Just days before the expected launch of the iPhone 4G, AT&T is making significant changes to its wireless data pricing plans. The company is positioning the new plans as "more affordable" for people who want to use the mobile Internet by abandoning the one-price-fits-all model.
Essentially, new customers can choose between two data plans: A $15-a-month entry plan or a $25-a-month plan that offers 10 times more data. Existing customers can stick with the plan they have until their contract expires, or they can migrate to a new plan without adding time to their contract.
Regardless of the plan they choose, AT&T is offering unlimited access to more than 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.S. at no additional charge. Customers can also use unlimited Wi-Fi anywhere else it's available, such as in the home or the workplace. The new plan also offers a tethering option.
"This is good for AT&T. Over time, this will help them regulate how much data they are pumping through the networks," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "It's common knowledge that there's a limited amount of bandwidth and offering truly unlimited plans isn't profitable -- and in some cases it isn't even possible."
Broadening the Smartphone Market
As Greengart sees it, the plan AT&T is embarking on opens up the market in important ways. First, the $15-a-month option, called the DataPlus plan, can save customers up to 50 percent off their wireless data charges and is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send e-mail, and use social-networking apps.
"If what you've been looking for is a smartphone-class device, but you are not convinced that you are going to be using a tremendous amount of data or you can't afford today's $30-a-month plan, this opens up smartphones to a whole different group of people who have been sitting on the sidelines," Greengart said.
"In some cases, this group has been buying expensive feature phones because they want a smartphone-class experience, but they don't want to pay the full ride for data. This gives them an option to do so."
Finally ... iPhone Tethering
The $25-a-month DataPro plan offers two gigabytes of data. That's enough to send and receive 10,000 e-mails (or 1,500 e-mails with attachments), plus view 4,000 web pages, plus post 500 photos to social-media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video. Greengart said this is a better deal than the "unlimited" data plan for $30 a month because most consumers don't use two gigs of data.
"The way that AT&T is rolling this out is pro-consumer. They are allowing anyone who has the unlimited plan today to be grandfathered in, and they are giving consumers the ability to see how much data they've actually been using," Greengart said. "So you can take a look and see if you want to stay on that $30-a-month plan or if it makes more sense to save $5 a month and still use all the data you were using before."
Finally, smartphone consumers, including iPhone users, who choose the DataPro plan have the option to add tethering for an additional $20 per month. Tethering lets customers use tethering-enabled smartphones as a modem to provide a broadband connection for laptop computers, netbooks or other computing devices. Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4.0 this summer.
Posted: 2010-06-03 @ 12:15pm PT
maybe a bit too naive. att lets you save $5 but should you ever go over 2gb how much will they hit you for?
also, will tethering be possible between i-phone and i-pad?
Posted: 2010-06-03 @ 6:53am PT
I have a $25 data plan on tmobile (unlimited) and i can use tethering.....
Posted: 2010-06-02 @ 4:51pm PT
Until the big players in cell phones (such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) begin offering flat-rate unlimited plans (like MetroPCS or Boost Mobile), then it will always be too expensive. I'm so close to dumping AT&T and switching everything over to something like Boost or MetroPCS that I can almost "taste" it. I just fear a lower service level; and am still researching that.