AT&T Changes Mobile Data Terms

Mobile data limitations could become a larger issue as more customers adopt smartphones and carriers increasingly subsidize netbooks.
AT&T has changed the terms of service for its wireless data plans, and this could potentially limit applications on the iPhone and other smartphones.

The company has said it needs to offer some form of control over its 3G data plans in order to maintain network integrity, as well as offer end users a consistent quality of service. But the updated terms of service could have dramatic impact on companies like Sling Media.

"This means, by way of example only, that checking e-mail, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, redirecting television signals for viewing on personal computers, Web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or supervisory control and data acquisition devices is prohibited," AT&T's updated terms of service says.

Sling Media has been trying to expand its Slingbox software onto mobile platforms like the iPhone. The company said it has submitted a SlingPlayer iPhone application to Apple's App Store but has been waiting for more than a month without approval.

Mobile data limitations are likely to become a larger issue as customers increasingly purchase smartphones and want to access the growing number of mobile app stores. The terms of service could also play a bigger role if the carriers begin to offer more subsidized netbooks with mobile data contracts.

AT&T has already drawn fire for its terms of service for mobile data, as an Oklahoma woman has filed a lawsuit against the carrier and RadioShack for receiving a $5,000 bill for exceeding her monthly data cap. The woman purchased a subsidized Acer Aspire One netbook with a two-year mobile data contract, but said the companies engaged in misleading advertising by not clearly specifying the consequences of exceeding the 5-GB monthly data cap. AT&T has not commented on the lawsuit, but its terms of service do address the overage fees associated with the data limits.

Netbooks and mobile broadband can be ideal ways to arm your road warriors, but there are still questions about connectivity and security. InformationWeek has written an independent report on how to equip your mobile workforce, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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