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TheStreet Open House

AT&T Looks to Fuel Data Demand With Mobile Share Plans

NEW YORK ( Trefis) -- Following in Verizon's (VZ) footsteps, AT&T (T) announced last week that it will soon be unveiling its own multi-device shared data plans.

The second-largest wireless carrier said its "Mobile Share" plans, scheduled to be rolled out in late August, will give customers the option of subscribing to a common data pool to which as many as 10 data devices could be connected.

However, unlike Verizon, the carrier has decided to play safe and let new subscribers have the option of choosing from one of the current individual and family plans as well. Verizon, which kicked off its Share Everything plans on June 28, had decided to scrap its older plans in favor of data share plans for all new subscribers.

Also, in a surprising move, AT&T has decided not to follow Verizon in prohibiting unlimited users from using smartphone subsidies. AT&T has been a highly vocal critic of unlimited plans in the past and has even throttled its highest data users, so we thought that it would follow Verizon's lead in this regard as well.

However, the fact that a large percentage of its smartphone subscribers still subscribe to unlimited plans (about 33% by some estimates) may have caused AT&T to balk at the idea. (See our complete analysis complete analysis for AT&T.)

Saturated Wireless Market

There is also the risk that following Verizon's decision on unlimited plans may cause some of its subscribers to shift to Sprint (S), which of late is using its unlimited plans well as a weapon to lure iPhone buyers.

With new subscribers hard to find in an increasingly saturated wireless market, AT&T is trying to cling to its existing base and increase data usage by making it convenient for subscribers to add more connected devices through its shared data plans.

The U.S. wireless market has become increasingly saturated, with wireless connections having exceeded the population in mid-2011. This has made the acquisition of new subscribers, especially those that pay for higher-margin data plans, very tough for the wireless carriers.

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