Report: U.S. Cellular's shared data plans will mimic Verizon, AT&T

U.S. Cellular's (NYSE:USM) forthcoming shared data plans will largely look similar to plans offered by larger carriers  such as Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), according to an Engadget report.

The report, citing an unnamed source, revealed internal company slides showing the pricing structure for the new shared data plans. U.S. Cellular has indicated it will launch the plans sometime in September, now that it has completed an upgrade to its billing system. Verizon and AT&T launched their shared data plans in the summer of 2012 and regional player C Spire Wireless launched similar offerings last fall. Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) do not currently offer shared data plans for individual customers but do for enterprise customers.

According to the Engadget report, U.S. Cellular will employ a per-device charge per month as Verizon and AT&T do, starting at $40 per smartphone, $30 per feature phone, $10 per tablet, $20 per mobile hotspot, and $20 per wireless device such as a USB modem. U.S. Cellular's  plans will support up to 10 devices and while it's not explicitly stated in the slides, it appears the plans will also come with unlimited voice and messaging.

"We will be launching Shared Data plans this year as we've mentioned on our earnings calls," U.S. Cellular spokeswoman Katie Frey told FierceWireless. She declined to comment further.

The report said that for consumers, the smallest allotment of shared data will start at 1 GB per month for $50, which is the same as Verizon's 1 GB plan but $10 more expensive than AT&T's 1 GB plan. Data tiers will then increase in price, with the largest data bucket, 75 GB per month, costing $560. 

For enterprise customers there will be a 300 MB/$40 per month plan as well as higher tier packages.  Data overages for each shared data plan will cost $15 per 1 GB, the report said. 

The report noted that U.S. Cellular will introduce "data-only" shared data plans, which include unlimited messaging and tethering but no voice whatsoever. The company is also going to support feature phone plans.

U.S. Cellular CEO Kenneth Meyers said during the company's second-quarter earnings call that the shared data plans will let the carrier "better monetize the explosive growth in data usage as well as the growing demand for connected devices," according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

U.S. Cellular CMO David Kimbell added that the shared plans will be "a key part of our future going forward. We see that as a way to continue to drive ARPU growth that Ken mentioned, to gain incremental connections with our current customers, and attract new customers."

Both Verizon and AT&T have said their shared data plans are a success and bring in more revenue than expected. Verizon said at the end of the second quarter that 36 percent of its postpaid customer base is on its Share Everything shared data plans. AT&T said at the end of the second quarter it had more than 4.3 million Mobile Share accounts serving 13 million subscribers, up from 3.3 million accounts and 10 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter.

For more:
- see this Engadget article

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