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AT&T bolsters mobile data plans to keep pace with rivals

New plans that offer more data for your dollar and free calls and texts to Canada and Mexico help AT&T stay competitive against T-Mobile and Sprint.

It's a good time to be a wireless consumer as AT&T rejiggers data plans and adds other special perks to remain competitive with Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

AT&T on Friday announced new Mobile Share Value plans, which will go into effect tomorrow. In some instances, AT&T will cut the cost of the service and in others it will add more data for the same price. AT&T has also added free calling and text messaging to Canada and Mexico to customers who sign up for its more expensive plans.

Earlier this week, it announced a limited offer up to a $500 credit to AT&T U-verse or DirecTV television customers who switch their wireless service to AT&T wireless.

The new deals come as the price war in the wireless market heats up. T-Mobile and Sprint have been cutting prices and offering customers more data in an effort to win customers from the two biggest wireless companies, AT&T and Verizon. These efforts are paying off as T-Mobile has been adding more customers to its roster for several quarters, and even struggling Sprint has started to see more customers return to its network. Verizon, meanwhile, also tweaked its plans to offer more data at lower prices, while eliminating service contracts. AT&T's move to make its data plans more attractive is in large part a response to the aggressive tactics the smaller rivals have taken.

While AT&T is following Sprint and T-Mobile in offering free calling and texting to Mexico, the news that it's offered this perk is no surprise. In January, AT&T acquired Mexican carriers Iusacell for $2.5 billion and Nextel Mexico for $1.875 billion. AT&T had said previously that it hoped to build a single, seamless network that runs between the US and Mexico, causing no disruption in service.

In July, T-Mobile jumped ahead and offered its customers the ability to text, call or browse on their phone while in Canada or Mexico -- with no additional fees. Earlier this month, Sprint said it would allow for free calls and text messages to Mexico.

AT&T has made several changes to its data plans including replacing its $70 tier of service that offers 6 Gigabytes of data per month with a tier that offers 5GB data for $50 a month. And it's cut the cost of its 20GB plan, which now costs $140, a $10 a month savings over the previous price. The biggest change is on its most popular tier of service. For customers who pay $100 a month, AT&T will now offer 50 percent more data. So instead of 10GB for $100 a month. Customers can now get 15GB of data for $100. Additionally, AT&T has added a 25GB option for $170 a month, a tier of service the company says is great for small businesses with multiple lines.

The tweaks give it a slight edge over Verizon, which has focused its marketing on four plans.

AT&T has also sweetened deals for customers that subscribe to both its TV service and its wireless service. Earlier this week, the company said it will offer a promotion in which DirecTV satellite TV customers and AT&T U-verse TV customers who switch their wireless lines to AT&T will receive a $300 bill credit for each line they port in when they buy a smartphone on AT&T Next. The Next plan allows customers to pay for their phone in installments and upgrade early. In addition, customers who trade in their smartphone can also get additional trade-in credit or promotion card for $200.

Customers who combine AT&T TV services with their AT&T wireless services on a single monthly AT&T bill can also get a $10 a month discount. The discount will continue as long as the customer keeps both services on a combined bill, the company said.

AT&T completed its $49 billion acquisition of satellite TV provider DirecTV last month.

With all these announcements, AT&T's chief marketing officer said in a statement, "There's never been a better time to be an AT&T customer."