AT&T overhauls smartphone data plans, brings iPhone tethering to market

AT&T Mobility announced a major revamp of its smartphone data plans, including the ability for iPhone and other smartphone users to tether--a feature iPhone users have been waiting for since the iPhone debuted in 2007. And one thing is for sure: The word "unlimited" is nowhere to be found in these new data plans.

The new pricing plans, which go into effect June 7--the same day Apple is expected to make its debut of the new iPhone OS 4--give subscribers an option to purchase 200 MB of data for $15 per month or 2 GB of data for $25 instead of requiring one unlimited $30 plan per month.  AT&T said that currently 98 percent  of its smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average, while 65 percent of customers use less than 200 MB per month on average.

Those subscribers, including iPhone subscribers, who choose the 2 GB plan, known as the DataPro plan, have the option to add tethering for another $20 per month. Tethering for the iPhone will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4, the company said. Tethering, which enables users to share their device's web connection with a laptop via a Bluetooth or USB connection, is already enabled in overseas markets. AT&T had delayed the capability indefinitely because the function threatened to exponentially increase traffic on the network. 

On the iPad side, AT&T is getting rid of its $30 per month prepaid plan that gives users unlimited data usage, although current customers can keep the plan. Instead, the operator will be charging a pre-pay plan for $25 per month of 2 GB of data.

AT&T said it won't be socking subscribers with expensive overage fees if they go over their data plan allotment. Instead, if subscribers exceed their limits, they will receive an additional 200 MB for $15 or 1 GB of data usage for $10 (depending on their data plan) for use in the billing cycle. AT&T said it is incorporating data usage monitoring tools for subscribers such as customer text notification, data usage monitoring on AT&T's web site and a data calculator.

Finally, the use of WiFi in the home, office or at AT&T's 20,000 hotspots is free and doesn't count against subscribers' data usage.

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