July 18, 2012

AT&T To Offer Shared Data Plan

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

AT&T will soon allow consumers and even small businesses to buy shared plans, but large enterprises will be left out of the new pricing structure that the carrier announced on Wednesday. The nation´s second largest mobile phone service provider looked to follow leader Verizon, which announced its own shared plans earlier this year.

The AT&T plan will bundle together voice, text and data and allow multiple devices to share from the same pool. This plan is of course aimed at consumers, notably families. Previously, as with Verizon´s prior plans, family members could share voice minutes but every device needed its own data plan. Those with multiple smartphones, and tablets often faced very high data costs — and even worse sometimes one device could go over data while another hardly used any.

The new plan should solve those problems, at least for those who use a lot of data.

Texas-based AT&T announced on Wednesday that the AT&T Mobile Share plans will launch in late August.

“New and existing customers can share a single bucket of data across smartphones, tablets, and other compatible devices, plus get unlimited talk and text,” AT&T noted in its press release.

The AT&T Mobile Share plans allows customers to choose how much data they want — beginning with 1GB of data for $40, compared with $30 for 3GB of data that it currently offers. However, under the new plan customers can share data on up to 10 devices, one of which must be a smartphone for which an additional $45 is charged, and this also includes unlimited talk and text. Thus with one smartphone and 1GB of data the plan costs $85.

However, the pricing of the smartphone goes down as customers opt in for more data. Thus 4GB of data is $70 (with unlimited talk and text), while the smartphone fee is just $40. From there it is 6GB for $90 plus $35 for the phone, 10GB for $120 plus $30, 15GB for $160 plus 30 and 20GB for $200 plus $30. Additional data is $15 per GB.

But at 20GB that is $230, which is less than four times as much as the 1GB plan for $85, and offers 20 times the data. Each data plan also includes access to more than 30,000 AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots at no additional charge.

“We offer customers a broad choice and the best lineup of plans, now enhanced by Mobile Share,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility. “With these new plans, the more you share, the more you save. They´ll be a good fit for a variety of new and existing customers. But if customers want to stay on their current plan or choose from our existing plans, they can do that, too. It´s their choice.”

Given the numbers involved, the shared data plan could thus be good for small businesses as well, especially those with a few road warriors or workers who need to access email and the web while off sight.

However, as Information Week´s Eric Zeman noted in his column on Wednesday, the shared plan probably isn´t going to be ideal for large enterprise users — as it could be hard to manage how much data is used. Zeman noted, “When your business is purchasing hundreds or thousands of devices, it has a bit more wiggle room with the carriers when it comes to negotiating rates for voice minutes, messaging, and mobile broadband.