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AT&T Drops Unlimited Data Plans; Preps For iPhone Tethering

AT&T (NYSE: T) is getting out of the unlimited data business for smartphones, pitching it as a way for most users to save money. They are replacing the old $30 monthly plan with unlimited usage with new plans that cost less — $15 for the DataPlus 200 MB a month, $25 for DataPro 2 GB — and include access to AT&T’s 20,000-plus WiFi hotspot network as encouragement to use WiFi for data. Current users can keep their unlimited plans when the changes take effect June 7.

Tethering to smartphones — including the iPhone when the new OS4 comes out this summer — requires a DataPro plan and an additional $20 a month. It’s not clear whether existing unlimited plan customers will be able to tether or if it will require stepping down to that plan.

Each plan comes with automatic additions for overuse, a kind of data overdraft protection: DataPro plan subs get 1 GB at $10, DataPlus includes an automatic additional 200 MB for $15. AT&T says 65 percent of its smartphone data subs use less than 200 MB a month; 98 percent use less than 2 GB. AT&T has made it very easy to gauge data use with bar charts that show the last few months at a glance. I’ve averaged 1 GB the past couple of months but I don’t watch a lot of video on my iPhone. The other iPhone user in my house hasn’t been higher than 50 MBs in the past few months.

9 Responses to “AT&T Drops Unlimited Data Plans; Preps For iPhone Tethering”

  1. ATT just forced me from my unlimited media max to the 2gb limit plan. WTF?! Legal say that can do that if the new plan is cheaper…which it is technically: 29 down to 25 but 10 bucks for every extra gb so it will not be around 45 dollars for me…. fuck ATT

  2. iPhoneuser

    I think the 200MB limit is a joke. I regularly use 4-5 Gb a month. My data reset the 6th due to my billing cycle and I already have 131MB of usage in those two days. ATT is going to lose a bunch of customers on this iphone. I will not buy the new iphone solely because of this new data plan. I am always traveling and need constant access to my email, and other things. I do not want to be watching my usage everyday worrying about going over or not. Bad call on ATT’s part. Maybe things will change as the sales go down as the year progresses.

  3. Verizon has a soft cap of 5GB/month included with the $30/month data plans. By soft cap means that it isn’t really written anywhere, and as long as you aren’t continuously exceeding it, or exceeding it by breaking their terms – then you will be all set.

  4. I hope they don’t force people to change their data plan when the iphone 4G comes out. I was planning on getting one but not if they are gonna make me change data plans. While I don’t go over 2G most months, sometimes I do.

  5. contentnext

    Agreed. This sounds like it’s designed to provide ATT with a more easily determined amount of usage from their customers. I rarely go over 2GB per month (though it does happen, especially when I’m traveling) so this actually sounds like a better deal for most people. I do think the pricing is fairly steep though. 5 dollars less is kind of a slap in the face considering 30 a month was unlimited before. Now I have to decide if the 5 dollars less most months will be worth the occasional penalty or if I should just stay with 30GB’s. Tethering should be free though. You are already paying for the bandwidth, how you use it shouldn’t require additional fees. I’ve never understood fees just for tethering.

  6. dieselm

    This is sort of built-in “inflation protection” for AT&T.

    As higher bandwidth and the apps it brings become available, the customer gets the expected increase in bandwidth but the pricing is capped by number of bits. And as the carrier’s bandwidth costs fall, their profits increase.