How do AT&T’s new rates stack up against the competition?

How do AT&T’s new rates stack up against the competition?
AT&T announced on Thursday a new segment to its rate plan structure which arguably vindicates the position that T-Mobile has been touting since it first introduced contract-free rate plans a few years ago.

Love them or hate them, the data sharing rate plans are here to stay, particularly for AT&T and Verizon, whose larger networks enable them to push that value proposition versus “unlimited” data plans that T-Mobile and Sprint offer.

Instead of going through every single data tier between Verizon and AT&T, we put together a few different scenarios based on the number of devices that might be involved, and the amount of data that is purchased.

Since T-Mobile has only three flavors of data, 500MB, 2.5GB and unlimited, and Sprint pretty much only has an “unlimited” data option, we will highlight the other differences in the plans. If you are shopping carriers, you will definitely want to keep all the factors in mind, but if spending less money is your absolute priority, then these comparisons may reveal some unexpected angles for you.

Here are the scenarios we picked for comparison:

  1. Two smartphones sharing 4GB of data
  2. Two smartphones and one tablet sharing 6GB of data
  3. Four smartphones sharing 10GB of data
  4. Five smartphones sharing 15GB of data
  5. Five smartphones and two tablets sharing 20GB of data

Since this is comparing AT&T’s new rates, we will be examine the new tiers of a no-contract smartphone (or AT&T Next). We will not include the cost of the device or insurance (as might apply to AT&T Next, VZW Edge, T-Mobile Jump! or Sprint One Up) in the monthly comparison.

We are also not going to include activation fees since there are variables where they may or may not apply. For example, lines activated on AT&T Next do not incur an activation fee, but a customer provided device, activating a new line of service would ($36).

Recommended Stories
T-Mobile does not have a “share” plan, per se. In that instance, the smartphones will each have the 2.5GB data option, the tablet will have the 500MB option for scenarios 1, 2, and 3. For the fourth scenario, we selected the unlimited option for the T-Mobile lines. The final scenario will be calculated as if T-Mobile accommodated plans in excess of 5 total lines on the account, though even if you had two accounts (one with 5 lines and one with 2), we see no reason why the numbers would not line up.

For Sprint, unless otherwise noted, the data option at a minimum per line will be “unlimited” data. For tablets, in each instance, we chose the current promo of 2GB for $15 as the lower tiered options would not be comparable to the other three carriers.

You may be thinking that this is going to be a predictable result, T-Mobile is the cheapest while AT&T and Verizon are the most expensive.  We suspect that the numbers will surprise you, and seeing the numbers side-by-side will drive home the cost considerations you may have if you decide to shop around.

Turn the page and take a look at how things stack up.

Two smartphones sharing 4GB of data

CarrierPlanPlan CostFirst DeviceSecond DeviceTotal
AT&TMobile Share Value$70.00$25.00$25.00$120.00
SprintUnlimited My Way$90.00$30.00$30.00$150.00
T-Mobile*Simple Choice$0.00$60.00$40.00$100.00
VerizonShare Everything$70.00$40.00$40.00$150.00
* T-Mobile 2.5GB of data per line.

In our first comparison, we can see that AT&T has upped the ante not only against Verizon, but against Sprint as well. Sprint, who has been positioning price as a part of its appeal, along with unlimited data, has been struggling to attract customers. This new pricing scheme also puts the ball on Verizon’s side of the court – the likely result to be that Big Red will shave some of its margin off its service plans at a time when the company is preparing to finance a huge sum of money to buy what it does not own of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone.

T-Mobile, not surprisingly is the price leader, but for just $20 more per month, you could get access to AT&T’s ever expanding and improving LTE network.  T-Mobile is still less expensive if you were to choose unlimited data for the two lines, which would cost $120 per month.

Two smartphones and one tablet sharing 6GB of data

CarrierPlanPlan CostFirst DeviceSecond DeviceTabletTotal
AT&TMobile Share
My Way


* Sprinttablet plan promo, 2GB for $15.

