Conspiracy Theory: AT&T Forced to Offer Contractless iPad 3G Data Service to Keep Exclusive iPhone Deal

There were two AT&T Wireless related surprises during Apple’s iPad announcement in January.

1. 3G wireless data service will be provided exclusively by AT&T Wireless
2. The monthly $29.99 AT&T 3G fee for “unlimited” data (really 5GB per month) would not require a contract

MacRumors notes some interesting statements from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson that may shed some light on AT&T’s stayingin good grace with Apple despite all kinds of complaints by iPhone toting AT&T customers…

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Speaks About iPhone and iPad

Reuters notes that Stephenson also addressed Apple’s iPad, claiming that he sees the device as being mainly a “Wi-Fi driven product”. The report curiously explains that Stephenson does not expect the iPad to generate significant numbers of new “subscriptions” for AT&T, although customers are expected to use “prepaid” services.

The conspiracy theory fan in me believes that Apple told AT&T: “Our iPhone, our rules. You want to play? You gotta pay.” The translation? If you (AT&T) want to remain the exclusive iPhone carrier in the U.S., play by our (Apple’s) rules and offer a contractless 3G data plan that won’t infuriate iPad customers.