updated 07:50 am EDT, Wed June 2, 2010
ATT puts an end to unlimited data plans
AT&T today completely overhauled its data plans to at once limit them but also make them cheaper. The new maximum plan, DataPro, costs $25 per month but provides 2GB of data versus the earlier, $30 unlimited plan. In exchange, AT&T is partly dropping direct overage fees: those who run over the 2GB cap will pay $10 more for an extra 1GB of transfers.
Subscribers who are still on the $30 plan, including iPad owners, can keep their existing unlimited access and don't have to switch. New customers of all devices must use the new plans.
A very basic plan, DataPlus, is also rolling out. The service's 200MB cap is intended for only very casual use but, at $15 per month, costs half as much as the previous minimum smartphone plan; another 200MB is added on for $15. AT&T touts the plan as lowering the baseline for a smart plan to $55 per month.
The move, while an end to unlimited data, also comes with a lowering of the cost of data tethering: customers with the DataPro plan can add tethering for an extra $20 per month versus the previous $30, saving a total of $15 per month over the earlier costs. Those with unlimited data can't add the lower-priced tethering, AT&T told Electronista, although anyone with tethering will keep the grandfathered plan if they still want unlimited on-device data.
iPhone owners will finally have access to tethering after a year's delay and will get it as soon as iPhone 4.0 is available, AT&T said.
Notably, all of the plan changes take effect on June 7, the same day as the WWDC keynote and when Apple is expected to unveil the new iPhone.
While limited, AT&T's new plans are expected to cover the needs of even most heavy users; the carrier claims that 98 percent of smartphone users consume less than 2GB of data, although it didn't say how many of them were iPhone owners. The plans are also still relatively inexpensive compared to plans in Canada and Europe. A Rogers data plan with 2GB, for example, costs $45 per month on top of voice.
The timing of the move suggests that AT&T and Apple alike are both concerned about the minimum price of entry for an iPhone, which at the current $70 a month without texting is relatively expensive. Verizon has similar plans to what AT&T will have before the caps, but Sprint and T-Mobile both either lower the price of service or, in Sprint's case, offer unlimited messaging at the same price.