AT&T offers unlimited data if you subscribe to DirecTV

Barry Diller: Data is the new cable
Barry Diller: Data is the new cable

In AT&T's effort to get customers to buy both wireless and television service, it has a new lure: unlimited data.

The company is announcing an "AT&T Unlimited Plan" that applies to homes with both AT&T's wireless phone service and either DirecTV or U-Verse TV.

The plan encourages television consumption on cell phones and tablets. Part of the pitch is that subscribers can take their TV with them and not have to worry about data overages or Wi-Fi availability.

AT&T (T) said the promotion is the first in a series of "integrated video and mobility offers" and "new video entertainment options" coming this year -- hints about the company's ambitions in the TV industry.

The company completed its acquisition of DirecTV, the satellite TV provider, last July. It still operates an AT&T branded bundle of channels called U-Verse as well.

"We want customers to have both products," wireless and TV, said Ralph de la Vega, the CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions.

He said the unlimited data promotion targets the 15 million households that have DirecTV but not AT&T wireless, and the 21 million households that have AT&T wireless but no TV subscription.

"It's a huge cross-sell opportunity," he said in an interview with CNNMoney.

AT&T, Verizon (VZ) and smaller wireless companies are all making TV distribution a priority. Verizon has been promoting Go90, a mobile offering targeting young people that has a mix of traditional TV and web video.

T-Mobile (TMUS) has been pushing Binge On, which lets subscribers access Netflix, (NFLX) Hulu, ESPN and other apps without having that data usage count toward monthly caps.

T-Mobile's rivals have faulted Binge On with having relatively low picture quality (480P).

With AT&T's unlimited data offer, "we do not slow the speeds down like some of our competitors do," de la Vega said.

Related: T-Mobile CEO defends 'Binge on' against 'throttling' critics

"We're giving the very best resolution -- and I think that's the future of media," he added, asserting that AT&T's network is better able to handle higher data usage.

Wireless companies have generally moved away from unlimited data plans in recent years. AT&T's new offer will only be promoted for a limited time, but households who opt into it will keep the unlimited data deal.

Unlimited data applies to all phone usage, not just to TV viewing through DirecTV or U-Verse's app.

TV distributors like DirecTV have been seeking the "wireless rights" to TV programming so that they can live-stream channels and shows to subscribers in out of home settings.

Related: AT&T and DirecTV are now one

The negotiations have been arduous in some cases.

But but de la Vega said he sees progress being made.

"Quite frankly, nobody knew each other," he said. "We're working on integrating the companies, integrating the assets, integrating the people. This is just the very beginning."


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