AT&T May Limit Unlimited Data Plans To 5GB Per Month, Remove Text Messaging

IntoMobile writes that an “agent/employee discussion forum at HowardForums has revealed the possibility of new data plans for AT&T.” The new plans would be slightly cheaper, but do away with included text messages and impose a “soft cap” of 5GB per month data usage on the so-called “unlimited” MediaMax packages, and users who go over that will be urged (?) to sign up for a more expensive plan. Urged? Soft cap? How does that work in a business situation? Unlimited is unlimited, right?

Unlimited PDA data plans will be lowered to $30, with unlimited MediaNET access going for just $15 per month. However, text messages will no longer be bundled with data plans. An extra $5 gets you 200 SMS text messages per month, $15 gets you 1,500 text messages, $20 gets you unlimited individual texts, and $30 gives your family plan unlimited text messaging.

“AT&T May Limit Unlimited Data Plans To 5GB Per Month

Forum posting on HowardForums
(Photo: Getty)


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  1. snazz says:

    my guess is that they will change the name of the unlimited plan, since it wont actually be unlimited data.

  2. Buran says:

    Good thing I’m most likely switching to an iphone tomorrow since it’s quite likely there will be a capacity bump (I have 11 gigs of music), and the iphone plan is really an unlimited plan. Texts aren’t included beyond 200 but it turns out after all that I didn’t use as many of those as I originally expected so I’ll have a lower bill, and still have unlimited data, and be able to sell my phone for more than what I paid due to 45% employer discount, and the phone being in high demand among those who want to avoid re-upping their contract or paying full price if they’re not eligible to get a new phone now (I’ve been watching the prices).

    I regret buying a windows mobile phone — I thought the features I was getting would make up for the OS. Nope, not the case at all, it’s been way too problematic for me.

    Thanks, AT&T. I knew the deal I was getting was too good to be true… I don’t use 5 gigs a month but not having to worry was too nice to last.

    The iphone plans aren’t part of MediaNet or the PDAConnect etc. plans — totally separate. Oh, and you get 200 texts for free, not 0 (and can still pay a bit extra if you want more, which I can always do if needed).

  3. remusrm says:

    this is funny… the sms price and data is more now then in Europe… USA is going down the drain

  4. @snazz: Clearly someone didn’t learn anything from Comcast…

  5. RAREBREED says:

    If we’re currently on a plan, nothing’s going to change, right?

  6. darkened says:

    @Buran: And if you got a Tmobile sidekick all of your data usage, text messaging and picture messaging (including emails) is entirely included in the $20/month data package.

  7. SamTheGeek says:

    @RAREBREED: In a word, yes. They’ll apply this to all currently existing plans, unless there is a price change. If they drop the price they generally let you continue. if they raise the price and force you to switch upwards, cancel, and buy a cheaper contract.

  8. pda_tech_guy says:

    Well, I dont know anyone who would download more than 5 Gigs on their phone. The most data I have used in a month was 900MB, so I think I will be OK.

  9. QuantumRiff says:

    So why, if anyone knows, has the cost of Text messaging and data access been going up? Costs of Technology and Bandwith go down over time, so why the hell did my text messages cost $0.1 at the start, then $0.15, now $0.2 each? (if you don’t have a “bundle”). What exactly do the phone companies give as reasons for the cost increase? Do they actually say its cause they want to milk us for all they can? God, 20cents for 144 characters to go over the network? If you figure 8bit characters, (ascii text) then each SMS is a little over 1k of data. My data rate (don’t have a plan) costs $0.01/k of data…

  10. Buran says:

    @darkened: Yup, the trick is to have the right phone it seems.

  11. Buran says:

    @QuantumRiff: Because people are dumb enough to keep paying without looking for the right phone/plan that does include it all, or the phone they really want doesn’t come with the feature.

  12. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I guess ATT is anticipating mobile internet devices hitting the mainstream. There were a lot on display at CES and Intel is really pushing the platform.

    I suppose it’s better for ATT to define “unlimited” now, rather than face legal issues later like Verizon.

  13. Landru says:

    Unlimited usage!
    Free checks, for life!
    No fees, ever!

    Until they change their minds!

  14. chrisbacke says:

    Hmm.. would this count as a “material change” to your contract? I don’t need out right now, but it’s nice to know I might be able to sneak out if needed…

  15. samurailynn says:

    So, this doesn’t affect the iPhone plans? If not, then that’s good. I really don’t need my husband’s cell phone bill to be any more expensive. And it really comes in handy to have the internet wherever we go.

  16. sleze69 says:

    This sounds like a material change which should allow a person to break their contract. This is a BIG deal for my day to day work as my job pays for my mobile internet in lieu of paying for hotel internet when I am on the road.

    But on the other side is that you never really get top bandwidth anyway because AT&T doesn’t allow phones to manually select towers. Thus every 3 minutes, phones switch from 3G to G and back again, disrupting any active downloading.

  17. Squeezer99 says:

    just another reason to get on the sprint SERO plan

  18. B says:

    The new plan will be called the Unlimited* Data plan(tm).
    *Not really unlimited

  19. Buran says:

    @Squeezer99: No thanks. If you want to be cheap you get the horrible service that comes with it. Besides I like the freedom of using any GSM phone I want.

  20. cronick says:

    Does this affect existing iPhone plans? If so, this could abrogate iPhone users’ contracts with AT&T and free them to move to other carriers.

    Does this affect Apple’s contract with AT&T? If so, this could free Apple to sell unlocked iPhones and set up deals with other carriers.

  21. Mr_Human says:

    @Buran: Is Sprint still really that bad? I’m very attracted to Sero. I asked some friends in NYC about Sprint, and they all seemed happy with it.

