Internal documentation and changes to internal systems have confirmed that AT&T is in the process of preparing to offer shared data plans to customers within the next few weeks according to employee notices although AT&T has yet to confirm one way or the other when the carrier will roll out the new plans and service. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have made previous statements confirming plans to roll out such services based on the popularity of family plans for voice and messaging.
Currently, the only service provider to offer shared data plans regardless of the number of devices is recently launched virtual provider Ting by former computer software portal Tucows, with up to 20 lines being able to share 3GB of data with tethering capability. As Ting is an MVNO, AT&T’s forthcoming offering would make it the first national carrier to offer shared data plans after years of requests from customers.
The idea behind shared data plans is to simplify management of multiple data devices that maybe on one account at a given time, while making it considerably cheaper, compared to buying individual data plans for each device, which would also be a boon for corporate and enterprise customers looking to simplify costs for users.
As more and more customers choose to add more data devices instead of phones on multiple lines, the need to streamline data access across devices and one account becomes more important. What remains to be seen is the success of such plans as AT&T looks to do everything it can to move people away from increasingly scarce and expensive grandfathered unlimited data plans and to increasingly lucrative metered data access, all the while fighting the perception of poor service in the wake of the ultimately blocked and failed T-Mobile purchase, which cost AT&T nearly $6 billion in penalties.
Currently, AT&T is in the midst of continuing LTE roll out across the country, although the recent increase of its device upgrade fee to $36 under the guise of increasing awarerness of the fact that current device manufacturers are moving more and more to data and away from voice service that isn’t horribly crippled, which is a common refrain for customers.