Beware of pricier mobile Internet data plans

Prices for cell phone voice services may be dropping, but consumers are likely to be forced to pay a lot more for mobile Internet data plans in the future.

It’s no secret that the price of voice services for cell phones is falling. Just last week Sprint Nextel announced it was offering a new $69.99 a month, Any Mobile, Anytime plan that allows subscribers to call any cell phone in the U.S., regardless of the carrier, in addition to such things as unlimited text messaging and data services.

Analysts are predicting a price war in the mobile market as national wireless carriers will soon be forced to offer more minutes of voice service or unlimited voice services for equal or lower prices to compete with each other.

To make up for the shortfall in revenue, these analysts also predict that wireless operators will start reconfiguring Internet data service plans to make up the difference.

“Voice revenue is declining for the carriers,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. “And the vision for the future is to use data revenue to make up for the shortfall and to kick ARPU (average revenue per user) into growth mode.”

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