T-Mobile doesn't think shared data is the answer for families

T-Mobile doesn't think shared data is the answer for families

Summary: As a guy who uses a LOT of mobile devices, I have been asking for shared data (just like minutes) for years. However, now that carriers are getting ready to roll these out I have changed my mind and am satisfied with the current plan structures.


There were some heated discussions this week around Verizon's transition from unlimited data to shared data plans. AT&T also has plans to offer shared data for multiple devices. Like fellow ZDNet writer, James Kendrick, I have been asking for shared data plans, but am starting to wonder if I really do want this after reading T-Mobile's discussion on the issue and giving the idea more thought.

I currently have a T-Mobile family plan with five active lines for my wife and three daughters. My wife and I have data included and even with teen daughters I think this is just about the perfect setup. I already spend time controlling how much time is spent on the computers at home and do not want to then spend time monitoring and controlling data usage across the family. I understand that shared data may work well for those of us mobile enthusiasts who have several devices, but then again you can just add tethering to your phone and connect from five to eight devices.

If carriers had launched with shared data a year or two I think it may have been a hit, but I now tend to agree with T-Mobile's take on the issue that data tailored to each user is a better option. I like the fact that I still have unlimited data on T-Mobile (yes, it might get throttled after 5GB) mainly for peace of mind since I rarely exceed 3GB (only really if I am heavily testing a new device). I was upset thinking about Verizon and AT&T killing unlimited data plans, but if I can get over the mindset of unlimited data then it isn't an issue even for heavy users like me. For the majority of people, 2GB and less plans are more than sufficient. If you use more, purchase more and get the ability to tether.

In the past I thought I should be able to share the data I already purchased, treating data the same way that family plan voice minutes are managed. Wireless carriers are not in the business of charity though, so you know that these shared data plans will likely end up costing the consumer more while also then creating another feature that has to be managed by parents and company personnel. And just like voice minutes, it will likely be that we end up paying for way more data than we ever even use.

My mind has been changed and I am now going to just focus on finding the best data and voice plan for my usage without asking for shared data any longer. I am sure there are valid reasons for shared data and many likely have scenarios where it will work for people, but it is going to cost you and we may not like the change in plan pricing structures.

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  • Even better idea

    Let us Americans shift away from the expensive monthly contracts and shift more into prepaid. Pay full price for your phone and pay a whole lot less for service. The savings adds up very quickly. I know in the UK and other countries, wireless carriers have to compete more on price AND service because your phone can be placed on any carrier.

    I realize Sprint/Verizon would need to switch to GSM, but the fact that those phones don't work outside of the US should already be reason enough for them to make the switch.
  • interesting

    As another who's been clamoring for family data plans for years, the T-Mobile link brings up some interesting points that I hadn't thought of. If I buy a tablet in the future and have a family data plan, could I hit my limit because I'm watching a movie on a trip? Will I know when I'm close?

    Since my kids are closer to going to college than going to 1st grade, it may not matter to me and it may be less expensive in the long run if I have a shared data plan. Our family still uses less than 2GB per month consistently, but as our usage changes with different devices we'll have to continue to review. I'll have to think about it more when these shared data plans roll out as to whether it will be worthwhile for us.

    I believe, like MM in the article, if the carriers would have rolled this out a year or two ago, I would have jumped on it. The carriers inability to provide a service families were asking for then may bite them as they roll them out now.
  • Unlimited Everything

    Realistically, Bandwidth is cheap for the carriers to provide. Almost all carriers now route voice calls through the internet, basically making them no cost to the carriers. And for the ones that aren't doing this, well, they should do so, it would save a lot of money.

    Ultimately, I think all plans should just come with unlimited everything and cost around $25 per month per line, including all fees, taxes, etc. I know that this can be done, as there are local carriers that have offers like this, some require a 4 line minimum, but it's still an option.
  • This is rediculous

    One could actually think you are moonlighting for T-Mobile. Being a T-Mo customer for well over 10 years I can say they are just learning to recognize existing customers equally to new customers that have historically gotten a better deal. I often felt I had a learning disability not continuously switching service providers. I have maintained a family plan for all this time with my wife. I purchased the data plan for her when I bought her a new phone. I use a phone that can operate off two services. I would prefer a family data plan because you get the opportunity to use all that you are paying for.

    If these companies are going to slow you down after a certain usage is met in their scheme to market "unlimited" legally, they should be required to maintain a certain threshold they do not fall below. But when one doesn't use all the bandwidth they pay for these companies do not bank that for their customers keeping them up to speed the next month until they exceed that bank. So a family plan is a way of allowing the customer to receive this service, albeit by actually paying more for an additional line whether used or not.

    I would purchase a different phone for data use myself with T-Mo if they had such a plan. Right now I am not and I consider myself a conscientious consumer. It is T-Mo's loss and your logic about this is, well Dr. Spock would have issues with the whole purpose of this piece.

    T-Mo needs to allow family plans to add data to phones currently on the plans at a reduced monthly rate and allow that data to be full speed and unlimited. If a family plan exceeds say 5 phones then they can take a jump in monthly charges considering such a "family" as obviously "data fat".
  • A quick shout out for T-Mobile

    They continually attempt to think outside of the box, and are more reluctant than most to sunset grandfathered plans at their consumers' expense for gratuitous, short term gains. Hope they can stay the course.
  • Sorry, but this is stupid

    Tethering costs extra. You pay for the data, then you pay extra so that you can use that data where you want.

    Shared plans are smart, you buy so much data, and it gets shared across all devices. I have 700 minutes, because it is the least Verizon will give me on a Family Voice plan. My family (3) rarely uses over 300 of those minutes. As long as the Verizon shared plan includes at least 3GB of data, I doubt that my wife and I will ever go over. If and when I add my son onto a data plan, it might be a problem, but you manage what you have to. I'd rather spend my time keeping track of things than give Verizon any more of my money. They get too much of it now.

    Separate plans mean more wasted data, and more wasted money, and the hassle (and it is a hassle) and extra expense of a tethering plan. No thanks.