BARCELONA, Spain -- The next battleground for carriers is shaping up to be international calling and text messages.
AT&T is the latest to fire a shot, saying Tuesday that it would throw in free international text messages from the US to the world for anyone signed up with a Mobile Share data plan. Current members will get the benefit too.
In addition, AT&T introduced a new World Connect Value plan that allows members to make phone calls to more than 35 countries for 1 cent per minute. The plan limits calls to only 1,000 minutes a month. Both go into effect on February 28.
The move comes after Verizon highlighted its international access as a critical component of its "More Everything" plan. These plans appeal to customers who still have family overseas and want to keep in touch. T-Mobile earlier this month introduced its own $15 global plan that offered unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls to more than 30 countries and 1,000 minutes to Mexico, alongside an existing $10 plan that also includes unlimited text messages to overseas numbers.
Verizon's plan also offered free international text messages from the US to the world. More Everything members get its global calling plan for free for the first three months. Under Verizon's plan, a call to Mexico or Canada would cost 1 cent a minute, while a call to Latin America would cost 5 cents a minute.
Under AT&T's World Connect plan, these are the countries that fall under the penny-a-minute category: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Pierre and Miquelon, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Venezuela.
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The plan costs $5 a month, just like Verizon's own international plan.
AT&T's old World Connect plan cost $4 a month and offered a range of discounted rates, although they remain fairly high, with a call to a Mexico landline costing 9 cents a minute, and 25 cents for wireless. AT&T's old Latin America Talk and Text plan previously cost $10 a month and offered unlimited messaging to eight Latin American countries. It would also get discounted rates, including a penny a minute for Mexico, and 9 cents a minute for any of the other countries.
Verizon and AT&T have been going at it with dueling promotions, but its recent fight has been triggered by T-Mobile. It all began last year with T-Mobile, which waived fees for text messages and data services while abroad. Like AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile has been pushing its international story aggressively.
Updated at 1:14 a.m. PT: To remove a reference to a 1,000-minute cap on phone calls on its World Connect plan. AT&T provided an updated statement that eliminated that restriction.