Phones

AT&T, Where's the Pooled Data Plan with Rollover Megabytes?

AT&T has pulled the plug on unlimited data for its home DSL and Uverse customers. The move to capped data comes only nine months after AT&T ended unlimited access for its mobile data plans, and sets a concerning precedent. For me, though, it just begs the question of why AT&T can't bundle those things up for a better deal.

AT&T residential customers have enjoyed unlimited data up to now, but--according to AT&T--the vast majority of its customers only use about 18GB per month. AT&T claims that only two percent of its customers will come close to exceeding the 150GB cap for DSL, or the 250GB cap on Uverse data. The AT&T statistics are similar to the numbers AT&T shared about mobile data consumption--where supposedly only two percent of the AT&T wireless customers need more than 2GB per month of data.

Data is data is data--so why do I have to pay for separate plans for each device?
I switched two of the three smartphones on my AT&T family plan to the 200MB data plan when AT&T switched things up. They weren't using that much anyway, so switching plans allowed me to save $15 a month on each device. After exceeding the 200MB cap a couple times, I eventually upgraded one of the two to the 2GB plan--plenty of data and still $5 less than I was paying for unlimited.

But, now I am paying $30 for unlimited data on one phone, $25 for 2GB of data on the second, and $15 for 200MB of data on the third, plus $45 a month for 12Mbps data through Uverse which is now capped at 250GB. Assume for a minute that I changed my unlimited plan to the 2GB plan--I would be paying $110 per month for a combined total of 254.2GB of data. But, according to AT&T, odds are good that I only really need less than 20GB between all of the devices combined.

Of course, I haven't yet taken into account that I am also paying an additional $30 a month for unlimited text messaging on the wireless family plan. A text message is just data--and, in fact, AT&T reports text message usage within the data usage when viewing account data--so I am not really sure why I have to pay for it separate from the data I am already paying for. Add that in, and we're looking at $140 per month for massive data capacity that I am using only a fraction of.

Then, there are the additional fees for tethering. AT&T is now offering a $45 data plan that includes the 2GB plan plus an additional 2GB for a combined total of 4Gb of data capacity that can be shared across multiple devices using the Wi-Fi hotspot functionality in phones like the iPhone 4. But, what if I don't need any additional data capacity? Why can't I just turn on the hotspot and share my base 2GB with other devices without paying more money?

I think AT&T is on to something, though, with the rollover minutes it offers on the voice plans. I have a pool of minutes that are shared between all of my mobile phones, and the minutes we don't use carry over to the next month. So, AT&T--when can we drop the pretense of treating residential and wireless data separately, or paying for each device individually, and get something similar for data plans?

How about a pooled data plan? Give me some tiered options--say 50GB, 150GB, and 250GB--and let me buy a combined data plan that is shared between my home and mobile devices, and let my unused megabytes rollover to the next month.

Oh, and stop pretending that a text message isn't just another form of data.

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