AT&T's legacy unlimited plans pop up in 'black market'

Older unlimited data plans from AT&T are fetching as much as $2,000 to $3,000 on sites like Craigslist and eBay.

Grandfathered unlimited data plans from AT&T are quietly being sold on third-party sites for thousands of dollars, according to a new report.

T-Mobile and Sprint launched unlimited data offerings last August in a move that prompted a flurry of activity among carriers, forcing Verizon and AT&T to launch their own unlimited plans. But those plans generally come with significant restrictions, throttling users when they’ve reached specific data allotments per month or restricting hotspot usage.

But older unlimited data plans from AT&T are being sold on sites such as eBay and Craigslist for $2,000 to $3,000, Motherboard reported this week, in addition to a monthly fee that generally runs $30. AT&T and other carriers offered such plans nearly a decade ago before killing them, but the nation’s second-largest carrier has continued to honor the plans for the few users who have kept them.

Transferring a plan to another user “is easy and straightforward,” Motherboard reported, and can be done through AT&T or simply by providing the buyer with log-in credentials. The buyer must have an AT&T SIM card and compatible device, and plans can’t be modified in any way as they are transferred.

As Motherboard noted, the old plan essentially enables customers to use their phone as a primary internet connection and even cable platform for $30 to $40 a month.

AT&T stopped offering its unlimited data service to new customers in 2010, replacing it with a tiered pricing model. The move was largely seen as a reaction to the increasing demands for data among the carrier's growing iPhone customer base—at that time, AT&T was still the exclusive provider of the iPhone in the United States, and the operator fell under withering criticism that its network was not able to support the growing demand for data among its customers.

Last August, it introduced new plans that start at $30 per month for 1 GB of data. A plan with 3 GB of data is offered at $40 per month, and 30 GB of data is $135 per month. Each plan has additional “access charges.”

AT&T recently hiked the price of its legacy unlimited plan by $5 a month, bringing the monthly price to $40 a month. That’s far cheaper—and less restrictive—than the $100-a-month unlimited plan it began offering to any customer several weeks ago.