For those who have been wondering how AT&T would counter the appeal of the superior Verizon network for would-be iPhone users, we now have the full view of the steps they are taking.

As I sit here watching The Defenders on CBS tonight, I just witnessed the AT&T commercial explaining that now the iPhone can be had on an AT&T plan for only $49, instead of $199 which has been the price until now.

That’s the kind of price drop that people with a pulse will notice.

With the pricing now set at $49, and the commercials to tell the unwitting about using voice and data at the same time (How often do you think you will be doing this on a handheld device? How long will it be before Verizon has the same capabilities, for no other reason than to say it can be done?) it will probably be enough to keep many casual users steering toward the AT&T store, because their usage will not be so important that when the AT&T network lets them down periodically, they will slam their fist and say “no more”.

AT&T has done the only thing that will keep them in the game on this one, and has done it at absolutely the very best time – right when the Verizon iPhone hits, and no one has the ability to definitively say how much better it is on the quality network.

Bravo, to whomever was the one to think this one up. That person should be given a huge raise, and lots of stock, for this gambit will pay off big. People who are cash strapped after the holidays, and before tax time, will gladly pay $150 less for a phone that will be more of a lifestyle choice than a tool for business usage.

This is the sort of ploy that worked for Sprint, with their crappy network, back in the early years of the last decade against Verizon, when Sprint decided to do such things as have no deposits (allowing lots of 18 year olds with no credit history to get into a phone dirt cheap!) and push style (of the phones) over substance (an established and usable network).

It worked for Sprint then, and it will work for AT&T now.