AT&T offers free calling, texting to Japan

The phone company is waiving fees for calling and texting to the earthquake-stricken country through March 31.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

AT&T is offering free service to people who want to communicate with friends and family in Japan.

The carrier announced today that postpaid subscribers won't be charged for calls or text messages to Japan through the end of March. The free service started Friday, the day that a magnitude-8.9 earthquake rocked the northeastern part of the country and sent tsunamis out into the Pacific.

Customers will either find no charges on their monthly bill or a credit for the amount they would have spent. AT&T is only offering the deal on phone calls that originate in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Text messages to Japan can only originate from a U.S. number.

"We want to help our customers connect with loved ones in Japan in any way we can," Mark Collins, senior vice president for Voice and Data Products at AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a statement. "Connecting with family and friends is most important at times like this--we want to make it as easy and worry-free as possible for our customers."

Following the earthquake and the tsunamis, the death toll has been estimated in the thousands, with tens of thousands more people still missing or uprooted from their homes. Damage to property has been astronomical.

Meanwhile, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider Skype has announced (Google Translate page) on its Japan blog that it's giving Japanese customers 25 minutes worth of free calls to landlines in the country. In addition, the company's Skype Access, a Wi-Fi service in Japan, will be free across the country for an indefinite amount of time.

Verizon Wireless confirmed to CNET today that it's also offering free calling and text messaging to Japan. The carrier's service will be free to customers until April 10. Sprint said that it's doing the same, but did not reveal how long the service will be available to customers for free.

T-Mobile has not responded to our request for information on services it might be offering to Japan. However, all the major carriers are waiving text-messaging fees for customers who donate from their mobile phones to the Red Cross for the Japan relief effort.

Updated at 1:51 p.m. PT to include new information from Verizon Wireless and Sprint.