Non-Contract AT&T Customers, You’re About to Get a Break

New mobile sharing plans to arrive this Sunday, December 8.

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If you’re a non-contract (or wannabe) AT&T mobile customer, the company says it’s finally going to give customers a break on its mobile plans — up to $15 a month — and you can get in on the action starting this Sunday, December 8.

AT&T says the new plans, umbrella’d under the rubric “Mobile Share Value,” will apply to both wireless consumer and business customers, and will let them choose from an array of new mobile plans while retaining the no annual service contract option. The deal applies to those using a phone compatible with the AT&T network, who’ve paid full price for their phone or finished out their contract, or who share a monthly installment plan with others.

Let’s run through some of the numbers. AT&T says consumer plans will support connecting up to 10 devices, while for business customers will range from up to 10, to 15, 20 or 25 devices, based on plan choice. If you spend $45 a month, you’ll get unlimited talk and text plus 300MB of data, and you can add a compatible phone to any Mobile Share Value plan for $25 a month, or $10 for tablets.

Step down to “basic and messaging” use and the monthly rate is $40 for unlimited talk, text and 300MB of data, and you can add basic and messaging lines for $20 a month per phone. And if 300MB isn’t cutting it, data-wise, you can upgrade to plans ranging from 1GB up to 50GB.

The company says it will also offer a new AT&T Next plan aimed at consumers or businesses with multiple smartphones designed to lower monthly payments by spreading them out over a longer period (26 months), but leaving in the option to upgrade at 18 months “for no down payment, no upgrade fee, no activation fee and no financing fee.”

You might take offense at the word “break” here, because in a sense that’s not what’s happening: AT&T’s been nothing but pilloried for it’s comparably high off-contract pricing. You might argue this is just the company addressing those critics, for not offering discounted rate options on no-contract plans, something its rivals Sprint and T-Mobile already do. On balance, AT&T’s new plans don’t look any more compelling than the latter companies, but they’re at least in the same ballpark.

AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told CNET the decision to roll out the new plan wasn’t a reaction to competitive pressure, but that’s just PR-speak for “of course it is.” It’s certainly an admission that things were less than optimally structured. As AT&T’s own chief marketing officer David Christopher puts it in the press release, “With our new Mobile Share Value Plans, customers don’t have to compromise.”