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AT&T launches Mobile Share plans amid net neutrality debate

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 3:23pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

AT&T launched its new shared data plans today, capping off a week marked by controversy over its FaceTime policy.

Along with the new plans, AT&T has completely overhauled its online account management page, which now offers a quick overview of a user's account.

The system to switch to the new plans, at least online, might have a few kinks that need ironing.

When Wireless Week tried to switch a personal account to one of the plans online, we received a message stating that the system could not identify our device, in which case our order could not be completed online. The message instructed us to visit an AT&T store for help with the problem.

When reached about the problem, an AT&T spokeswoman said things should be running smoothly. AT&T plans to post a blog on its website explaining the new plans later today, she said.

The new Mobile Share plans were first announced Aug. 6.

The plans give discounts to customers for using more data. The larger the data bucket, the less the customer pays per gigabyte, with an additional reduction of the per-monthly fee for each smartphone added to the shared plan.

For instance, a 1 GB bucket of shared data costs $40 per month, while the connection fees for each additional smartphone on that plan run $45 per month. However, the monthly smartphone connection fee is just $30 per month on a 15 GB shared bucket of data costing $150. Connections for additional devices to the plan include: $30 for a feature phone or quick-messaging device or laptops, $20 for LaptopConnect cards and netbooks; and $10 for tablets and gaming devices.

The new plans arrive just behind T-Mobile’s announcement that it will again be offering truly unlimited plans, sans data caps or throttling.

AT&T's Mobile Share plans are almost identical to Verizon Wireless' new Share Everything plans, except AT&T is not mandating customers move to the new rates. Verizon is requiring all new customers who buy a subsidized smartphone sign up for its shared data plans.

AT&T received a fair amount of blowback this week when it confirmed that Apple's FaceTime service will only be available over cellular to those who switch to the new plans. Apple is making FaceTime available over a cellular connection as part of the launch of iOS 6, the next iteration of its mobile operating system.

Free Press and Public Knowledge both made the case that AT&T’s blocking of FaceTime over cellular was in violation of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. AT&T denied the accusations, saying it was blocking the service for some of its users in the interest of network management.

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