AT&T has announce that it will be switching data plans to shared group plans, similar to what Verizon has recently done. But the move means those who predominately use data will see their wireless bill double or triple in many cases, while those who primarily talk and text only will see a small reduction in their monthly wireless phone bill.
Currently, AT&T offers a tiered data plan for each line of service, for both individual lines as well as family plans. That is going away in August, as the nations second largest wireless carrier rolls out its new group data sharing plans.
AT&T says they hope that those will multiple devices will connect to the new group sharing plan, and the more you connect, the less each device will cost to access the internet.
Under the new, and more complex plan, one line of service with 1 gigabyte of data will now cost $85, something critic say is not even enough for a smartphone that stands idle the whole month. Two devices gets you 6 gigabyte for $170, and that's shared data, not each per line.
It breaks down like this: Under the new plan, an AT&T customer with one smartphone would pay a $45 monthly fee for unlimited calling and texting and a $40 fee for one gigabyte of data. The voice and texting fee per smartphone drops to $40 for customers who pay $70 a month for 4 gigabytes of data.
An AT&T customer buying 20 gigabytes for $200 a month would pay $30 for voice and texting for each smartphone, leading to a total bill of $350 for a family of five.
A person with 5 lines will end up paying more for his or her monthly service than currently. Under the current plan, 5 lines, each with data service and unlimited texting costs $290. That's a $60 increase per monthly. But it's still cheaper than Verizon by $5 per line.
So far, most are unaware of the new plans by AT&T. Those that said they heard about it said they are confused mostly, unsure of what plan they need, how much it costs and what they get for it. But most did recognize it will mean their bill is going up, something most said they do not like and feel they already pay too much for.
AT&T says it gives its customers greater flexibility and choices.
In a jab at Verizon, AT&T said "If shared data is not for you then we'd love for you to stay on our existing plans. We know the existing plans make sense for lots of situations." When Verizon rolled out their new shared data plans, it did not give its customers the ability to stay at their current plans unless they were willing to buy a smartphone outright.
AT&T hopes the new plan leads people to buy data in bulk because the bigger the data plan, the cheaper the per-gigabyte rate will be.
Sprint, the nations smaller rival of Verizon and AT&T, does not offer shared data plans and instead each line has unlimited data. But that's when you get a signal, as Sprint has endured numerous complaints about very poor data service coverage inside buildings and in mountainous terrain. As a result, Sprint previously announced it will switching to LTE and dropping its WiMax data technology.
Verizon commented on AT&T's announcement saying competition is always good for consumers.