Beginning this Sunday, January 22, AT&T will begin offering new data plans to its US smartphone and tablet customers, its first change to the plans since June 2010.

The new plans aren't designed to save money for existing smartphone customers: the previous entry-level Data Plus plan, which offered customers 200MB of data a month for $15, has been replaced by a Data Plus plan that offers 300MB for $20, a $5 increase for just a 100MB increase. The hike is less ostentatious for the middle and top tiers: the DataPro 2GB ($25) and DataPro 4GB ($45) plans have been replaced by DataPro 3GB and DataPro 5GB plans that run $30 and $50, respectively, which is in line with the company's $10/GB overage charges. As with before, tethering and mobile hotspot capabilities are only available for the top tier (5GB) plan.

The story is similar for tablet users: there are 3GB and 5GB Data Connect plans available for $30 and $50, while the price and data cap remain the same for the $14.99 250MB plan.

Current AT&T customers can elect to stay with their current plans, which was the case when AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers, but new subscribers will only be able to choose from among the new plans. For current customers, the new plans make sense only for 2GB and 4GB subscribers who regularly go over their caps - an extra GB for $5 is more attractive than an extra GB for $10. Otherwise, I'd recommend sticking with what you've got.


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  • lurker22 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Thank you. Our European friends always forget their countries are the smaller than most US states...
  • zanon - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    >Finland has a geographical size limitation compared to the US.
    Please don't repeat this stupid BS. It ignores multiple obvious issues:
    1) America is not just larger geographically, it's massively larger economically. The Fins didn't give their carriers *hundreds of billions of dollars of tax payer money* either.

    2) If it was just density, then one would expect to see vaguely decent plans in highly populated areas, with coverage tapering off and speeds getting reduced out in the boonies. That's not what we see. Instead it's crap everywhere (both for landlines and for wireless).

    3) Data caps don't even make sense *period*, ever. There is no "bucket of bits" that can get "used up". The limiting resource is *bandwidth*. Data caps exist purely as a way to rip people off. If they were honest they'd sell bandwidth and leave it at that, like honest ISPs do or what you get with hosting. We'd see a guaranteed minimum, a 65% (or whatever) promised basic, and a max cap.

    This isn't secret stuff, and it's a natural result of America's mismanagement of infrastructure. Granted it could be even worse then it is, but that doesn't mean we get to just dismiss others who have done it better as if that was somehow impossible for us to manage.
  • TerdFerguson - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Thank you for a great post, Zanon. You're 100% correct, and you made your points in a very cogent fashion. If you would ever choose to run for political office with a mind to protect Americans who have similar, neglected, interests, I promise I will support you.
  • BSMonitor - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    But the point is the same. The infrastructure cost in America is what compared to the tiny European countries. Here, you have coverage in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the entire continental U.S.

    On top of that. The smallest major U.S. city has more data subscribers than the entire country of Finland.

    The demographics of comparisons to Europe are actually pretty funny when you think about it.
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    But that higher number of customers is actually a reason for cheaper prices, not for higher prices per contract..... :-)
  • DanNeely - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    To get an equivalent area to the USA you need to include most lf European Russia. The EU itself has half the area of the USA. However, the EU/Europe has a much higher population density. The EU has ~500M people vs the USAs 300M; a 3.3x higher average. Europe as a whole has about 750M; about 2.5x the USAs population density.

    As a result Europe needs far fewer towers which don't have enough customers to directly generate profit (ATT/VZW's much larger networks in rural areas generate revenue indirectly since by giving more total coverage they make their networks look more attractive and allow them to justify charging higher rates).

    It also helps Europe that its telecoms market is heavily fragmented on national borders. By limiting the area they have to deploy over to the most profitable parts of the continent the rich country companies can pack towers in much closer for higher capacity while only having to cover limited areas. This lets them provide higher levels of service at lower costs than US companies.

