AT&T announced new data plans today dramatically reducing the amount of network bandwidth access that AT&T customers will have in the future. Currently, iPhone customers have an unlimited data plan for $30. Under the new plan, you get:
- 200 MB for $15 per month
- 2 GB for $25 per month
iPhone tethering will be available for an additional $20 per month (meaning you can use your iPhone as a wireless modem). Existing iPhone customers can keep their unlimited plans for now, at least until they upgrade their phones I imagine.
What it Means in Practical Terms
I wanted to get a grip on my data usage and what this plan means to me. I went online and studied my bill, but couldn't find actual data usage, so I called AT&T customer service. I was told I used approximately 58 MB (57 and change) last month. I have an unlimited Family texting plan on the phone, so texts (even multimedia ones) don't count toward this total. I use a bunch of Apps including Twitter, Facebook, ESPN and MLB and I don't use a lot of data. I download a couple of Apps and an occassional song or video from iTunes in any given month.
I asked the customer service representative where I would start to run into problems with data usage and without hesitation, she said it involved downloading video. She said she downloads HD video at about 700 MB a pop. With that kind of usage, she would use up her allotted 2GB very quickly.
If you exceed the 2GB threshold, each additional GB will cost you $10. As my colleague, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols tweeted:
"The new AT&T plan essentially kills the iPad as a high-end video platform."
I'm wondering what's going on inside Apple today, and if they were aware of the data usage changes. I can't imagine they are happy about it. Chances are if I'm worried about data usage, I might be reluctant to download videos from iTunes on my phone. That could have a big impact on Apple's business model.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
As my friend Bill Swallow Tweeted:
Dear @attnews @shareatt, if #AT&T drops the $30 unlimited data plan, you will lose me as a customer.
I didn't quite understand the implications of this announcement this morning until I looked into it more carefully, but now that I do I'm as unhappy as Swallow. AT&T customers should be mad as hell about this change over because chances are it will lead to frequent overages.
We will hear from AT&T, as we have from Comcast and other network stewards, that these plans cover the vast majority of users, except when they don't. And those people who fall through the cracks could be in for a rude awakening when the monthly bill arrives and they learn that junior has been using the iPad to watch high definition videos. Oops so sorry you have that additional charge (not).
AT&T is trying to find a way to make money. Can't blame them for that, but as Facebook has learned, if customers yell loudly enough (or speak with their wallets by walking away), then they may have no choice but to respond. People buy these devices precisely because they want to watch videos. This is especially true for the iPad. Why not simply continue to offer the option of unlimited usage for those who want it. If you're afraid to be in the networking business because people actually use your network, you might want to consider another line of work.