In the complex world of wireless pricing, AT&T just eliminated a popular perk from its premium unlimited data plan. The company retired its top-tier Unlimited Elite plan that charged customers $85 per month for unlimited voice, data and text and included 40 GB of hotspot data and a free subscription to HBO Max. In its place, AT&T introduced a similar plan, called Unlimited Premium, that offers unlimited data, talk and text with 50 GB of hotspot data for $85 per month. The free HBO Max subscription is no longer offered but customers who currently subscribe to the Unlimited Elite plan will not be impacted. NextTV first reported AT&T’s retirement of its Unlimited Elite plan.
The elimination of HBO Max was probably prompted by AT&T’s spin off of HBO parent company WarnerMedia. In April AT&T and Discovery closed on the deal, which called for WarnerMedia to be combined with Discovery. According to Corey Chagnon, general manager at Navi, a company that monitors the daily pricing and promotional activities of wireless carriers, offering free HBO Max to its top tier customers likely was no longer profitable for AT&T.
But competitors Verizon and T-Mobile are still offering free streaming services as a key perk for customers on their premium unlimited data plans. Verizon offers free Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ plus 50 GB of hotspot data with its Get More Unlimited Data plan that costs $90 per month and T-Mobile bundles in a free Netflix subscription plus 40 GB of hotspot data to its Magenta MAX that costs $85 per month.
The operators have carefully crafted these additional perks as a way to upsell customers to the pricier plans and it’s unclear whether AT&T will be at a disadvantage by no longer offering its HBO Max subscription.
AT&T’s changes to its top tier unlimited plan comes just a month after AT&T and Verizon revealed plans to hike the prices of some of their wireless rate plans. Those changes are expected to occur this month.
AT&T CEO John Stankey told investors during the company’s Q1 earnings call that AT&T will raise the prices on some of its older wireless plans by up to $6 per month for single-line users and up to $12 per month for families. To avoid those price hikes, customers can move to the company’s new unlimited plans.
Likewise, Verizon said it is raising the prices on some of its wireless plans but the company called these price hikes “fee adjustments” and said that it will come in the form of an administrative charge that will be about $1.35 per voice line.
Chagnon also said that the big three operators are pushing promotions more than ever right now. He noted that on June 2 Verizon reinstated its $200 switcher credit for customers that switch to Verizon and finance a device, which he said was likely in response to T-Mobile’s $200 switcher credit that it gives customers if they switch to T-Mobile and sign up for the Magenta Max plan.