AT&T Makes Changes to Data Plans including iPhone OS 4 Tethering

AT&T [T] today pushed out a press release detailing new wireless data plans which they say aim to make mobile broadband/internet access cheaper.

Plans start with a $15/month entry plan or a $25/month plan with 10 times more data ie, 200MB vs 2GB. The plans will not be forced on users unless they want or need to sign a new contract, ie when getting a new phone for example.
out a contract extension.

“AT&T helps mobilize everything on the Internet – your favourite web sites, TV shows, music, games and social networks. Virtually everything previously done while sitting at a computer can now be done on the go,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “To give more people the opportunity to experience these benefits, 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.”

The first plan is called DataPlus and has 200 megabytes of data. This allows around 1000 attachment-less emails to be sent or 150 emails with attachments. 400 webpages can be viewed or 50 photos uploaded to social media sites. About 20 minutes of streaming can be done with this plan. It costs $15/month and although it doesn’t sound like much data, a number of people might be surprised at how little they actually use throughout the month.

For those who go over the 200MB data in the month will be billed another $15 for another 200MB to use in the current month. AT&T say that 65% of all smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month on average. If you are one of those 65% then it could be worth you switching to this plan.

The DataPro plan is the other plan and comes with 2GB of data. This allows for 10,000 non-attachment emails or 1500 with attachments to be sent and received. 4000 web pages can be viewed along with 500 photo uploads. 200 minutes of streaming can also be done with this plan. The plan costs $25/month and for those going over, a charge of $10 for 1GB extra will be charged. AT&T comment that 98% of customers use less than 2GB of data on average per month. If you are one of the 98% then you are essentially saving yourself from a $30/month unlimited plan that you don’t really need.

Tethering was also finally mentioned. This will allow smartphone (and iPhone) users to pay $20/month on top of a DataPro plan and tether with a laptop, PC or any other device that can connect to the smartphone. For Apple [AAPL] devices, tethering will be made available when iPhone OS 4.0 is released.

With the new wireless data plans, pricing for a smartphone voice and data bundle now starts at just $54.99 per month for an individual plan, or $24.99 per month for an additional line on a FamilyTalk plan, $15 per month less than the price of the previous entry level bundle.

Apple iPad customers who are currently on the $30/month unlimited plan can opt to go to the $25/month 2GB plan if they wish. New customers do not get the unlimited option.

What is worrying is that the iPad could potentially use more data than a smartphone. AT&T commented that 98% of smartphone users use less than 2GB of data, but they didn’t say how much data iPad users use. If more than 2GB then your monthly plan would go up to $35/month with the 2GB of $25 and the extra $10 for the 1GB added on. It’s too early to see if this will be a problem or not though.

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