H2O Wireless, an MVNO that is managed by Fort Lee, N.J.-based Locus Telecommunications and runs on AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) 3G network, tacked on a 2 GB data cap to its premier $60 "unlimited" plan, the latest in a string of decisions by both wireless carriers and MVNOs to move away from truly unlimited plans.
An H2O spokeswoman confirmed to FierceWireless that the company had made the change recently, likely within the last month. "Our unlimited data plan has undergone a recent change in terms," the company said in a statement. "H2O Wireless is committed to giving our customers a wide range of pre-paid options with the broadest wireless coverage, at rates that are as affordable as possible. We'll continue to push the envelope to deliver plans that are as versatile as they are reasonable."
If customers go over the 2 GB cap there is no overage fee or data throttling; since H2O's service is prepaid once a user reaches the cap, they will no longer have access to the web. However, they will continue to have unlimited MMS, voice and texting. When H2O unveiled its plan in early September, the company said its prepaid, $60-per-month "No-Contract Unlimited Everything Plan" provided unlimited mobile Web access along with unlimited talk, text and picture messaging. H2O's $50-per-month plan has always had a 250 MB cap, the spokeswoman said.
AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel declined to comment and referred questions to H2O. H2O's unlimited plan was notable considering AT&T last year killed its unlimited data service in favor of tiered, usage-based data pricing. In addition, AT&T has regularly cited potential spectrum exhaust as a prime reason behind its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.
While H2O currently does not offer any smartphones--the MVNO's handset offerings are limited to touchscreen feature phones such as the LG Vu and the LG Prime--the provider does allow users to bring unlocked GSM phones onto the service, including smartphones like Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) N91 and Sony Ericsson's Xperia X1.
H2O's decision fits with a recent pattern of carriers cutting back on unlimited data usage on their networks. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) notified customers last month that it would no longer offer mobile broadband plans with unlimited access to Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network.
Additionally, Republic Wireless recently launched $19 per month hybrid VoIP/cellular service, providing unlimited calling, texting and data, which uses Sprint's network when users can't access Wi-Fi networks. However, there is a fair-usage policy for when users access the cellular network. Republic said that users who stay within the bounds of 550 minutes of calls, 150 texts and 300 MB of data on cellular coverage per month should be fine, and that only the heaviest and most frequent abusers of the policy will be penalized, meaning that occasional heavy cellular data usage will not result in a data cap or throttling.
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Article updated Nov. 21 with a statement from H2O.