless company in Europe has decided to offer free voice and text messages and simply charge for data. Telekom Austria's most expensive package will be 59.90 euros, or just under $77, for the fastest speeds and the highest volume, Reuters reports. Users will get unlimited calls, texting and app usage.

Another reason calls and texts are losing value for carriers is that it's pretty easy to do these things online using a Wi-Fi connection. In the United States, companies like Ooma and magicJack offer phone calls over the Internet. Smartphones also have tools that let you make Internet-based calls. And anyone with a Google Voice account from Google (GOOG) can send text messages directly from their computers.

Last year, AT&T's (T) chief executive said he wouldn't be surprised if a carrier started charging only for data, and not voice, within two years, according to The Wall Street Journal. Now that Telekom Austria has made that leap, other carriers in Europe -- and, perhaps, the United States -- are likely feeling pressure to follow suit.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 28, 2013 2:41PM
It's coming to a corner near you. Only a matter of time sport fans. 
Mar 29, 2013 10:54AM
I'd change to that carrier in an instant.
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