AT&T's business plan depends on connecting devices to its Mobile Share plans, and it's now making it easier, and potentially less expensive, for consumers to do that. The carrier is now offering the AT&T Unite, a Sierra Wireless 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile hotspot, for $0.99 with a two-year contract.
A Liberate 4G mobile hotspot sold by AT&T retails for $49.99 with a two-year contract.
In addition to the fee for the Mobile Share plan, consumers would pay $20 a month to connect the hotspot, which they can use to connect up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices. The Unite could also be connected to an individual or family plan.
The Unite features a 2.4-inch touch-screen display, through which settings can be managed. Users can change network and device settings through the unit and block unwanted devices from joining.
It's said to offer 10 hours of battery life and last for 10 days of standby time.
"It's easy to use and easy to carry with you, making it ideal for staying connected to family and friends throughout the day," Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of Devices and Developer Services with AT&T, said in a Feb. 4 statement.
"When combined with the nation's largest 4G network and our flexible Mobile Share plans," he added, the Unite "offers a tremendous value for customers ..."
AT&T saw record smartphone sales during is fiscal 2012 fourth quarter and added almost 800,000 new postpaid subscribers, or 1.1 million when connected devices were added in. While AT&T generated $32.2 billion in revenues, it still finished the quarter $3.9 billion in the red, due to costs associated with Hurricane Sandy and the carrier's employee pension program.
Still, executives were positive about the year ahead, as they detailed the new ways they plan to increase connections.
"We are optimistic about our position," AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens told analysts on the Jan. 24 earnings call. "And when you add on Digital Life, when you add on connected cars, when you add on the health care infrastructure that analysts talk about, when you add on the mobile premise [security] solution or the home-based mobile phone—all of those opportunities, along with our Mobile Wallet, are going to give us real chances to continue to grow revenue."
Rival Verizon Wireless was similarly impacted by the October hurricane and pension troubles, and while it brought in a record $30 billion in revenue, it posted a $4.23 billion loss for the quarter.
Fran Shammo, Verizon's CFO and executive vice president, shared during a Jan. 22 earnings call that 23 percent of Verizon subscribers are now on Share Everything shared-data plans, and that upticks in data use and connected devices are expected.
"If you look at our Internet device category, including tablets, we had one of our strongest quarters of 'other devices' attachment, and all of this drives our revenue," said Shammo.