Thursday, July 19, 2012

AT&T introduces 'Mobile Share' plans to share data, keeps older plans around

The answer of who would join with Verizon and move to "shared data" plans has been answered. It's the nation's No. 2 wireless carrier (Verizon is No. 1), AT&T. In terms of "when," the answer is August.

AT&T's "Mobile Share" plans were announced on Wednesday, slightly more than a month after Verizon Wireless unveiled its "Share Everything" plans. From a high-level perspective "Mobile Share" is very similar to "Share Everything," with a bucket of data being distributed across up to 10 devices and unlimited voice and text, but there's a difference: AT&T has not gone "all in" and will allow its older service plan options to continue, instead of killing them off completely.

These shared data plans work much the same as the family plans that many have opted into, which share minutes between family or group members. In both cases, there is an "attachment fee" to add a device to the plan. Both carriers charge $10 per tablet, $20 per modem or hotspot, and $30 per feature phone to attach to their plans. However, AT&T has a tiered pricing scheme for smartphones which is based on the size of the data allotment.

For example, with a 1GB bucket, an AT&T user pays $45 per smartphone, but that drops to $30 if a user chooses the super-sized 20GB option, which is twice as large as Verizon's biggest data tier. Verizon charges a consistent $40 to add a smartphone to its "Share Everything" plan.

Both carriers charge an overage fee of $15 per GB, which is a 50 percent increase over their individual plans.

AT&T appears to have noticed the criticism that Verizon has received over its shared data offering. They've kept the current plans available; the "Mobile Share" plans supplement the older plans instead of replacing them. The company added that customers could remain with their existing plans or upgrade to the new ones without extending their contract length.

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In addition, now that the plans have launched, a Verizon user that upgrades a device with subsidy will be forced into a shared data plan. AT&T is not requiring that, meaning that unlike Verizon it has not (essentially) killed off its grandfathered unlimited data plans.

That's right, on AT&T you can still, for now, keep that grandfathered unlimited data plan. You can do so on Verizon, too, but only if - when you upgrade your phone - you pay the unsubsidized price.

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