Other Companies May Benefit After AT&T Announces Stop To iPhone Unlimited Data

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The days of all-you-can-eat data on AT&T's cellular network are coming to an end.

Starting June 7th, new customers who purchase a smartphone or a data-capable phone -- including a new iPhone, Blackberry or Android device -- will have the option to pay either $25 a month for two gigabytes of data or $15 a month for 200 megabytes.

The new "DataPro" and "DataPlus" plans were introduced by AT&T Wednesday as a way to make data plans "more affordable for more people to enjoy the benefits of the mobile Internet."

But the real reason behind AT&T's introduction of lower-priced capped data plans might be to ease congestion on an already-busy AT&T data network. Since the introduction of the iPhone, customers have often criticized AT&T for dropped phone calls and slow internet speeds, which are often attributed by the company to an overwhelming burden on AT&T's network by data-hungry customers.

Current customers who subscribe to AT&T's $30 unlimited data plan will be able to keep their plan, even if they renew their contract. It's unclear if current customers who upgrade to a new phone -- including current iPhone customers eagerly awaiting a new iPhone later this year -- will have to choose between the new data plans when they upgrade.

AT&T's introduction of new data plans -- none of which allow for unlimited use of AT&T's network for data -- may entice some customers to consider other wireless carriers. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint currently offer unlimited data plans to new and current customers.

Verizon customers who have a smart phone are currently required to subscribe to a $30 unlimited data plan, which mirrors a requirement by AT&T customers who have an iPhone or other smart phone. Verizon also offers a cheaper data plan for $10 a month, which allows a customer to use 25 megabytes of data -- roughly the same size as seven MP3 music files.

Sprint also offers its customers the option to add unlimited data plans to a voice plan for $30 a month. T-Mobile, though offering the cheapest data upgrade at $20 a month, requires a customer to first purchase a talk plan and a text plan -- the lowest of which will cost a customer around $80 a month.

Smaller regional companies, including MetroPCS, offer customers "unlimited everything" plans for as low as $40 a month, though these companies often require customers to purchase phones at full price rather than at subsidized prices backed by contractual agreements. Though the overall phone and data plans are cheaper, the phones alone can cost over $100.

Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint offer many Android-operated and Blacberry devices that AT&T offers; however, none of the companies carry the iPhone, which is carried by AT&T under an exclusive contract with iPhone manufacturer Apple. Apple and AT&T estimated over 30 million iPhone devices were sold as of September 2009.

The new plans introduced by AT&T do not affect the carrier's voice and text message plans.

Shares of AT&T were up by 18 cents to $26.49 Wednesday afternoon.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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