    It leaves poorer areas in the south and east holding the bag. Once you adjust for the lower income levels wireless service there becomes proportionally much more expensive; and AFAIK much of the area has lagged the US in advanced wireless deployment.
  • erple2 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    <quote>it's a natural result of America's mismanagement of infrastructure</quote>

    It's not mismanaged, it's just managed for the benefit of someone that isn't "the people". The companies that run the wireless services are definitely profiting off it.
  • Targon - Sunday, January 22, 2012 - link

    It is clear you have never worked at the network engineer level of an ISP, because there ARE limitations in traffic between different ISPs. If you have ONLY a 100 megabit connection between your ISP and each of the large ISPs you connect to, and you have customers that are sending a lot of data, you get massive slowdowns, and service for your customers will suffer. You need to have a LARGE "pipe", and that costs money.

    While agreements between ISPs will generally not provide hard limits, if the demand isn't balanced in both directions, one company WILL demand money to allow that amount of traffic to flow. There is also just so much data that existing connections can allow(fiber is NOT unlimited in terms of bandwidth), so if you start seeing limitations, running more fiber is required, and this also costs money.

    You also seem to have missed the fact that the USA has five or six different regions, and based on the region, you are looking at MASSIVE differences in terms of the economic situation. Even with that, did you know that much of New York State is like a third world country, where the majority of the people live below the poverty line? There are many states where the economic situation has NEVER been very good as well. Low population density, low health care, and the quality of living is poor.

    The overall economy in the USA is also in bad shape right now, something you may not have grasped. Stock Markets do NOT reflect the quality of life for people in general, so saying the USA is larger economically does not mean that the standard of living is higher.

    On your second point, you miss the fact that COMPANIES in general will not change their prices based on where you live within the same country. People would revolt if a company said, "If you live in this town, you pay $10/month more than people living just over some arbitrary line. It is a nice idea that those in "good service" areas would pay more than those in fringe areas, but that will NEVER happen. So, companies have to average out their overall costs against their entire coverage area. Regional carriers do charge less, but you end up not having service that works when you are traveling.

    You are looking at things as if there is no need for deployment of new equipment, and as if the government has actually helped with the deployment of infrastructure. Europe had a chance after World War 2 to replace the infrastructure with a new and better overall design, and you see the benefits of this even today. The USA has NEVER had to fully replace the old infrastructures, and what we have clearly is the result of that. In a large part of the USA, we still have above-ground wires that get knocked down in large storms, and which are put back up rather than moved underground as just one example of "old ways of doing things are still being used".

    I can't disagree that poor management of corporations and government agencies is at fault for many things, but like taxes, the PEOPLE in any country have very little chance to actually change the way things are done. You may not like it, but when you have ZERO way to actually influence the way things are done(buying from other providers is NOT an option, and starting your own business to compete is also not even possible in most situations). Do YOU have the option to just change power companies for your home? If you know no one likes the local power company, are you in the position to just start your own power company to "compete"?
  • Kepe - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    If you look at population density, USA has a density of 83 people per square mile. Finland has a density of 41 ppl/sq mi. So, basically we need twice the amount of cellular towers per customer. Yes, your country is bigger, but it also has 60 times more potential customers that live twice as densely than we do. Take these in to consideration, your data plans should be a lot cheaper than ours. Also, we have a 23% VAT on all our mobile bills, and that is included in the 14€/month data fee.
  • Kepe - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Haha, I can't believe this. I wanted to see how much a 24 month contract with the full speed (and unlimited) data plan and a cutting edge phone costs here in Finland. So this is what you get:

    - Motorola RAZR XT910 (not sim locked)
    - 3G data plan with no speed or data caps
    - All phone calls (GSM and land lines) and SMSs within Finland 0.089 US cents per minute or piece (if you're a heavy texter or talker there are packages available that have an X amount of minutes and SMSs for a cheaper price)

    Guess how much all of this costs? 48 USD per month, and the phone is completely included in to that 24 month contract. So there's no need to shell out 300 bucks to get the phone.

    Compared to your prices, we basically get the phone absolutely free of charge. I think you should try to do something to correct this. You're getting ripped off.

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