When AT&T Inc. halted unlimited wireless data plans this month, the company said 98 percent of smartphone users would save money with its new pricing. The savings may vanish for half its users by 2013, one analyst said.
Traders see growing risk in the debt of U.S. Cellular Corp., whose ability to compete with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. is hampered by the costs of subsidizing the pricier smartphones sought by consumers.
AT&T Inc.’s $1.2 billion deal to buy Leap Wireless International Inc. adds pressure on smaller competitors such as Sprint Corp. and Dish Network Corp. to bulk up through mergers and acquisitions of their own.
Facebook Inc.’s $19 billion purchase of mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp Inc. is a stark reminder of how much money phone carriers are losing out on as competitors let users text and chat at no charge.