AT&T announced yesterday that they are eliminating unlimited data plans, effective June 7th. On the same day, the $29.99 unlimited plan will be replaced by two new wireless data plans: "DataPlus" (200 MB a month for $15) and "DataPro" (2 GB a month for $25). Both plans also include unlimited access to the 20,000+ AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S.
Existing AT&T smartphone customers will have the choice of switching to a new plan or keeping the unlimited data plan, without a contract extension. According to AT&T, 65% of customers use less than 200 MB of data and 98% use less than 2 GB. So for most people, these new plans will save them money.
However, if you exceed your data allowance, the new plans get costly very quickly. Each extra 200 MB chunk on the DataPlus plan is $15 and each extra 1 GB runs $10 on the DataPro plan. AT&T, helpfully, is offering a variety of ways for customers to check their data usage, including text and email notifications that will start to kick in when customers reach 65%, 90% and 100% of their allowance.
AT&T also announced that they are FINALLY offering tethering for the iPhone with the DataPro plan, so you can use your iPhone with OS 4.0 (or any other smartphone) as a broadband connection for your laptop. Unfortunately, the new tethering option is a ridiculous $20 additional per month, and provides no additional data allowance. I'm already paying for the data I use on the smartphone, why do I have to pay again to access that data with tethering? This just doesn't make sense to me. (UPDATE: clarified that the tethering is new for the iPhone, AT&T previously offered tethering for other smartphones).
More information is available on the new plans online at www.att.com/dataplans.
With 4G network just around the corner, data usage on smartphones should increase significantly. It will be interesting to see whether other carriers follow AT&T's example.