This week AT&T made big news by cutting the prices of data plans for the iPhone, iPad and other smartphones and dropping the "unlimited" option. The change, will not affect current subscribers of the "unlimited" plan, only new subscribers or individuals who change their plan. The new AT&T data plans will offer 200MB for $15 or 2GB for $25 a month, current subscribers can keep their old plan.
The move comes ahead of the launch of the next iPhone, which will allow multitasking, the ability to run a program like Pandora in the background while doing another task, which will likely lead to more data usage. The new plan will also allow iPhone users to tether their iPhone to a laptop for an additional $20 and share the same 2GB of bandwidth.
The change has already generated much debate as users are worried that despite short upfront savings they will end up paying more in the long run if they use more data. One user was so upset by the change he emailed the CEO of AT&T, but since he had already sent another email to the CEO, he found himself threatened with a lawsuit. AT&T has since apologized for the legal threat, but the customer has already left for Sprint, which charges a $10 a month premium for access to the faster 4G network.
The move may sound like a big change when you look at going from unlimited to 2GB, but in reality unlimited plans are capped at 5GB on most carriers anyway. The new 2GB data plan will, according to AT&T, accommodate 65% of iPhone users and offers users an additional 1 GB of data for $10. Users of the 200MB plan can purchase an additional 1GB of data for $15 which is annoyingly priced higher but in stark contrast to the overage charges that come with data use on some cellphones. Notably, a Verizon Wireless user was charged $18,000 for a little over 1GB of use.
Verizon is expected to move away from all-you-can-eat data plans when it launches a 4G LTE network in select markets later this year. No details are available on the future pricing, but you can expect to pay for a set amount of data.
For heavy users this will be a pain, and an expense, but it is a step forward in making data use easier for consumers to manage. AT&T is reportedly going to offer users a program to monitor their data use and stay within their limits. In the end users who need more bandwidth will pay for it, and those who don't will save money. Use more of the service you pay more' use less and you pay less. It is that simple.
Verizon, Sprint and all the other cell phone carriers should take note of the consumer-friendly overage fees that have been put into play at AT&T. There is absolutely no reason that a cell phone user should receive charges ranging into the thousands for a data overage. AT&T's overage plan is one that works, the only way I could see it improved is if users could opt out of overages the same way they can opt out of overdraft protection at their bank.
The best part about the market is that if Verizon or Sprint wants to continue to offer an unlimited, or 5GB plan, to customers, they can, and consumers are free to leave AT&T for an unlimited plan.
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