iPad Data Plan May Really Be Unlimited

When AT&T and Apple announced an optional “unlimited” iPad 3G data plan for $29.99 a month, skeptics assumed that it would come with all sorts of fine print and caveats designed to introduce some limits and block “data hogs” from eating up all of AT&T’s bandwidth. However, as one “torture test” confirms, the plan really does appear to be unlimited, which should be great news for early adopters who plan to use their iPads for Netflix or other streaming video services.

In the test, Zach Epstein at Know Your Cell downloaded more than 30GB of data over a two-day period.

In my first two days with the new iPad, I’ve pumped just about 31GB of data over AT&T’s 3G network. … my focus is on continuing heavy usage and ensuring that the unlimited data plan truly is unlimited.

If I can hit 100GB without being shut off by AT&T, I think it will be safe to say that users can consider the $29.99 iPad data plan to be “unlimited”. Considering I’m currently at six times the 5GB soft cap placed on smartphone data plans after just two days of usage, things are looking good.

Why did anyone doubt AT&T’s word in the first place? (No, you don’t have to answer that.) Among other reasons, because it sounded too good to be true in a market where most data plans have 5GB monthly caps. And, as we’ve pointed out more than once, many companies have their own idea of the definition of “unlimited.”

While Epstein may have proven that AT&T is using the term in its literal sense, the company has other ways to tell heavy data users that they’re unwelcome. AT&T’s standard Wireless Data Service Terms and Conditions prohibits a range of network-intensive activities including using “software or other devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer’s connection would otherwise be idle.” Customers whose “usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels” can be booted without notice. We don’t know if Epstein will fall afoul of those restrictions, but we’ll be watching closely.

Torture test: Is AT&T’s unlimited iPad 3G plan truly unlimited? [Know Your Cell]
Plan Terms [AT&T Wireless]

Comcast Still Unsure About The Whole ‘Unlimited Usage’ Thing
Sprint Clears Up ‘Unlimited Messaging’ Confusion


Edit Your Comment

  1. davere says:

    Is one person going to ruin this for the rest of us?

    • ThaKoolAidKid says:

      That is how the world works.

      But it’s a locked down system run by Fuhrer Jobs anyways, you can’t expect leniency!

    • vastrightwing says:

      No. Actually it will take hundred of thousands of new customers to ruin this. AT&T is building up their customer base, then after they’ve reached that magic number of subscribers, then caps will be implemented. They will suddenly cry foul and say how the network is being abused… etc. We’ve heard this song before.

  2. zigziggityzoo says:

    The real test is whether they allow him to pay only $30 next month, or just outright block his IMEI from access and cancel his recurring payment…

  3. edicius is an acquired taste says:

    This will not end well.

  4. goodcow says:

    I use 10-15GB a month on my iPhone and they’ve never said anything.

    As of May 05, 2010, you have 9 days left in your billing cycle.

    Data 6888.88 MB
    Messaging 6726 Msgs

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Not all data transfers count as “data” when you’re not roaming, for AT&T’s billing purposes. “Local” traffic (email) isn’t the same as “Remote” (websites, streaming) traffic.

      They may also be using throttling when you hit the cap.

      Some of you may also be in particularly low-traffic areas, where bandwidth usage isn’t impacting spectrum.

      • goodcow says:

        I’m in NYC and they don’t throttle, I stream video over 3G all the time.

        • pot_roast says:

          No way. The intertubes tell us that AT&T is unusable in NYC. This is unpossible! ;-)

          And good lord, I thought my wife was a textaholic. My god, man!

  5. Guard says:

    A friend of mine used 20GB of data in a month on his iPhone, using AT&T, through jailbroken bittorrent. No complaints from AT&T.

    It may be dependent on where you live, or pure luck, but I don’t think this is proof regardless.

  6. atomoverride says:

    Great, so how come I cant tether my iphone?

  7. miss_roxxan says:

    Is this why 3G has been so slow that last few days? I can’t even get facebook to load during the time I’m on the bridge in the morning!

  8. vastrightwing says:

    The way this game works is they offer “Free”, “unlimited”, “no fees”… etc. for a while. Then after they’ve built up enough critical mass, then the terms of “agreement” change to suit the vendor. Mark my words, it makes no difference how much data anyone uses now, but as soon as AT&T gets critical mass, the valve will shut hard!

    Banks are notorious for this: Free checking! $100 minimum balance! Then after they have thousands of customers, the minimum balance requirement will suddenly change to $250, then $500. Now you know.

  9. guroth says:

    Congratulations, you’re exhibiting the exact behavior that causes companies like at&t and comcast to have not-so-unlimited unlimited plans.

  10. chemmy says:

    I’ll come back in a month to look for the story where he gets a bill from AT&T for $47,000 for data overage.

  11. wickedpixel says:

    He should wait for his next bill to arrive before declaring this experiment a success.

    • blueneon says:

      He won’t be getting a bill from AT&T, it’s set up on recurring payment thru Apple.

  12. tinmanx says:

    Just ordered my iPad 3G, this is good news for me.

  13. Mike says:

    Well AT&T is smart to do this because those of us using Sprint and Verizon are already used to 4G speeds for our internet access on our laptops, and soon to be phones. When the competition is offering 5 times faster speeds, the best thing you can do is at least not be stingy with your own slower speeds.

  14. D0GG says:

    Seriously… where are all you people at? A bunch of you talking smak about AT&T…. This is one situation where AT&T has remained true to their promise. The data for the iPhone is unlimited… no cap… none…

    I think you are thinking of that company that says unlimited but caps at 5GB…. I think their name starts with a V…..

    Notice I said one area… I dont want to hear about how they suck for this and they don’t do that. This topic isn’t about the problems of AT&T. It actually seems like some BS that someone is peddling to discount one of the things AT&T actually does right.

    Bottom line, when AT&T has offered unlimited data, that is what they give… now go get your iPad/iPhone and stream some TV or a movie.

  15. crazydavythe1st says:

    or, AT&T knows that amateur journalists/techies will be testing the bandwidth limits of their 3G network, so they let it slide (at the expense of everyone else) for a little while to make themselves look good.

  16. adamwade says:

    Yup, it will be unlimited…until jokers like this make them clamp down on it.

  17. theblackdog says:

    Watch as next month he’s writing to Consumerist complaining about his $5000 bill to AT&T because he went over an arbitrary data cap and they started charging him for each KB.

    • wcnghj says:

      They can’t legally do that if the service is prepaid and the contract says unlimited.

  18. Blious says:

    I wish someone would fine AT&T and companies for stating unlimited then not actually offering UNLIMITED

    Companies should be held accountable with what they are saying

    • pot_roast says:

      They usually wiggle out of it by saying “unlimited” (access, not data transfer) – ie, they won’t restrict you from accessing the internet…

      or some legal-ese somewhere deep in the 200 page TOS. :/

    • D0GG says:

      Why don’t you mention a company that does cap data usage.

      Verizon does, T-Mobile does, US Cellular does… AT&T does NOT.

  19. pot_roast says:

    AT&T has already stated that the plans would not be capped.


    “But I was wrong. According to AT&T’s Mark Siegel, “unlimited is unlimited.” Stream video 24/7 if you want; AT&T promises that they won’t criticize or judge.”

  20. hattrick says:

    Okay, I look at 30 GB a month, and my first thought is: “That’s not so much.”

    I knew I use a lot of internet, but I don’t think I fully realized until this moment how out much of an outlier I actually am.

  21. dirtyvu says:

    wait until he’s locked into his contract. then see what AT&T does…