AT&T’s 2GB Cap is Costing Me Money


Updated: We were one of the first tech blogs to cover AT&T’s change to wireless data rates, essentially killing unlimited data on smartphones and making way for a 250MB 200MB plan and a 2GB plan. Of course, those plans were cheaper than the existing unlimited 3G data and AT&T’s argument was that most users never use anywhere near 2GB of data.

The downside of this new plan is that if you go over your 2GB cap, you’ll be charged $10 for every GB you go over. Those of us already on AT&T data contracts were grandfathered in to unlimited plans for the foreseeable future as long as we didn’t cancel our plans.

I wasn’t in a current plan. When I left my job last month, they had taken over my iPhone bill into their contract so, when I left for a new job, I had to setup a new plan even though I could get my old number back. It didn’t hit me that I was screwed until the Apple employee showed me the screen saying, “Choose a data plan” and the two options were 250MB 200 MB or 2GB. I sighed and chose the larger plan but I didn’t get tethering because I already own an unlimited 3G data card from AT&T. Update: I also want to add that the previous “unlimited” plan was actually somewhere around 5GB The iPhone didn’t have a 5 GB limit, however most data cards do have a 5GB limit on “unlimited” plans. Most carriers that say their data is unlimited are lying to you. Don’t be surprised if you download 10 movies from iTunes on your “unlimited” 3G data card and Verizon calls you up with some harsh words.

Eight days later I received a text message from AT&T:

Oh dear. Well, there was nothing I could do except simply turn off 3G data via iPhone’s system settings, which basically makes my iPhone an iPod touch where Wi-Fi is the only option. I wasn’t going to do that. For the sake of our readers, I chose to wait it out. First, let’s talk about what I do on my iPhone.

The No. 1 thing I do is use Twitter for iPhone. In my three years on the service, I’ve tweeted over 60,000 times and sent nearly twice as many direct messages. The second thing I do is email sending, receiving and moving messages around all day on an average of once every 10 minutes from 7AM to midnight. After that, I use eight different location based services to check in and “share” my location anytime I go somewhere and finally, I use apps for weather, video, news and Safari to get information on the go. This month, I also bought and downloaded the new Pearl Jam album via iTunes on my iPhone over 3G.

This line of service was created on August 21 and as I’m writing this it’s September 5. In 16 days with my iPhone 4, here is my current data usage.

At this rate, I will have to pay the 2GB monthly plan price of $25 plus an addition $10 for each GB I go over. It looks like I’ll be paying $20 extra this month for being a data hog. AT&T’s choice to limit us to 2GB of data is simply ridiculous and I have to remind everyone reading that I did not opt for tethering, so my iPhone data would have been above and beyond what I’ve shown above if that was the case. I did a test and in the three hours I’ve been sitting in this café syncing Twitter, email, RSS and uploading images to this blog, I’ve used 75MB of data in and 22MB out. If I was doing that tethered to my iPhone and not on the café’s Wi-Fi connection, it would count against that 2GB cap. The completely lame part of AT&T’s iPhone tethering is that it charges you $20 more just to tether your iPhone but doesn’t allow you more data. You’re still capped at 2GB. I’d happily pay $50 for 5GB of data with tethering on an iPhone but this isn’t an option.

This is mostly a rant but it shows that the choice to limit data bandwidth at a time when mobile phones are demanding more was a poor choice on one of the nation’s largest carriers and I’m paying for it by being a “data hog.”

What are your data usage rates like?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Metered Mobile Data Is Coming and Here’s How

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