C Spire Gets Into the Shared-Data Game

C Spire Wireless is joining AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless in offering shared data plans for its wireless service. This approach lets customers bundle all of their mobile devices on one plan.

In general, I like the idea, but shared data plans aren’t for everyone. All of these plans are similar, but there are important differences.

This is a new way of thinking about wireless data, and many customers like it. C Spire has Shared Data plans. AT&T offers MobileShare, and Verizon is promoting its Share Everything plan.

Notice the similarities? The word “share” is the key.

Less Complicated, Less Costly

The world is changing. Ten years ago, our cellphones were just telephones. Five years ago, smartphones like the iPhone and a slew of Android handsets entered the picture, and the amount of wireless data we used skyrocketed, thanks to all the apps.

Many people now have multiple devices like tablet computers, laptops and smartphones — and each has its own data plan. There’s a lot of room for waste with so many plans.

Single customers who don’t have all these devices don’t need a shared data plan. However, if single users have multiple devices, or if everyone in the family has a device, that’s quite a few separate wireless data plans that could be combined.

That’s where these brand new shared plans enter the picture. All of a sudden, you can see the value in the shared data plan idea. Rather than each device having its own monthly cost and monthly minimum, all of them can share one plan, and it can cost you much less.

This is the direction the industry has started to head, and I think it will continue down this path. Group plans and family plans will get stronger.

I first wrote about shared data plans from AT&T and Verizon back in July when they were brand new. Today customers are starting to understand and see the value, and many are choosing them.

AT&T has signed up a quite a large number of customers to its shared data plans so far, company officials said during its analyst meeting last week. Verizon may have done the same. Before now, these were the only two carriers to offer shared plans.

Is Sprint Next?

When Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility entered this space, they offered similar plans — but there was an important difference. AT&T left the choice to the customer, while Verizon forced new customers to take its new deal. C Spire lets you choose the plan you think is best for you when you buy a new phone.

In fact, the new C Spire Shared Data plans are designed for family use, but the company also offers Choice D and Choice D+ plans for individuals.

All of the plans from AT&T, Verizon and now C Spire cover up to 10 devices.

C Spire claims to offer an advantage: Its plans let customers share data and and let them monitor data usage for no extra fee. That means customers can avoid overages, which C Spire says users will love.

What about Sprint Nextel? It has not joined the party yet, but I believe it will. Its non-shared plan rates are just as attractive as the shared plan rates, it maintains, so why go down this path?

The reason I think Sprint will is simply that if it doesn’t, it will lose customers to the competition. Customer interest in data-sharing plans will continue to grow. That should be reason enough, don’t you think?

So C Spire, welcome to the shared wireless data battle. Now there are three carriers offering this service. Things are starting to get interesting.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is an industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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