AT&T limits new customers to data-share plans only

The AT&T logo is pictured by its store in Carlsbad, California, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake (Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New AT&T Inc customers will soon only be able to buy Mobile Share plans, which involve higher data fees, but allow subscribers to share data allowances among multiple devices. The No. 2 U.S. mobile operator said on Friday the elimination of older plans for new customers would take effect on Oct 25. It said it was streamlining its offerings because the data-share plans are its most popular. AT&T added that existing customers could keep their current plans, even when they are upgrading to a new device, unlike its biggest rival Verizon Wireless. Both companies introduced shared-data service plans in 2012. Investors say these plans could help operators such as AT&T and Verizon retain customers at a time when competition is ramping up in the U.S. wireless industry. In particular, AT&T is facing increasingly aggressive competition from No. 4 U.S. operator T-Mobile US Inc, which compares itself directly to AT&T in its marketing. The idea of is that customers subscribing to shared-data plans might be less inclined to switch to another carrier if their cellular service for several devices, including smartphones and tablet computers, is attached a single plan. Carriers also see the plans as a way to encourage subscribers to add more devices and increase how much they spend on cellphone service. (Reporting by Sinead Carew. Editing by Andre Grenon)