AT&T clears away all you can eat data buffet

The unlimited data cull continues, with US carrier AT&T calling time on its flat rate all you can eat offering from June 7.

It’s a move that’s been a long time coming, as anyone who’s been to an industry event in the past 12 months or so will have heard plenty of chat of this sort among the telecoms industry’s movers and shakers. So we can expect much more of the same.

But is it all bad for the consumer? As AT&T says, it will make mobile data more affordable for more people – users can now pick up either a $15 per month entry plan or a $25 per month plan with ten times more data.

The DataPlus tariff provides 200MB of data per month for $15, with users charged an extra $15 for 200MB more if they exceed that amount.

The DataPro packages provides 2GB for $25 per month, with users charged $10 for an additional 1GB of data if they exceed that amount.

AT&T says that at present, around 65 per cent of its smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month on average, and 98 per cent of smartphone customers use less than 2GB of data a month on average.

For smarthphone/iPhone/iPad etc. users, the $25 per month 2GB plan replaces the existing $29.99 unlimited plan, although existing users will be able to hang onto their tariffs. For now.

All the bundles still include unlimited wifi access at partner hotspots.

To help with bill shock, AT&T said it will send subscribers three text notifications or emails – after they reach 65 per cent, 90 per cent and 100 per cent of their data threshold. Smartphone users, including iPhone users, can also download an app that allows them to track data usage.

The US carrier also revealed that it will introduce iPhone tethering as an option when Apple releases iPhone OS4 this summer. Tethering will be available to DataPro plan users for an additional $20 per month. The company did not say whether tethering data usage would be capped.

Join and policy management firm Openet for a webinar on this very topic on June 9

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  1. Avatar Michael Manzo 03/06/2010 @ 6:46 pm

    In saturated markets such as the US and UK, the success of data-hungry applications and consumers’ expectations for all-you-can-eat data plans are leading to a capacity crunch. AT&T is the first operator to face the elephant in the room, but I expect many other operators to follow.

    There is a need to rethink the way operators allocate existing capacity. In many markets, flat plans have become the rule for data-hungry devices such as the iPhone, creating no incentive for users to monitor their behaviour. Creating tailored services and differentiated plans could help consumers save on their bills and motivate them to adapt their use, optimising the way the network is utilised. Network operators need to put parameters in place so that all consumers receive the network performance guaranteed in their contracts. But for that to happen, they need to re-evaluate their pricing strategy.

    AT&T is the first to face the taboo of flat rate plans and offer consumers a transparent and fair deal for their data consumption. This is a brave move and one that will force the mobile industry to face the capacity crunch challenge and rethink current business models.

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