Mobile consumers taking a service from AT&T will soon find they have no option but to choose a so-called “shared data” plan, allowing them to connect a number of devices on a single monthly tariff.
The US operator is taking the radical step of phasing out other plans in what it describes as a response to current consumer preferences.
“In less than a year, our postpaid customers have connected more than 13 million devices via Mobile Share plans – and the number continues to grow daily,” said the operator in a blog post on its website.
The change is set to come into effect on October 25 and will restrict the choice of tariffs for new customers to the operator’s Mobile Share plans, which start at $50 a month for a basic phone or $70 for a smartphone.
That is more than customers would pay for low-end, single-device plans and could drive cost-conscious consumers into the embrace of rivals like T-Mobile US (Bellevue, WA, USA), which has been undercutting AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) on the price of smartphone-based services.
AT&T, however, insists that Mobile Share is by far the most popular plan for customers coming to AT&T, and says that existing customers on single-device tariffs will not be forced to make the change if they would rather stick with their current arrangements.
Clearly, the move could help AT&T to improve average revenue per user (while having the opposite effect on average revenue per device) and reduce churn by making customers more dependent on it for their connectivity services.
Shared data plans have been gaining traction in the US and other parts of the world as smartphones and other internet-enabled mobile devices grow in popularity.
AT&T first introduced data sharing in 2012, along with chief rival Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA).
Analysts believe T-Mobile US is planning to introduce shared data plans that will pile further competitive pressure on to the country’s two leading players.
The number-four operator has already shaken up the industry with its launch of no-contract offers, and has promised further innovations it says will address “customer pain points” later this year.