Two data plans are slated to debut Monday, but existing AT&T subscribers may keep and renew their unlimited plans.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

June 2, 2010

4 Min Read

Inside Apple's iPad: FCC Teardown Photos

Inside Apple's iPad: FCC Teardown Photos

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Inside Apple's iPad: FCC Teardown Photos

With AT&T's wireless network bursting at the seams in parts of the country and Apple poised to add to the congestion with new iPhones next week, AT&T has introduced new data plans aimed at easing the crunch on its network. Whether consumers will like the plans is another story.

Two new AT&T data plans are slated to debut Monday -- a $25 monthly DataPro plan with 2 gigabytes a month and a $15 monthly DataPlus plan with 200 megabytes per month.

"We're breaking free from the traditional 'one-size-fits-all' pricing model and making the mobile Internet more affordable to a greater number of people," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T's Mobility and Consumer Markets in a statement.

AT&T noted that the plans do not include Wi-Fi usage and do not incur additional charges at AT&T's 20,000-plus Wi-Fi Hot Spots.

iPhone and other smartphone customers who want to use their handset as a modem will be able to add tethering for an additional $20 a month. AT&T confirmed that iPhone tethering will be available when Apple releases its iPhone OS 4 this summer.

With a spectrum crisis looming due to the rapid growth of smartphones and the increasing use of streaming video, there are fears there won't be enough spectrum to go around. Already many AT&T iPhone users are plagued by dropped calls and AT&T has noted its network usage has grown 5,000 times in recent months.

Consumer complaints about the iPhone, many of them involving AT&T, are abundantly documented by both the FCC and the FTC.

iPhone Woes Revealed In FCC, FTC Consumer Complaints

In describing the new plans Tuesday, AT&T said it will help subscribers manage their plans by sending them text messages alerting them to their usage levels as well as a smartphone application displaying monthly usage. New subscribers will be required to choose from the two new plans, but existing AT&T subscribers can keep their current unlimited plans even when they renew their existing plans.

For the latest Apple tablet news, opinion and conversation, be sure to check out InformationWeek's Special Report: Tablet Wars -- Can Apple Three-peat?

AT&T said the $25 DataPro plan with 2 gigabytes of data is enough to send and receive 10,000 e-mails so long as they don't have attachments or for about 1,500 e-mails with average attachments. The plan would typically allow about 200 minutes of streaming video.

Customers may purchase additional gigabytes for $10. Subscribers with the $15 DataPlus plan would typically be able to send and receive about 1,000 e-mails with no attachments, or about 150 e-mails with attachments. Additional 200 megabytes of data usage can be purchased for $15.

AT&T said pricing for a smartphone voice and data bundling begins at $55 a month.

The new data plans also cover iPad customers, who may opt for the $25 2 GB plan to replace the current $30 unlimited plan. "iPad customers will continue to pre-pay for their wireless data plan and no contract is required," AT&T said in a release. "Existing iPad customers who have the $29.99 per month unlimited plan may keep that plan or switch to the new $25 per month plan with 2 GB of data."

While the metered charges aren't expected to have much of an immediate impact on smartphone usage, the new data plans are likely to put a lid on the growing use of video on handsets.

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