MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the saying goes: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
AT&T announced its own “Mobile Share” plans today, matching Verizon Wireless’ push to get more people to share their data plans with family members.
As with the Verizon plan, the shared data plans may not be the best deal for individuals, but could yield potential savings for a large family.
AT&T’s data-sharing plan, which launches in August, includes:
• A bucket of data that can be shared among as many as 10 devices*
• Unlimited voice and text messages
*One device must be a smartphone
The data-sharing plan will also provide a potential headache for families, as one data-hogging family member could burn up the data allotment for the entire family.
If that family member goes over the monthly allowance, expect a fee of $15 per gigabyte.
As with Verizon’s plans, pricing for AT&T’s data-sharing plans is complex and tacks on a fee to connect each smartphone:
• 1GB for $40 plus $45 connect fee
• 4GB for $70 plus $40 connect fee
• 6GB for $90 plus $35 connect fee
Higher-tier plans offer 10GB ($120), 15GB ($160) and 20GB ($200) of data, with each of those plan attaching a $30 fee to connect each smartphone. As for adding other devices: a basic phone to any plan costs $30 to add; laptops, Netbooks, and USB cards cost $20; and tablets and gaming devices cost $10.
AT&T and Verizon hope these new plans will increase customer loyalty and encourage the adoption of new devices. Of particular interest to them is connected tablets, which consumers have been slow to latch onto. Most people opt to buy Wi-Fi only versions of tablets, or seldom use the cellular connection of their device because of cost.
The plans speak to the shift in the industry away from unlimited data and toward rigid tiers and more complex pricing structure. Beyond Sprint Nextel, all of the carriers now limit their customers’ data consumption in some ways. Even for customers with a grandfathered unlimited plan, AT&T throttles, or slows down the connection, of customers who go over 3GB of data each month.
The unlimited text and voice minutes speaks to the carriers’ desire to lock consumers into a set price for services they using less frequently, preserving a set level of revenue.
AT&T said that customers can remain with their existing plans or upgrade to the new ones without extending their contract length. The plans will also be available to business customers.
Importantly, customers who upgrade their phones are not required to switch to a shared or tiered plan, avoiding some of the issues Verizon faced when it launched its plan and essentially killed its unlimited offering for many people.
“AT&T seems to have learned from Verizon’s mistakes and is giving customers more options and a simpler charging structure,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum.