ATandT Family Data-Sharing Plans on the Way: Reports

AT&T executives reportedly have settled on a structure for their family data plans, a move that could help drive even more demand for tablets and smartphones.

NEW ORLEANS €” AT&T reportedly is preparing to release family data plans, a move that would prove a financial help to the growing number of families that have multiple network-connected, data-capable mobile devices.

Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T€™s mobile businesses, told a reporter May 7 that company executives have a strong structure for the plans in the works that would enable a family to buy a single data plan that would let more than one device draw from that plan, similar to how wireless carriers offer voice plans.

Such plans would cover all types of data-capable devices, from smartphones to tablets to notebooks. Currently, each device needs its own wireless plan.

Speaking to a CNET reporter here at an event at the CTIA Wireless 2012 show to announce the wireless carrier€™s plans to create a line of IP-based home security monitoring and automation services, dubbed "AT&T Digital Life," de la Vega said such family plans were coming together, but declined to give more details on what the plan would involve or when it would become available.

Officials with rival Verizon Wireless have said that their family plans will come out this summer. De la Vega did not say whether AT&T would look to release its plans before Verizon€™s comes out.

"I'm very comfortable with the plan that will be offered to our customers," de la Vega told CNET. He told the Associated Press May 8 that AT&T will "introduce them when we can."

According to CNET, de la Vega€™s comments are a turnaround from thoughts he gave the news site in January. At that time, the AT&T executive said the company was dealing with complications regarding IT, billing and subsidizing devices, and questions about how the company would make a worthwhile financial return from the shared data plans.

However, he said May 7 that the company is now comfortable with the structure of the plans.

Industry officials believe that such shared data plans would not only help families reduce the data costs for their devices, but also could help fuel even greater demand for smartphones, tablets and laptops.