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SBC mulls wireless, landline time-share

The telecommunications company is working on new rate plans that would let dialers buy minutes for use by both landline and cell phones.

SBC Communications is pushing toward letting dialers buy minutes that can be used by both landline and cell phones, a representative said Thursday.

If so, it would be the only one of the nation's four major phone companies, three of which own cell phone companies, to offer this kind of pricing scheme, according to SBC representative Michael Coe. Carriers generally have separate plans for wireless and landline phones.

The new SBC pricing scheme would be only for subscribers of SBC's telephone service and Cingular Wireless, which is partly owned by SBC, Coe said. Under the new plans, blocks of hundreds or even thousands of minutes could be used by either home or wireless phones.

"We are pushing toward that," Coe said. "At the moment, we haven't set a date to introduce it."

The shared minutes would be an addition to the San Antonio, Texas-based carrier's growing number of service plans. Plans treating the minutes separately would still remain, he said.

SBC Chief Financial Officer Randall Stephenson told analysts this week that the new plans are part of SBC's emphasis on creating as many different combinations of its services as possible, a practice known as bundling. It will be SBC's main focus this year. "You'll see a lot more of this," he said. "It's something our customers want."

This particular kind of plan has been tried once before, but quickly was abandoned by Sprint, Coe said. A call to Sprint for comment was not immediately returned.