Feature Article

July 18, 2012

AT&T Introduces Family Mobile Data Plans

AT&T is introducing family mobile data plans, as expected, starting in late August 2012. As Verizon Wireless already has done, AT&T is executing a bit of a historic shift in retail packaging. Where once it was voice and texting services that were offered on a modified usage basis (by buckets, instead of actual per-message or per-minute charging), under both Verizon Wireless and AT&T plans, both domestic texting and voice services are unlimited and usage insensitive.

But mobile broadband becomes the primary usage-sensitive service, using the same “bucket of use” concept long used for voice and text messaging services. That shift reflects the historic shift of revenue opportunities within the mobile and fixed network businesses, where usage of voice is flat to declining, while usage of bandwidth climbs up to 50 percent a year.

Under such circumstances, capital investment increasingly is dictated by broadband products, not voice or messaging, so revenue recognition also must shift to match the drivers of capital investment, as well.

As was the case for family plans for voice and data, the new plans will, over time, lead to accounts adding more revenue-generating devices. For the new Verizon and AT&T plans, that will mean more data devices to be added to plans, especially tablets. But the new plans also will encourage users to convert to smartphones as well.

The actual revenue impact will be hard to discern, at first, as the plans are constructed in ways that make them revenue neutral, for the most part. Only over time, as more mobile broadband cards and tablets get connected, will the changes in data revenue be clearly seen.

Under terms of the new plans, AT&T customers can share a single bucket of data across smartphones, tablets, and other compatible devices on a single account, plus get unlimited talk and text.

With AT&T Mobile Share plans, customers start by choosing how much data they want each month, then choose up to 10 devices to attach to their shared plan, one of which must be a smartphone.

Each plan includes tethering and unlimited domestic calls and texts for smartphones and basic or quick messaging phones. As a practical matter, the new plans encourage smartphone adoption, since the incremental cost is a bit lower than in the past.

Current customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension.

There are no changes to AT&T’s device upgrade policy, which means customers eligible to upgrade to AT&T’s best device price are not required to switch plans. The new plans will also be available for business customers.

AT&T is a sponsor of ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. For more information on IEXPO West 2012 click here.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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