AT&T announced today that they’ll soon begin offering wireless plans with unlimited talk and text plus data buckets shared by multiple devices.
The company plans to start offering their new Mobile Share options in late August, but they have already released pricing that starts at $40 for 1 GB of data plus $45 for each smart phone.
The cost per phone goes down with the first few bumps in data – the 4 GB plan costs $70 plus $40 per phone, and the 6 GB data plan costs $90 plus $35 per phone. The largest data plan available, 200 GB, costs $200 plus $30 per phone. Each 1 GB over the monthly allowance costs $15.
Additional devices using the same data allotment cost $20 for a laptop or $10 for a tablet. Current customers won’t have to switch to one of the new plans, but they’ll be able to switch without extending their contract terms.
“We offer customers a broad choice and the best lineup of plans, now enhanced by Mobile Share,” David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility, said in a press release. “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.”
AT&T’s announcement follows Verizon Wireless’s recent switch to “Share Everything” plans for new and renewing customers. Verizon’s offerings operate similarly to AT&T’s new strategy. Verizon’s least expensive data plan for two phones costs about $130 for 1 GB of data, the same as AT&T’s 1 GB plan with two phones.
Data usage by AT&T’s customers has exploded by 20,000 percent in the past five years with the proliferation of smart phones and ultra-speedy 4G LTE service. Last year, AT&T started slowing data speed for those with grandfathered unlimited plans who go over 5 GB per month on a 4G LTE phone or 3 GB on a 3G device. To help customers manage their data usage, AT&T has a large network of free Wi-Fi hotspots, providing many of the open hotspots located in restaurants and stores.
AT&T offers courtesy alerts to customers nearing their monthly data allowance. Customers can also call *DATA# from their mobile phones to check their data usage, or download a free widget such as 3G Watchdog (which monitors both 3G and 4G data usage).
It remains to be seen whether the competing but similar plans from the only two mobile carriers with significant 4G LTE networks will spur greater price competition for customers. Since both carriers offer the most popular smart phones and now have comparable pricing structures, they may need to find more ways of differentiating themselves from each other.