AT&T to double data for high-usage shared data plans through Oct. 31

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) launched a promotion that will give new and existing customers double the data allotment on shared data plans when they sign up for a data bucket of 15 GB or more.

The promotion for AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans will run through Oct. 31, and customers can share data on up to 10 lines. Business customers can share 60 GB to 100 GB buckets on up to 25 lines. If customers sign up by Oct. 31 they can keep the new promotional shared data amount as long as they want and the offer will not expire.

However, AT&T said that if customers need to change their shared data amount after the promotional period ends they will need to select from the current, nonpromotional Mobile Share Value offers. Also, if customers are already on a plan of 15 GB or more, they will need to contact AT&T to get the double data upgrade.

AT&T's current 15 GB plan, which starts at $130 a month, will get doubled to 30 GB, significantly more data than the company's 10 GB/$100 plan. AT&T also offers 20, 30 40 and 50 GB plans that will get doubled to 40, 60, 80 and 100 GB for the same pricing as the smaller data-bucket plans. The AT&T plans all come with unlimited voice and texting, and customers are charged $15 a month per smartphone line if they buy their device through AT&T's Next handset-upgrade program.

Other carriers are offering promotional data plans, but after a certain period of time the data allotments will shrink. For example, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) changed its family plans last month, and when customers buy four or more lines, each member of T-Mobile's family calling plan gets unlimited voice, texting and 2.5 GB of LTE data before throttling through the end of 2015. After that, the data allotments per line will drop to 1 GB per line before throttling.

The AT&T plans could also be designed to blunt the impact of Sprint's (NYSE: S) relatively new shared data plans, which offer double the data of similarly priced plans from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T--or at least did before AT&T's new promotion. Through Sept. 30 Sprint is offering a promotion that gives a family with up to 10 lines 20 GB of shared data for only $100 a month through the end of 2015, plus an extra 2 GB per line for up to 10 lines.

Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's Mobile & Business Solutions Group, said at an investor conference earlier this month that "customers hate" what he called "exploding offers," in which data allotments change after a certain period of time once a promotion expires. "So at this point in time, unless they change their mind, we are not going to offer those kinds of promotions, because we don't think customers like them," he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks.

Meanwhile, in other AT&T news, Credit Suisse analysts Joseph Mastrogiovanni and Michael Baresich wrote in a research note that after meeting with AT&T's investor-relations team they remain "comfortable with the direction of the company."

"We think the company's decision to allow its subscriber base to move to more attractive plans is helping fend off competition," they wrote. "Additionally, we believe the company is open to, but cautious on, international expansion."

The analysts noted that América Móvil is expected to sell assets in Mexico and that AT&T executives have publicly expressed enthusiasm for growth prospects in Latin America in recent months. "This leads us to believe that AT&T will evaluate any potential sale of assets by América Móvil closely, but we expect management to take a cautious approach," the added.

Additionally, the analysts think AT&T's capital expenditures should decline after 2015 once it winds down most of the work of its Project Velocity IP program. "The company is spending $20-21B per year through 2015 to upgrade both its wireline and wireless networks," they wrote. "Investors have been concerned that capital expenditures will remain at elevated levels following the completion of the program. The company was confident that spending should fall to below the historical average of roughly 15% of revenue. We're forecasting total CapEx of $18.2B in 2016 or 13% of revenues."

For more:
- see this AT&T release
- see this CNET article
- see this The Verge article

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