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AT&T Eliminates The Unlimited Data Plan

AT&T Eliminates The Unlimited Data Plan

AT&T announced Wednesday that it would start offering metered data plans for mobile device users rather than a $30 all-you-can-use monthly plan.

For people who use less than 200 megabytes of data a month, the price of the new plan is effectively cut in half.

The latest announcement could signal the beginning of a new arms race between mobile phone carriers. In the past, carriers tried to woo customers by offering mobile packages that were gauged by the number of voice minutes available each month.

But as my colleague Jenna Wortham wrote last month, people are talking on mobile phones less as data usages continues to rise.

AT&T also announced a new service that would let smartphone users tether their devices, including the iPhone, to a computer and use the phone to access the Internet as a modem. The tethering feature will cost an additional $20 a month. Apple iPhone users have long requested that service.

The lowest-priced data option is called DataPlus and will cost $15 a month. It gives mobile phone subscribers access to 200 megabytes of data each month enough to send and receive 1,000 e-mails without attachments and an additional 150 with attachments. The plan would also offer access to 400 Web pages, the ability to post 50 photos to social Web sites and watch up to 20 minutes of streaming video through the mobile phone.

AT&T said in a press release that 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data a month on average. If DataPlus users go over the allotted 200 megabytes in a single month they will have the option to purchase an additional 200 megabytes for another $15.

DataPro, the next step up, provides 2 gigabytes of data a month to a single phone for $25 a month. AT&T says, on average, 98 percent of its current mobile customers use less than 2 gigabytes of data each month.

The DataPro option will allow mobile phone customers to send and receive 10,000 e-mails without attachments and 1,500 e-mails with attachments.

In addition, users will be able to view 4,000 Web sites and post up to 500 photos online through their phone. They will also be able to watch three hours of streaming video.

If a DataPro subscriber goes over the 2 gigabytes, they will be able to purchase an additional gigabyte for $10.

The tethering feature is only available to the DataPro customers.

The service changes will go into effect on June 7 with the expected release of the iPhone’s new operating system, iPhone OS4.

Although the $30-a-month unlimited data plan will be eliminated, existing AT&T customers will have the option to be grandfathered on their existing monthly charge.

Users of the iPad will be affected by the service changes, too. AT&T said new iPad customers would have the option to purchase a $25 monthly plan for access to 2 gigabytes of data. This will replace the $29.99 unlimited access option currently offered for the iPad.



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