Wireless Wars Heat Up as AT&T Joins the Unlimited Data Fray
AT&T appears to be the last domino to fall in the war for unlimited data plans that broke out among cell phone service providers recently. The company is following competitors Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint in allowing customers to sign up for such plans.
Technically, this is not the first unlimited plan AT&T has offered. Previously, customers who were also subscribers to either its DirecTV or U-Verse had the option of signing up for unlimited data. Now that requirement is effectively being waved for all customers. But the offer is far from a slam dunk for cell phone users, particularly when so many options are now available.
AT&T's new unlimited plan is priced at $100 a month for a single line and an extra $40 per month for each additional line, with maximum of four. For customers with four lines, AT&T charges $180, including a $40 credit that takes effect after two months, meaning that users will pay $220 for the first two months. Business customers will also be able to sign up, and take advantage of a deeper corporate discount.
The plan includes unlimited calls between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and unlimited texts to more than 120 countries. Customers will also be able to add AT&T's Roam North America feature for no additional charge, allowing them to use voice, text and data while in Canada and Mexico.
But there are some important caveats. For example, AT&T said that it has the right to throttle down network speeds after the first 22 GB of data are consumed. The plan also does not include hotspot data, something that is included in each of its competitors' plans.
The plan also comes with something called AT&T Stream Saver activated by default. The setting limits video resolution to below HD, so many users may want to switch that off before watching anything on their phones.
Still the Most Expensive Option
It's difficult to say if the new plan will win AT&T any new converts. Sprint and T-Mobile have been offering unlimited plans for a while, albeit with certain restrictions. Verizon finally jumped into the game a few weeks ago with its own unlimited plan, which seems to have prompted Sprint and T-Mobile to eliminate their restrictions.
AT&T's plan is the most expensive of the four plans for a single user. Sprint offers the cheapest plan at $50 a month for a single line with unlimited data. T-Mobile comes in at $70 and Verizon is offering its unlimited plan at $80. The other three plans also offer 10 GB of hotspot data, something that AT&T's plan lacks.
However, the company might have an edge with families or businesses that go through a ton of data and are all on the same plan. Even then, at $180 for four lines, AT&T is still twice as expensive as Sprint, which offers the same service for only $90 for four lines.