AT&T Pulls the Plug on Its Unlimited Data Plans

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AT&T announced on Wednesday sweeping changes to its mobile data plans, ahead of the presumed arrival of a new iPhone model next week. The new AT&T mobile data pricing eliminates the previous "Unlimited" plan, and also adds a tethering option for the iPhone users who have been expecting the feature ever since last summer.

The new mobile data plans from AT&T start at $15 per month, and are set to be a better option for those who do not consume a lot of data through their phones, while heavy users will have to pony up extra cash for each extra GB they use.

AT&T says that its current smartphone customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can do so as of Monday, June 7 (except tethering), without a contract extension. They will also get help from the wireless carrier to monitor and manage their data usage with SMS alerts and a data calculator.

The June 7 launch date for the new AT&T plans coincides with Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote at the WWDC conference, where he is expected to unveil a new iPhone model (see leaked prototype) and make a series of other mobile-related announcements.

The New AT&T Mobile Data Plans

•· DataPlus is the cheapest plan available, which provides you with 200MB of data for $15 per month, a much better value plan for light data users who pay $30 for the unlimited plan right now. AT&T says that on average, 65 per cent of its customers use less than 200MB per month. If you exceed 200MB in a month, you can get another 200MB for an additional $15.

•· DataPro is the new highbrow mobile data plan from AT&T, which includes 2GB of data for $25 per month, and will charge each additional GB used over this limit at $10. This new plan is designed to replace the outgoing Unlimited plan, as AT&T claims 98 percent of its smartphone customers use on average less than 2GB of data per month.

•· The Tethering plan for iPhones will work only along the $20 per month DataPro plan, and costs an additional $20 monthly. Unfortunately, this extra $20 won't give you any extra GB of data usage, as the 2GB included in the DataPro plan will be shared between your phone and the tethered device. Tethering for iPhones is expected to be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer.

The revamped AT&T mobile data plans will affect new WiFi+3G iPad owners as well. The previous $29.99 Unlimited plan will now cost $25 per month, and will include just 2GB of data. If you already bought a 3G iPad and are using the Unlimited plan, AT&T says you can stick to it for now, or just switch to the new one in due course.

If the new AT&T mobile data plans usage limits seem too steep, AT&T is trying to make up for it by throwing in free Wi-Fi at any of its over 20,000 hot spots, alongside any of the plans above. Wi-Fi will not only be faster on your smartphone or iPad, but won't count toward your monthly usage quota either.

Do AT&T's usage figures reflect your mobile data usage, or are the new limits a bit too steep for those who stream movies and music to their smartphones or iPads? Sound off in the comments.

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