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Family Wireless Plans: Price War Heats Up, AT&T Slashes Prices

What better day than Super Bowl Sunday to start offering new family wireless plans? In their latest attempt to gain ground on rivals T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, AT&T is slashing prices on their family wireless plans starting today. A family of four can expect to see a 20 percent savings on plans offering 10 gigabytes of shared data and unlimited calling and text messaging. Oddly, AT&T doesn’t mention the new family wireless plans in their joint Super Bowl commercial with BeatsMusic, featuring Ellen DeGeneres.

The new plans don’t require a contract, though customers do need to bring or buy their own smart phones. AT&T will also offer customers the option to purchase a smart phone on an installment plan.

Before today, a family of four paid $200 for the 10 gigabyte family wireless plan. Under AT&T’s new Mobile Share Value Plan, a family pays $100 for 10 gigabytes of shared memory, plus $15 per phone line, up to 10 lines. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the savings are in addition to AT&T’s recent offer of $100 credit for each new phone line added.

AT&T’s new pricing compares favorably with competitors. At the time of this writing, Verizon Wireless charges $260 for a similar plan. Sprint charges $160 for a family of four in their shared data plan, but families are limited to a single gigabyte of data.

Small businesses can also take advantage of AT&T’s new shared data plan.

Customers who are currently on an AT&T 10 gigabyte shared data plan will also take part in the savings. According to a Bloomberg report, customers who are on AT&T’s previous 10 gigabyte plan will automatically be switched to the new program.

Jan Dawson, an industry analyst with Jackdaw, told USA Today that AT&T’s move is one one hand consistent with trends in the industry while going against the grain in other ways. Dawson said:

“AT&T’s change in pricing bucks the recent trend in the mobile industry by offering the best deal to existing customers. With all the effort currently going into getting customers to switch, AT&T’s moves seem to be geared towards keeping existing customers first and foremost. This is clearly a response to the aggressive price moves from competitors, especially T-Mobile, over the last several months.”

And:

“(This is) a continuation of several major trends in the US mobile industry: more intense competition as the market saturates and the two smaller national carriers starting to become more aggressive, a shift to data rather than voice and messaging, and a move away from subsidies.”

AT&T Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher says the move is about being competitive and positioning the company for the future. USA Today quotes Christopher saying:

“We’re building smartphones to be the remote control of your life on AT&T. The ability to offer families a more affordable way than ever to be with AT&T with their smartphones is a great long-term play for us. And it sets us up really nicely to go into all these new businesses, including the connected home and connected car. There’s no question it’s a competitive industry, and AT&T is going to compete aggressively. But it’s about skating to where the puck is going.”

What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below. Will you be running out to sign onto the new shared data plan? Should David Christopher have used a football metaphor instead of a hockey metaphor since AT&T’s new family wireless plans take effect on Super Bowl Sunday?

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