AT&T Inc is following bigger rival Verizon Wireless with a new type of family plan that comes with a sharp increase in its fees for data services such mobile Internet.
But unlike its rival, AT&T says the plan will be an option rather than a requirement for new customers and subscribers upgrading to a new phone.
Late next month AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. mobile provider, will launch the new offering, which allows its customers to buy a single data plan for up to 10 devices and includes unlimited phone calls and text messages for these customers.
The hope is that the new plan, similar to one kicked off by Verizon Wireless in June, will entice individuals and families to connect more devices such as tablet computers to the AT&T network because they will no longer have to buy a separate monthly data allowance for each mobile device.
Since young consumers are making fewer phone calls in favor of communicating via data services, AT&T, like Verizon Wireless, is overhauling its pricing in a bid to boost revenue from data services and to avoid a future decline in voice revenue.
Representative Edward Markey released data on Monday from the largest mobile phone companies in the United States showing more than 1.3 million requests by law enforcement agencies for cell phone records in 2011.
Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 U.S. carrier, reported an annual 15 percent spike in requests, and No. 4 carrier T-Mobile USA said it has seen a 12 percent to 16 percent increase each year.
“We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” said Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?”