New AT&T data plan | Lower prices and lower limits

AT&T vs. Verizon service coverage

AT&T's new data plan's success will hinge on the reaction of other carriers. Image from Flickr.

AT&T has announced new data plan pricing for smartphones and tablets that will go into effect on Monday. This new AT&T data plan pricing is intended to help reduce network usage while providing more transparency in the billing process. The real question, though, is whether other wireless carriers will follow suit.

AT&T data plans will eliminate ‘unlimited’

When the iPhone was first introduced on the AT&T network, the one-size-fits-all data plan was a $29.99 a month “unlimited” plan. The definition of “unlimited” however, was sometimes brought into question. Some AT&T customers got huge data-use bills that seemed to indicate there was a limit to network usage that they were not aware of. Some customers have claimed that they had to get no fax payday loans just to pay their bills. Heavy use of the data network has also led to dropped calls and slow data speeds that have been a tough sticking point between the carrier and customers.

The new AT&T data plans

The new data plans revealed by AT&T will have three “levels” of data use. The first will be a $15 plan that will allow 200 mb of data per month. A $25 plan will allow 2 gb of data per month. Tethering, or connecting a laptop to the internet through an iPhone, will be an additional $20 per month. These new AT&T data plans will send a free text message to users when they are approaching their data limit. These data limits will not get started when the smartphone or tablet is being used at a WiFi hotspot – only the 3G network. Users that already have a contract with AT&T will be allowed to keep their “unlimited” plans and pricing, even when renewing their contracts.

Effects of the AT&T data plans

While the new AT&T data plans will reduce cost for light data users, heavy data users will feel the strongest effects. Many wireless carriers and app developers have been working to move streaming video and data-intense applications onto smartphones and tablets. By limiting data use so heavily, AT&T will be limiting the available applications on its 3G or 4G network. The chairman of the FCC has expressed repeated concern over the “bandwidth crisis” that smartphones have created. If other wireless carriers do not follow the AT&T data plan model and limit their data usage, then heavy users will probably just switch carriers. Though demand for wireless data services has increased dramatically in the last few years, capacity is growing at a much slower rate.