AT&T introduces shared wireless rate plan

Following in Verizon’s footsteps, AT&T Inc. said Wednesday that it will introduce wireless plans that let subscribers connect up to 10 phones or other devices.

Connected phones get unlimited calling and texting, and all devices get wireless data access. The devices tap into a limited pool of data usage, which gets renewed each month.

Verizon introduced its “Share Everything” plans on June 28, replacing nearly all of its traditional phone plans. AT&T says its “Mobile Share” plans will begin in late August, but it is keeping its current individual and family plans.

AT&T’s prices will track closely with those of Verizon. One smartphone with 1 gigabyte of data will cost $85 per month with AT&T, compared with $90 with Verizon. Two smartphones and a tablet computer with 6 gigabytes of shared data will cost $170 on either carrier.

AT&T is the country’s second-largest cellphone company, behind Verizon. AT&T, based in Dallas, has 76.8 million direct wireless customers, and millions more through wholesale arrangements.

AT&T’s and Verizon’s shared-data plans are intended to stimulate the adoption of non-phone devices such as tablet computers and USB modems for laptops by making monthly service cheaper. Analysts think Verizon’s plan will reduce its service revenue in the short term but pay off in the long term as families add more devices.

Sprint Nextel, the nation’s third-largest wireless company, said in a statement that “current competitor data pricing on smartphones is already complex, driving customer worries about incurring data overage. The concept of sharing a monthly data allowance across a family of devices significantly increases the potential of a surprise monthly bill due to data overage charges and driving greater customer dissatisfaction.”

The Overland Park-based company said it offers customers “data plans on smartphones providing an unlimited data experience while on the Sprint network that eliminates the worry of any data overage charges.”