AT&T caps data plan, introduces iPhone tethering

AT&T eliminated the unlimited wireless data plan for smartphones, and announced that it will start allowing tethering for iPhones – for a fee.

Quit laughing, kid. Those text messages are going to start costing your parents a lot of money! AT&T announced Wednesday it would no longer offer an unlimited data plan for free.

AT&T announced new wireless data plans today that eliminate unlimited usage for new customers but make accessing the Web from a smartphone cheaper for most people.

The two new plans, dubbed DataPlus and DataPro, cost $15 and $25, respectively, per billing cycle. The first plan offers 200 megabytes (MB) of data and the second offers 2 gigabytes (GB), or ten times as much.

Customers who have previously signed up for the unlimited data plan at $29.99 per month can opt to keep it, but leaving the unlimited plan is permanent.

"Once you leave the unlimited data plan you will not be able to go back," an AT&T representative told TechNewsDaily.

However, AT&T representatives also confirmed that 98 percent of its smartphone client base uses less than 2 GB of data a month on average, so in theory the new, cheaper, limited 2 GB plan will end up saving many people five greenbacks a month.

"One of the main reasons we did this was to offer a lower entry point to smartphone users," the representative said.

As for iPad users, they can sign up for DataPro or keep their present $29.99 unlimited plans.

To help prevent customers from racking up extra data charges on their iPad, AT&T will send out texts when iPad users reach 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their allotted total. Also, an app called myWireless can be used to keep track of data usage.

DataPlus people who go over their allotted megabytes will be charged an $15 for every additional 200 MB. DataPro signees who go overboard will get an additional 1 GB for $10.

The two new plans start Monday June 7.

Tethering available

Those customers who opt for the DataPro plan can also take advantage of tethering for an additional $20 per billing cycle. Tethering lets customers use their smartphones as a modem to provide a broadband connection for laptop computers, netbooks or other computing devices.

For the iPhone, the tethering option will become available when Apple releases the next-generation iPhone with OS 4 this summer. AT&T had been promising this tethering option for about a year and a half and apparently the company's network is now able to handle the anticipated increase in traffic. AT&T also confirmed to TechNewDaily that tethering would not be part of a contract. Users can turn tethering on and off at will, and the relevant charge will be applied to the bill.

Here's AT&T's full breakdown of its new data plans:

  • DataPlus. Provides 200 MB of data – for example, enough to send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video – for just $15 per month. This plan is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send email and use social networking apps. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle. Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.
  • DataPro. Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video – for $25 per month. Should a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle.
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