Buy iPad 3G Today Before New ATandT Data Plans Kick In

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-06

People who consume a lot of Web video and have been mulling whether or not to purchase an Apple iPad 3G must do it before the end of June 6 (today) to avoid paying overage when AT&T's new data plans kick in tomorrow.

Web TV startup Clicker crunched some numbers and found that AT&T's new data plans, which kick in June 7 in time for the iPhone 4.0 launch, will cost those who stream video content from Netflix, YouTube and other sources.

New iPad 3G users will regret not purchasing the current $29.99 unlimited data plan from AT&T unless they constantly use WiFi to connect to the Internet.

Current data plan subscribers will see their plans grandfathered in and may downgrade to one of AT&T's two new limited data plans.

These include DataPlus plan, for which subscribers will pay $15 a month for 200 megabytes of data, and DataPro plan, for which users will pay $25 per month for 2 gigabytes of data.

Those who go over the DataPlus data cap will pay another $15 for 200MB, and those who exceed their data limit in DataPro will pay $10 per 1GB.  

AT&T claimed the DataPlus (200MB) plan is good enough to let users watch 20 minutes of streaming video per month, while the DataPro (2GB) plan will let users view 200 minutes of standard-quality video a month.

While AT&T spun the changes as a positive for users, the new plans indicate AT&T is protecting its bandwidth costs for a device Apple intended for mass media consumption on the Web.

Clicker CEO Jim Lanzone said June 4 AT&T's new plans do not bode well for new iPad 3G users intent on watching videos from YouTube, NBC, Netflix, Hulu and other sources. Those who like to watch a lot TV or video programming online will be dinged with overage charges.

Clicker ran tests and found that 2MB were used to watch a 2-minute YouTube video. If 2GB is 2,048MB, a user could watch 17 hours of programming on YouTube before using up all of their bandwidth for the month, but only if that user does nothing else on their iPad that eats up bandwidth.

The Clicker team watched an episode "Arrested Development" on Netflix that ran 21:54 and consumed 55MB of data, meaning that Netflix consumes 2.5MB for every minute of streaming video watched. 

So under the new data plans, iPad 3G users could watch 13.65 hours of programming on Netflix before using up their allotted 2GB of bandwidth if they do nothing else with the tablet.

Data consumption gets worse for DataPro subscribers, who pay another $20 per month for the new tethering option.

Considering that those who have the unlimited data plan before June 7 will be safe from the new plans, Lanzone advised: "If you don't have the unlimited plan, get it before June 7."

However, those who opt not to go unlimited should use WiFi as much as possible to stream video on their iPad. Apple has the iPad 3G here.

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