** T-Mobile 2.5GB of data per phone, 500MB on tablet.

Again with this scenario, we see AT&T has aligned its pricing closer to the bargain leader, T-Mobile and maintaining a $30 price advantage over Verizon. Sprint has other tablet data options, but at $10 for 100MB or $5 for 25MB, they are not an effective competitor to the current promotion of $15 for 2GB. That said, Sprint’s tablet data plans are arguably not truly nationwide since roaming options are severely limited.

Four smartphones sharing 10GB of data

CarrierPlanPlan CostEach DeviceDevice TotalGrand Total
AT&TMobile Share Value$100.00$25.00$100.00$200.00
SprintUnlimited My Way$140.00$30.00$120.00$260.00
T-Mobile*Simple Choice$0.000.00**$140.00$140.00
VerizonShare Everything$100.00$40.00$160.00$260.00

* T-Mobile2.5GB of data per line.

** T-Mobile first line is $60; second line is $40; third and fourth lines are$20 each – each with 2.5GB of data.

If you are a family of four, you will find that four smartphones with AT&T puts you right in the middle of the pack. Verizon and Sprint have reached parity in their pricing structures.

Five smartphones sharing 15GB of data

CarrierPlanPlan CostEach DeviceDevice TotalGrand Total
AT&TMobile Share Value$130.00$25.00$125.00$255.00
SprintUnlimited My Way$160.00$30.00$150.00$310.00
T-Mobile*Simple Choice$0.000.00**$210.00$210.00
Verizon***Share Everything$130.00$40.00$200.00$330.00

* T-Mobile unlimiteddata per line.

** T-Mobile first line is $70; second line is $50; third, fourth and fifthlines are $30 each – each with unlimited data.

*** Verizon 16GB data plan selected.

Five smartphones and two tablets sharing 20GB of data

CarrierPlanPlan CostEach DeviceDevice TotalTablet TotalTotal
AT&TMobile Share Value$150.00$25.00$125.00$20.00$295.00
Sprint*Unlimited My Way$160.00$30.00$150.00$30.00$340.00

VerizonShare Everything$150.00$40.00$200.00$20.00$370.00

* Sprinttablet plan promo, 2GB for $15 each.

** T-Mobile unlimited data per line, 500MB on each tablet – T-Mobile planslimited to five lines for cost comparison only.

For our final two comparisons we see AT&T maintain its divergence from Verizon. It is notable because up to now, the two carriers have traditionally had nearly identical structures in service plan features and costs.  AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans appear to introduce a new competitive element between the two largest carriers.

With this newest announcement by AT&T, it has taken a shot across the bow of its major competitor, Verizon, its vocal competitor, T-Mobile and its struggling competitor, Sprint. The new Mobile Share Value plans turn up the heat on each member of the competition in different ways.

It also signals a shift to drive more revenue for the United States’ second largest carrier. T-Mobile is the price leader, and its network is well regarded in major markets, but its network is also the smallest of the “big four” and coverage matters for a lot of people. That said, T-Mobile is the catalyst for all the change we have been seeing and that has really made the US wireless market quite an exciting environment to observe.

Verizon’s coverage is undisputed. The carrier has done a masterful job of rolling out 4G LTE service nationwide. Its existing pricing is going to appear a bit out of step with its primary competitor in light of this announcement however. One thing we can expect is that Big Red will position its plans in a creative way to compete on some level. Even with the mountain of money that is about to paid to Vodafone, Verizon will be able to adjust its plans to serve market demands and still make money.

While T-Mobile has been rocking the boat, we are expecting to see something equally disruptive from Sprint in the wake of the SoftBank takeover. It has been six months since that deal closed, and while SoftBank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son has said it may take up to two years to turn Sprint around, the competition is likely not going to cooperate with those plans. Sprint continues to bleed subscribers and money so we are looking forward to seeing what the nation’s number three carrier has up its sleeve.

What do you think of about the new plan pricing from AT&T? They will available beginning this coming Sunday. Will these new rates draw you away from your current carrier?

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless