AT&T Brings Back Unlimited Plans. What’s The Catch?

Years after ditching the unlimited data plans that it used to convince so many consumers to switch from boring old feature phones to the iPhone (and other smartphones), AT&T has announced it is bringing back its “unlimited” offering starting at $100 a month. Oh, but it’s only for DirecTV and U-Verse customers.

While that does mean that more than 20 million people could be eligible for the plan, it also means that the vast majority of AT&T customers are not able to get the unlimited data offer.

But for those who do have DirecTV or U-Verse service and want to combine their pay-TV bill with their wireless bill, they can get another $10/month discount.

In terms of cost, it’s $100/month for a single phone. Each additional phone is $40. For phone-filled families with four phones, AT&T says there will be no monthly charge for that fourth line. That means you could have unlimited data on a quartet of smartphones for $180/month. Of course, that discount doesn’t kick in until the third billing cycle, so you would pay $220/month until then.

The one big difference between the grandfathered unlimited data plans that AT&T had allowed to continue and the new ones that the company will start tomorrow is that customers can no longer get discounted phones by agreeing to a two-year contract. That’s because AT&T did away with two-year contracts last week. Thus, anyone signing up for this plan will need to purchase their phone outright (or already own their own device outright) or through an AT&T Next installment plan, which has the same effect as a contract.

So is the data really “unlimited”? Nope. As with the grandfathered unlimited offering, AT&T reserves the right to throttle customers’ data, but only after they hit 22GB in a single month. That’s a pretty large amount of data for most consumers, but something to keep in mind if you’re someone who loves to stream HD movies on your device everywhere you go.