ATandT to Offer iPhone Tethering, Cheaper Data Plans
AT&T began to answer the question of how wireless carriers will
wean data-devouring customers away from the all-you-can-eat pricing
plans they've become accustomed to and toward more variable pricing models instead.
AT&T on June 2 introduced two new wireless data plans - as well as a tethering option - with prices lower than many customers have been paying, but that free AT&T of the obligation to support every streaming high-definition movie, shared high-resolution image and game of Call of Duty.
"We're breaking free from the traditional -one-size-fits-all' pricing model and making the mobile Internet more affordable to a greater number of people," AT&T President and CEO Ralph de la Vega said in a statement.
With a new DataPlus plan, subscribers can pay $15 a month for 200MB of data - enough, says AT&T, to send and received 1,000 attachment-free emails and 150 with attachments, post 50 photos on Facebook or the like, view 400 Web pages and watch 20 minute of streaming video.
Exceed the 200MB limit during the month, and AT&T essentially doubles you up that month - adding another 200MB for an additional $15. Although, AT&T adds, 65 percent of its smartphone customers currently use less that 200MB of data per month, on average.
The second plan, DataPro, bumps the data up to 2GB per month for $25. Those who exceed the limit receive an additional 1GB of data for $10 for use during that cycle. AT&T adds that 98 percent of customers use less than 2GB of data per month. That may make this the winning scenario all around - customers currently paying $30 for unlimited plans can save a few bucks, and the carrier can make some extra cash on the very small percentage of users that it has blamed for the most egregious data abuses on its network.
Smartphone owners who choose the DataPro plan will also have the option of adding tethering for an additional $20 per month. With tethering, customers can use their smartphone as a modem to connect a laptop, netbook or other WiFi-capable device to the Internet.
The tethering option will apply to iPhone owners as well, once Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer.
New iPad customers will also have the option of replacing their existing $29.99 unlimited plan with a $25 plan for 2GB per month.
Customers on any AT&T plan will additionally still have access to the carrier's 20,000-plus WiFi hotspots.
"AT&T helps mobilize everything on the Internet - your favorite Websites, TV shows, music, games and social networks," said de la Vega. "Virtually everything previously done while sitting at a computer can now be done on the go."
Seeming to respond to governmental pressure - or at least criticism - such as from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who has brought the issue of early termination fees to the Federal Communications Commission and shown that many Americans are confused about their cell phone bills and one-time fees, AT&T will also be helping customers to better manage their accounts.
"AT&T will also help customers to manage their wireless data usage by sending free text messages after customers reach different usage intervals and by providing online tools, including a smartphone app that shows monthly usage information," the carrier said in a statement. Not just for iPhones, the app is available in several stores.
The new AT&T data plans will be available June 7, and current customers can choose to sign up without extending their contracts.