The U.S. wireless carrier is planning to roll out shared data plans for current and new mobile subscribers, beginning in August. Called AT&T Mobile Share, the new bucket data plans will enable families as well as small businesses to essentially build their own plans to fit their unique device and data usage requirements, the company said.
AT&T expects to offer the new bucket data plans in monthly allotments of 1 GB ($40), 4 GB ($70), 6 GB ($90), 10 GB ($120), 15 GB ($160) and 20 GB ($200).
There will also be an additional monthly charge for each and every 3G, HSPA+ or LTE gadget added to any of the new AT&T Mobile Share plans. Smartphones ($35) and feature phones ($30), for example, will cost more per month to use than laptop connect cards ($20), tablets ($10) and portable gaming machines ($10).
While still offering its previous voice and SMS pooling family plans as an option to all comers, "AT&T can now tout data sharing for consumers -- that for many users will look a lot cheaper than Sprint's Share Everything plans," said Bill Menezes, a principal research analyst at Gartner .
In comparison, Menezes told us, a Sprint "Share Everything" plan for two smartphones with unlimited voice, SMS and 3G data starts at about $210 retail with Sprint, and extra lines are about $90 a pop.
Buckets for SMBs
Even on their higher speed networks, the top U.S. wireless carriers estimate the average user consumes less than 2 GB a month. "AT&T estimates its top 5 percent of smartphone data users are consuming 2 to 3 GB, so for most, a 4 GB bucket is as good as unlimited," Menezes explained.
AT&T also wisely let Verizon Wireless hit the trip wire first on how the public would perceive these plans. "With overall pricing essentially equal on their multi-device plans, AT&T is leveraging the criticism that Verizon appears to be forcing new customers into the sharing structure over time, by continuing to offer its existing a la carte voice and data plans as an option for all new customers," Menezes said. (continued...)