  22. uricmu says:

    I love the cost for SMS messages… The cheapest thing that the cellular company can provide turned into a moneymaker thanks to tons of bored teens.

  23. tartis says:

    Sprint=Low cost data, and crappy Customer Service.

  24. Shadowman615 says:

    From the article: ” users will not be billed overages but people with constant overages will be contacted to try to reassess the users needs.”

    Huh? If I ordered an unlimited Data plan, why would I want to reassess my needs when I used a lot of data?

  25. @pda_tech_guy:
    Those of us who use our phones to connect to PDAs with Bluetooth can easily rack up high usage. I learned the heard way – got hit with a $170 bill one month. Figured out what my salesman SAID would be enough wasn’t nearly enough, and I switched over to the unlimited MediaMax plan. I kinda liked being able to surf (in a limited way) with my Palm, now I guess those days will be over because I am NOT going to agree to a more expensive plan.

  26. GEEZ.

    They just changed my plan a few months ago (from unlimited smartphone data plan for $39.99 and 200 texts for $5.99 to unlimited smartphone data with 1500 texts for $39.99–in theory saving me $5.99/month EXCEPT that they double charged me for that month for both plans (I’d already paid in advance the $39.99 and $5.99 because of the way their billing works, but that didn’t stop them from adding a pro-rated $39.99 charge for exactly the same service). And interestingly enough–I haven’t combed over it to figure out how this happened, but I’m still getting charged $5.99 somewhere because my bill hasn’t changed by a cent since I’m on this new “money saving” data plan.

    Can’t wait to see how they’ll screw up transferring me BACK to having to pay for texts.

  27. Photogdc says:

    5gb is a lot of data for a PDA phone. Since the contract already disallows tethering your phone as a modem you would have to push that much data through just your phone.
    I know plenty of people do use the phone as a modem and I think these are the people they are targeting with the cap and they will try to get them onto the more expensive laptop wireless plan with a laptop card modem.

  28. krunk4ever says:

    Does anyone know if this affects existing plans?

  29. GearheadGeek says:

    @Mr_Human: My experience with Sprint hasn’t been THAT bad… granted it seems that most of their employees are chimps, but that’s true of most “service” companies these days so it no longer surprises me. I suspect that part of my experience with Sprint is colored by the fact that I have a semi-corporate plan… I have a discount through my company even though the phone is in my name, and I speak to a different group when I call in for service than “consumer” customers. I also can’t make changes to my own plan on the ‘net, which is a minor issue since I’ve only changed my plan twice in the past 5 years or so.

    I like the 3G data service, and as it happens I use a phone you can prevent from telling Big Brother when you tether… since I only use the Palm for that (as opposed to using it as my regular laptop connection) then I get great data service and probably use less bandwidth in a month than people who watch a lot of video on their phones.

    I also think it’s highly sensitive to WHERE you are. Where I’ve lived and worked while I’ve been a Sprint customer, and in most of my travel I’ve had good service but people in some areas HATE it.

    The downside? CDMA locks you into a smaller set of phones, and you have to interact with your provider to change phones. If they have a phone you like, this may not matter. You’re not using your phone in Europe (yeah I know Sprint sells a kludge device that’s supposed to work, but I have a cheapie phone I bought on eBay and an Italian SIM… since everyone at my company has a Sprint phone, it’s cheaper for me to stick with Sprint here and have a dedicated international phone I bought for $20.)

  30. Mr_Human says:

    @krunk4ever: Thanks, that was helpful. Your post inspired me to check coverage in Vermont, which I visit a lot. It just so happens that there’s no Sprint coverage at all in that town. You saved me a lot of agita :)

  31. Mr. Gunn says:

    You know, as long as they don’t call it “unlimited” I really have no beef with this. They’re just unbundling the packages, which is fine for me because I use WAY more data than texts, and have always resented having to pay for more texts than I use.

    This will work just fine for me. As far as the capping goes, well, I think they’re expecting a bunch more data-intensive phones(perhaps running android?) coming on the market soon.

  32. h0mi says:

    Yay this looks like I’ll be able to cancel my at&t contract (expires in June). But then I get to decide where to go, or if I’ll bite the bullet and get the new iphone.

  33. wesrubix says:

    Um, how on EARTH could someone use 5GB of data on a PDA plan each month? If you’re using your plan within reason, you should be ok.

    A lot of ISPs have “soft caps”–I remember in the dial-up days a friend of mine was “suspended” for 3 days for being online for 10 days straight, downloading a WAREZ Win98 haha.

    Anyway, AT&T has had this “cap” for a while, but never told anyone about it (except the violators). If you’re downloading over 5GB of data each month on your phone, you should re-think what you’re doing.

  34. Chigaimasmaro says:

    This is just like Comcast “unlimited” internet service. They impose caps and punish consumers for their inability to keep up with technology. In this day and age, with alot of the consumer electronic devices being an extension of the PC, its easy to burn through gigabytes of data. Obviously, with AT&T changing their data plans, its obvious its not a RARE incident where people download more than 5 gigs per month.

    But they still shouldn’t call it unlimited anymore. Just like Comcast shouldn’t call their internet service unlimited.

  35. deadlizard says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this is because the iPhone is making a dent on AT&T’s bandwidth.

  36. nully says:

    That would be all great, but seeing how they limited the tether plan to 5GB, it has made using the net via a laptop or stream video via a laptop (think Ustream, JustinTV) quite impossible now.

    Punishing customers because AT&T is unable to keep up with technological advances is not helping anyone but piss off their customers and potential partners. The costs for these data plans are starting to exceed that those in Europe where they offer a lot more for a lot less.

    At least there’s still Sprint EVDO which I currently use with unlimited usage and great coverage. I hope they don’t follow in this method AT&T has choosen.