AT&T targets T-Mobile with new 'Mobile Share Value' no-contract pricing options

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) tweaked the pricing of its Mobile Share shared data plans for contract customers, and also introduced new "Mobile Share Value" shared data plans that are less expensive and are targeted at no-contract customers. The actions are likely a response to the success rival T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has enjoyed this year since removing handset subsidy costs and two-year contracts from its pricing plans.

Starting Dec. 8, AT&T customers can get a no-contract Mobile Share Value plan in several ways. They can do it by purchasing a new smartphone for no down payment with AT&T's "Next" handset upgrade program with monthly installment payments; bringing their own smartphone; buying a smartphone at the full retail price; or switching to the new plan when they are no longer under contract.

One of the biggest knocks against AT&T's Next handset upgrade program compared to T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) "Jump" or Sprint's (NYSE:S) "One Up" plans was that it did not give customers a discount on their service pricing for forgoing a contract and a subsidized device. The new plans rectify that.

Previously, under AT&T's Mobile Share plans, there was a sliding scale of monthly fees per smartphone attached to the plans, ranging from $30 to $50 depending on the data plan. Under the new Mobile Share Value plans, with a no-contract smartphone--either through Next or if the phone is paid for upfront--the fee is $25 a month. That means a customer can get a 2 GB Mobile Share Value plan for $80 per month ($55 for the data plan and $25 for the smartphone fee), compared to $95 per month under the old plans.

The new no-contract plans are likely a response to T-Mobile's no-contract "Simple Choice" plans, which let customers bring their own smartphones, pay off their phone in installments after a down payment or pay it off all at once upfront. 

Interestingly, T-Mobile's pricing for its service plans is less than AT&T's, even with AT&T's new Mobile Share Value plans.

As for AT&T's existing Mobile Share plans for customers on a contract, the carrier removed the sliding scale pricing for devices. Previously the carrier charged between $30 and $50 per device, depending on the data plan; now the carrier is charging a flat $40 for all plans.

AT&T denied its changes are in response to the competition. "We see competitors on our left and on our right," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told CNET. "We're really focused straight ahead on what our customers are asking for."

As with its Mobile Share plans, AT&T's new Mobile Share Value plans all offer unlimited voice and texting. Also as before, tablets can be added for $10 more per month.

Additionally, also starting Dec. 8, AT&T is making changes to its Next handset upgrade program. The carrier will add an 18-month upgrade option, letting customers choose to trade in their phone every 18 months instead of the current 12 months. The new Next option lets customers pay a lower monthly fee for the phone, since it is financed over 26 months instead of the current 20 months.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this The Verge article
- see this PhoneScoop article
- see this separate PhoneScoop article

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