AT&T Will Let Customers Roll Over Their Unused Data. They Have T-Mobile to Thank.

Competition that improves your cellphone service.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

T-Mobile’s “uncarrier” shtick and the antics of its chief executive, John Legere, can sometimes be a bit much. But recently, they’ve undoubtedly proven effective and beneficial to wireless customers across the board.

On Wednesday, AT&T announced that it will allow customers on its Mobile Share Value plan to carry over their unused data to the following month at no additional cost. If multiple people on the same plan have extra data, it will all carry over in one big pot—so your brother, or mom, or whoever can use what you didn’t, and vice-versa. The change is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 25.

Why should you thank T-Mobile? Because less than a month ago, T-Mobile made a very similar change to its own plans. The company said in December that its “Un-carrier 8.0” plan, which lets customers roll their unused monthly data into a “personal data stash” for up to a year, was geared toward “eliminating the infuriating wireless industry practice of confiscating unused data you’ve already paid for.” Legere reportedly said at the time that today’s wireless customers are so fearful of hefty overage charges that many either don’t come close to using up their monthly data allowances or pay exorbitant amounts for data they don’t really need.

AT&T, of course, isn’t framing this move as a response to T-Mobile, and points out that, as reported earlier in the Wall Street Journal, it filed on Nov. 25 to trademark “Mobile Share Rollover,” “Rollover Data,” and “Family Rollover.” On the other hand, the same day AT&T made its rollover data announcement, T-Mobile said it had added 1.3 million “postpaid” customers—those on lucrative rolling month-to-month plans—and 2.1 million net customers in the final quarter of 2014. Speaking at a conference, T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert said a significant portion of those added subscribers had come over to T-Mobile from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. “We are known for changing the rules of the industry,” he said. AT&T is undoutedly feeling the pressure.

It’s unclear whether T-Mobile’s momentum will also be enough to force other carriers’ hands. A spokesman for Verizon said in an email that the company has never offered rollover data and does not comment on future business plans and strategies. Sprint did not comment on whether it offers or plans to offer rollover data, instead pointing to its unlimited data plans. And for now, Legere has been quick to decry AT&T’s change as a cheap knockoff of his company’s policy. “att is so giving - instead of confiscating your data after 30 days, they’ll [sic] going to confiscate after 60 days,” he tweeted. “We were the first to do this and still the only ones to get it right!”