Hey AT&T, Can I Upgrade From An EDGE Data Plan And Still Get The Unlimited Option?

Say you’ve got one of the 1st gen iPhones that operates on the EDGE network, and you want to upgrade to that fancy new model that was just announced. Can your unlimited data plan be grandfathered even though it was never 3G? That’s what Consumerist reader and 1st gen iPhone owner thecrazypnut wanted to know, so he contacted AT&T for an answer.

I checked any official word from AT&T I could find, but since all the actual press releases were not specific as to whether first generation iPhone subscribers specifically would be eligible for the same “grandfathering” option (they only said they would be “unaffected” by the new data plan changes), I thought I’d give them a call to find out.

The Rep I had talked to was very courteous, friendly, and I had empathized to start that I’m sure he had gotten plenty of calls concerning the changes to their Data Plan structure. He asked if I had time to wait so he could find whatever documentation the company had provided him concerning this issue and how he is supposed to address it to the customers. I was a-okay with that, and told him to take his time.

After a bit of searching, he found that apparently the clause he had in whatever documentation he was provided with noted that the “grandfather clause” applied to ANY Unlimited Data Plan subscriber. So, he elaborated, whether you owned an iPhone or not, you would qualify under those provisions.

I made sure to be very specific when asking him about the fact that I had a first generation iPhone with no 3G plan attached, and whether or not I would have an Unlimited 3G Data Plan available to me when I order my new phone. He double-checked his documentation, and then replied that YES, despite the fact I had no 3G plan, the fact that my data plan was an Unlimited Data Plan qualified me to be “grandfathered” in to the unlimited 3G Data Plan, and that this option would be available to me alongside the other tiers they recently introduced if I wished to exercise a choice in what I wanted.

So, straight from the horse’s mouth, it looks like all the first generation iPhone users who stuck it out this long still will have Unlimited Data available to them.

Please note that to enable tethering, they were specific to note that you would have to opt into the new higher-data capped option (2GB/month) to enable a tethering option to be added to your plan. Tethering would NOT be available on any other plan than the 2GB/month capped plan. I don’t plan to tether, but thought you should know for transparency’s sake.

I’m mostly posting these findings to you to help anyone out there using an older iPhone model, but also to hopefully create a crash-pad in case I go to pre-order my new iPhone next week only to find the option unavailable, and having every AT&T rep deny that this was ever possible.

I would also encourage your readers to do what I did: give them a call and get it documented. If the company is saying so now, I’d hope they hold to their word come launch-day.

To AT&T’s credit, my Rep was very friendly, courteous, and empathetic to my questions. Honestly, I have yet to have a negative experience from one of their Reps, and would encourage you to be patient with your inquiries and courteous to your Reps. The person on the other end quite often not the person directly responsible for your issues or concerns, they’re just an average CS Rep who works for a big company, and clocked in to do their jobs, and they’re ONLY trying to do the best they can.

Update: Someone who claims to have worked in the AT&T retail channel wrote in with his opinion on what will happen to 1st gen iPhone owners who want to try to grab an unlimited plan when they upgrade:

Here’s the issue with grandfathering the 2G iPhone data plan to the new one. There’s no way to provision it on the account. At all. Let me explain.

When the 2G iPhone came out, adopters will remember that all activations were done through iTunes. You would enter your phone number through the iTunes interface for your activation/upgrade, then choose the data plan that you wanted. This is still the case if, for example, you come in wanting to upgrade to the 3G and want to pass your 2G down to your kid. We activate your 3G and you have to go home and swap the equipment through iTunes for your kid. Honestly, we can’t even change the SIM card on a 2G without having to send you home to unbrick.

Now, through every AT&T system I’ve ever used (at least in the retail channel), when we activate a 3G iPhone, we have to choose a new data plan as well. Whether it be the $30 data plan (which for now is still available), the $15 DataPlus, $25 DataPro, Enterprise, etc. There is no workaround for this in the retail channel. You may be able to find a tier 2 CS that can do it, but I haven’t seen the $20 – $40 2G iPhone plans available in the provisioning system for over a year.

I just wanted to clarify for your readers that the rep at the store activating your iPhone 4 when you preorder on the 15th or purchase on the 24th can’t do it, so don’t get mad at them when they tell you it can’t be done. Again, you may be able to find a CS that can help, but there’s no guarantee despite what the person may have been told.

Update Update:

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Wyatt just tested the upgrade options on the AT&T website by pretending to upgrade from his current 1st gen iPhone to a 3GS. He sent a screenshot that shows that the unlimited plan was indeed provided as an option. Wyatt adds, “If their OLAM can provision surely their retail systems can do the same thing.”