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6/2/2010
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Eric Ogren
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AT&T Kills Off Unlimited Data Before iPhone Launch

AT&T today introduced completely overhauled pricing for wireless data plans. The bad news is, no more unlimited data for smartphones and the iPad. The good news is that iPhone users will finally be able to tether to their laptops.

AT&T today introduced completely overhauled pricing for wireless data plans. The bad news is, no more unlimited data for smartphones and the iPad. The good news is that iPhone users will finally be able to tether to their laptops.Starting June 7, AT&T customers will have new choices for data plans. For sparse users of wireless data, the new plans will probably help save a few dollars per month. Heavy data users, however, are going to shell out more money per month. Here's the rundown.

DataPlus

This is the plan for those who barely use the mobile Internet. For $15 per month, it offers customers 200MB of data. If users go over that 200MB limit, rather than charge by-the-kilobye overage fees, AT&T will automatically charge another $15 that month and provide an additional 200MB of data. Those users will also have the option to update to the DataPro plan.

AT&T says that 65% of its customers use less than 200MB of data per month, and this plan is aimed mainly at those who send light email, browse the web, and perhaps check social networking sites.

DataPro

This plan is intended for heavier users. For $25 per month, it offers customers 2GB of data. If users go over that 2GB limit, rather than charge by-the-kilobye overage fees, AT&T will automatically charge another $10 that month and provide an additional 1GB of data. AT&T also indicated that if users want to add 1GB buckets to their monthly plan, they can do that, too. That means if you want 3GB of data, you have to pay $35 per month, 4GB costs $45, 5GB costs $55.

Look at that last one again: 5GB for $55. Current iPhone and iPad customers already have access to 5GB for $30 per month. Starting June 7, new iPhone and new iPad 3G customers will not have access to unlimited data plans.

AT&T claims that 98% of its wireless data customers consume less than 2GB per month. That means the vast majority of users will probably be OK without resorting to the more expensive options.

What about existing customers? AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom explained, "Existing customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension. They are also not required to switch to the new plans if they renew their contract or switch to another smartphone. However, if they switch to one of the new plans, they will not be able to go back to their old unlimited plan." In other words, if you're an iPhone owner, you can keep your unlimited data plan if you so choose.

Tethering

That brings us to tethering. AT&T announced that iPhone's will (finally!!!) be allowed to tether when the new iPhone goes on sale later this summer. iPhone owners wishing to use their iPhone's as a laptop modem will need to pay $20 above and beyond their existing data plan. So, if you have the $25 2GB data plan and choose the tethering option, your lowest cost is $45. If you have the $35 3GB plan, your lowest tethering cost is $55, and so on.

This pricing is in line with what some of the wireless operators already charge for tethering. AT&T wasn't able to say if that $20 option is available to those who want to grandfather in their $30 unlimited plans from previous contracts.

The new plans go into effect June 7, which is the day Steve Jobs kicks off Apple's WWDC in San Francisco.

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