In a chat with CNET, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega all but confirmed plans to introduce a shared data package soon. It's been known for some time that the carrier is considering the option, but details of its roll out have remained foggy.
In January, de la Vega said the implementation was taking longer than expected because of issues with IT and billing systems. A month later, an internal memo revealed that the system AT&T employees use to manage customer accounts was updated to include controls for shared data, suggesting it was nearing completion.
In the latest update, de la Vega was reportedly more confident than in January, saying he's "very comfortable with the plan that will be offered" and that AT&T has a solid grasp on what the plan will be -- though it's still not ready to share more details.
The basics are obvious: you'll pay for a pool of data that covers multiple wireless devices, instead of having a pricey data plan for each gadget. Further information is unknown, but it's suggested that AT&T may be pushing to beat its largest rival to the punch.
In May 2011, Verizon said shared data plans were a "logical progression." A leak in January revealed training material for an update to the carrier's internal account management system -- not unlike the information that slipped out about AT&T in February, so it's probably safe to assume both outfits are at a similar stage of implementation.
Shared data is pitched as a win-win: users and families with multiple devices should save a few bucks on their wireless bill, while carriers should sell more devices as data plans become cheaper and easier to manage. With that in mind, it wouldn't be surprising to see AT&T and/or Verizon unveil their shared data offerings alongside a major device launch in hopes of boosting sales.
It'll be interesting to see what "catches" accompany with each service -- overage booby traps, for instance. Although savings may be possible in some scenarios, we don't expect the shared plan to offer a better value for everyone. For instance, T-Mobile's single-line data plan costs $80 a month for 2GB of high-speed data (usage is unlimited after that, but speeds are throttled). The two-line plan costs $140 (a $20 savings!) but both devices share the same 2GB soft cap, which could be annoying for heavy users.