If I were an AT&T competitor, I would introduce similar pricing, though I'd probably raise the first tier's cap to 250MB. I'd definitely offer a limited form of rollover, so the overage is charged only if the average usage of, say, the previous two months exceeded the cap. Alternately, maybe the overage fee is refunded of the next month's usage is less by at least as much as the current month's is over the limit. But the principle is sound.
However, if anyone thinks that AT&T's usage-based pricing will fix the poor coverage that people in San Francisco, New York, and other cities typically experience on their iPhones and BlackBerrys, they'd be wrong. AT&T claims its new pricing covers 98 percent of all users' current data usage patterns. That means that at best, 2 percent of customers' usage will decline -- the worst 2 percent, to be sure -- as they end up paying more. That reduction won't free up enough bandwidth for the rest of us.
AT&T still has to beef up its 3G networks -- both the in-air spectrum and the backhaul to the Internet -- to handle its current customer base, never mind all the new users now buying iPads as if they were candy, all the new owners of iPhones that will result after next week's widely predicted announcement of a next-generation iPhone model, and all the Android OS devices projected to be sold as more Android devices ship this summer and fall. We may even see demand driven by the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 around Christmas. Mobile usage is going nowhere but up, as is the sophistication of the services available to them.
AT&T and other carriers need to figure out something better for international 3G data roaming than the exorbitant fees now the norm. So, AT&T, please follow up this new tiered, usage-based plan with with a reasonable international roaming scheme for others to copy. Your customers may actually begin to start liking you again.
This article, "Why AT&T is right about usage-based pricing for 3G data," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile computing at InfoWorld.com.