T-Mobile and AT&T have recently announced new perks for some of their monthly subscribers. T-Mobile calls its plan "Data Stash," and AT&T is going with the classic "Data Rollover" terminology. The basic idea is simple: if you don't use up all of your data allotment one month, the surplus data carries over to the next month. From there, the details diverge somewhat, with T-Mobile rollover data lasting a whole year, while AT&T data only sticks around for one extra month. And, of course, there's plenty of fine print, like you use up your month's plan data before using up any of the rollover cushion. CNET has a great breakdown and comparison if you're curious how it all shakes out.

The key takeaways are:

  • With both plans, if you don’t use all your data one month, the surplus rolls over to the next month.
  • T-Mobile does rollover for each line separately in a family plan, while AT&T does it as one big pool of data for the family.
  • Neither carrier is charging extra for Rollover or Stash, but the perk is only available to certain types of plans.
  • And, again, T-Mobile data expires after one year, AT&T data expires after one month.

Basically, this is a great development. Even the base admission from carriers that data you pay for one month, and don't use, might be nice to have around next month, is a huge win for humans. For many people, they may simply be surprised to learn they have a little bit of extra data to play with next month. More observant users might tend to their stash with great care — I know I was always obsessed with my rollover minutes back in the day, despite the fact that I rarely talked on the phone.

There's a simple solution, of course: buy data, keep data.

So I'm happy to see T-Mobile and AT&T move in this direction. But I also have to laugh at how absurd it all is, terminology-wise. I'm a former AT&T customer and current T-Mobile customer, and pretty nerdy guy, and it took me a while to figure out if either of these plans would even apply to me. Did I have the "Mobile Share Value" plan or just the vanilla "Mobile Share" plan when I was with AT&T? Or was it even "Mobile Share" at all? I'm just one person, not a family. Do I have a "Simple Choice" plan or a "Simple Starter" plan with T-Mobile?

And then, of course, both carriers have completely different ideas of how the rollover data spreads across multiple "lines" in a family plan. It's enough to make your head explode.

There's a simple solution, of course: buy data, keep data. Own data, insofar as it's possible to own a promise of data delivery. Use data wherever, with any device. Phone lines? Expiration? Mobile Simple Value Share Choice plans? What are those? They sound like 20th century solutions to monetizing a 21st century network.

About Paul Miller

That guy who left the internet for a year