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AT&T Mobility CEO: Family data plan coming soon (scoop)

AT&T's Ralph de la Vega says he feels good about the plan, a reversal of the uncertainty he expressed just a few months ago.

Ralph de la Vega
The head of AT&T's mobility, Ralph de la Vega, at the CTIA conference two years ago. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

NEW ORLEANS--AT&T's version of the family data plan may be coming sooner than you think.

The company has a firm hold on what type of plan it will offer and intends to offer one soon, said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's mobile business, in an interview with CNET here yesterday. A family data plan would allow consumers to buy one bucket of data, which can be used by multiple devices, a move industry observers believe could spur the sale of non-traditional cellular devices like connected tablets.

"I'm very comfortable with the plan that will be offered to our customers," de la Vega said on the sidelines of his company's home security and automation event at the CTIA Wireless trade show.

The comments mark a reversal of de la Vega's uncertainty over the implementation of family data plans just a few months ago. At the time, he told CNET that the company had run into complications over IT and billing issues. Other complications include how the carrier would subsidize devices and get a decent return despite the shared data bucket.

"We want to make sure we get it right," he said in January.

But de la Vega was far more confident yesterday. He said the company knows how the plan would be structured. He, however, declined to provide any specific details on timing, and wouldn't comment on whether it would be out in the next few months or if AT&T would beat Verizon Wireless to the punch.

Verizon has said it expects to offer its own version of the family data plan by the middle of the year. Like AT&T, Verizon sees family data plans as a way to spur the sale of multiple devices and, in turn, increase data usage and adoption.

One carrier not thinking of a shared family data plan is T-Mobile USA. While not dismissing the notion entirely, Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray told reporters at a roundtable that he believes the carrier's current plans are good, and sees no dramatic changes in the near future.

AT&T has broken ground before on new types of data plan. Burdened by excessive usage by a few iPhone customers, AT&T was the first to move to a tiered data plan, implementing caps on usage. It, along with others, have also introduced the practice of throttling, or slowing down a connection once it hits a certain threshold.

Whether its AT&T or Verizon that launches the plan first is uncertain. But the company clearly won't be alone in embracing the new model.