Thoughts on 3G data plan rates for the iPhone

IphoneWe’ve got about two hours left before the expected arrival of a 3G iPhone, so let’s use that time constructively, shall we? It’s a given that a new iPhone model will offer support for AT&T’s HSDPA network. It’s no coincidence that the carrier is about to complete a full HSDPA upgrade to their infrastructure, right?

So what happens to the iPhone’s data rate plan? Currently, it’s an all-you-can-eat $20 a month for slower EDGE service. (By way of comparison: EDGE will get you around 200 Kbps or so… HSDPA will move data roughly three to seven times faster) Clearly, AT&T has to make up the billions they’re spending on the network and it won’t be made up solely by Laptop Connect customers using HSDPA modems.

I’m guessing that you’ll have a choice of data tiers since your 3G phone can support legacy EDGE connections. I think the same $20 a month plan will exist (it has to for first-gen phones) and you’ll see a second data plan with unlimited HSPDA service for $40 to $50 a month. Note: "unlimited" means around 5GB of data in a month for Laptop Connect users, so the same cap may apply. Apple likes to keep things simple, but I can’t see how the original data plan can go away. It might only be applicable to first-gen iPhones, thus removing the choice I alluded to for second-gen iPhones. I’d love to see the monthly HSDPA plan come in under $40, but don’t see it happening. Oh, and I don’t see "phone tethering" as a official (or third party) option, although that would be great. I’d love to be wrong on that one.

So what are you expecting from a data plan perspective today? What’s the pricing "sweet spot" that might compel you to upgrade or purchase a new 3G iPhone? Talk amongst yourselves. Well, not literally… do it in the comments so I can follow ‘k?

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