The price of data is going up for new AT&T wireless customers. But they'll be getting more data for their extra buck.
Today, the wireless carrier announced new pricing for smartphone and tablet customers that goes into effect on Sunday. Don't worry about your existing plan being changed if you currently do business with AT&T -- the carrier says current subscribers can keep their current plans if they don't want to pick any of the new options.
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Those options start at $20 per month for 300MB of data for smartphone users. Previously, AT&T's lowest-cost data plan went for $15 per month, but you only got 200MB of data. AT&T is now charging $30 per month for 3GB of data, up from $25 per month for 2GB of data. Its tethering plan -- previously a $45 monthly fee for 4GB of data -- now costs $50 for 5GB.
On the tablet front, AT&T is offering 3GB of data for $30 a month and 5GB for $50; its current $15-per-month rate for 250MB of data will remain. As before, tablet data plans are available on a monthly basis that users can cancel at any time.
AT&T is quite clear on the reason for the data plan changes: People are using more data. "Mobile broadband has become part of our daily lives," wrote Mark Collins, AT&T Mobility's senior vice president of data and voice products, in a blog post announcing the new plans, "and data usage has skyrocketed." AT&T expects that trend to continue as it deploys its higher speed 4G LTE network across the U.S.
In announcing the change, AT&T promised to keep helping customers manage their data use in the form of regular usage alerts. The carrier also highlighted online tools such as a calculator that helps customers estimate how much data they use.
It will be interesting to see how other carriers respond to AT&T's changes -- if they respond at all. After AT&T dropped unlimited data in favor of tiered pricing in 2010, Verizon Wireless followed suit a year later. Sprint remains the only iPhone carrier in the U.S. to offer an unlimited data plan to new customers.
AT&T's new rate plans bring it more in line with what Verizon charges its smartphone customers. Verizon data plans start at $30 a month for 2GB of data and also include 5GB ($50 a month) and 10GB ($80 a month) options; the hotspot option costs an addition $20 but adds 2GB of extra data. Sprint's monthly smartphone plan charges $10 for unlimited data and texting; hotspot connectivity is a $30-per-month option.