AT&T to offer new shared data plans for smartphones
Jul 18, 2012 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
AT&T on Wednesday announced a new set of wireless plans for smartphone customers that will allow users to share their data allotments across multiple devices.
Following in the footsteps of chief rival Verizon, which announced a similar move last month, AT&T will offer a new set of plans starting in late August that will allow customers to buy buckets of data bandwidth that they can share among multiple devices. Users will pay an extra fee for each device they connect to the service, but won't have to buy distinct buckets of bandwidth for each.
Also, like Verizon's new plans, the new AT&T service will allot users an unlimited number of minutes for voice calls, allow them to send an unlimited number of text messages and will allow them to access the Internet over their tablets or computers using the data connection in their phones without incurring an extra charge just for that service.
AT&T representatives said the new plans are an effort to offer consumers more choices in their wireless service options. But unlike Verizon, AT&T plans to continue to offer its current calling and data plans even after its new shared data plans take effect.
"We offer customers a broad choice and the best lineup of plans," David Christopher, chief marketing officer of AT&T's mobile division, said in a statement. He added that the new plans will "be a good fit for a variety of new and existing customers."
existing plans, individual smartphone users choose one of three different allotments of voice minutes, one of three different allotments of data and, if wanted, an unlimited texting plan. Family users can choose from one of five different shared voice calling plans, but then must add data and text messaging services on a per-device basis.
Under the new plans, consumers will pay a flat per-phone fee for unlimited voice minutes and text messages and can choose one of six different buckets of data that they can share among all devices on their bill, including other smartphones, feature phones, tablets and laptops. Users pay for each device they connect directly to AT&T's network.
The new plans will be more costly for consumers who make few calls and send few text messages. Even those with moderate usage may find them more expensive. But heavy users and families with multiple devices are likely to see a price break by signing up for them.
The new plans come as consumers have been spending less time using their phones to make simple calls and more time using them to surf the Web, check email and watch videos. Often overwhelmed by the increase in data traffic, wireless companies have been trying to change their service offerings to recognize this shift in usage.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him at Twitter.com/troywolv.
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