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AT&T offers unlimited data on U-Verse, but if you’re a ‘cord cutter’ it’s $30 extra

AT&Tbuilding

via Flickr © JeepersMedia (CC BY 2.0)

  • AT&T raises its caps and offers unlimited
  • For Internet only customers unlimited means another $30
  • TV users get unlimited for free

AT&T has just announced that its high speed U-Verse users will, from now on, get unlimited data, but ONLY (here’s the catch) if they are subscribing too to DirecTV (AT&T’s relatively new purchase) or U-Verse TV on the same bill.

What gives?

The trick with the Internet access/pay TV service bundle is to try and arrange things so that the broadband Internet service doesn’t threaten to cannibalise the pay TV. That’s a tricky proposition as broadband demand and available speeds rise, while alternative, Internet-based services (such as Netflix) start to nibble at the edge of the pay TV market. As people get more and more of what they want to view online there may come a point at which they decide they don’t need the pay TV, they’ll just get it all from the Internet. This ‘cord cutting’ trend seems to start with younger cohorts of viewers to whom services such as Netflix appeal because of the content. But as these viewers get older, so too - so the theory goes - will the cord cutting trend.  

Except…

It may be obvious, but what the big players (AT&T, BT, Comcast and many more) have already understood is that exclusive content is the way to prop up the brand and shore up the network business (be it cable or IPTV). And you don’t need great dollops of it. In a content-swamped world you just need a goodly chunk of, ideally exclusive, ‘must see’ content for a sizeable demographic.  If that’s there in the package’s mix in some form, then the dedicated soccer/baseball/Game of Thrones/F1 racing fan has to buy your package to get at it and (from a business point of view) it doesn't matters if they watch whatever else they want to watch across the Internet. Who cares? They’ve bought the package and they get that choice for the price.

Which is exactly the line that AT&T is using to ram home the advantages of its latest wheeze - unlimited data with U-Verse - with the slogan ‘"More Data, More Choices". The new pricing structure will kick in this May.  

That unlimited data offer will also be extended to ‘cord-cutters’ except that these people will have to pay $30 per month more for the privilege. That creates the incentive to stay with the TV package and lessens the advantage - if there is any - to cutting the cord.

At the same time AT&T is upping all its Internet-only tiers to higher caps - so those on 250GB per month now get either 300GB or 600GB, those on 100Mbps get a terrabyte, up from a 500GB cap. If the new caps are over-run then the user eventually pays $10 for every 50GB over the limit - AT&T says it’s going to get tougher on ‘enforcement’.

AT&T points out that on average its U-Verse customers use just 100 GB of data per month so the higher caps will enable them to use more, even watch more Internet TV if that’s what they want and it helpfully provides a guide to consumption at HD speeds.

TV Times

U-verse Internet Speed Tiers

New Data Allowance

What you can do with the data…

768 Kbps – 6 Mbps

300 GB

100 hours of HD video streaming

12 Mbps – 75Mbps

600 GB

240 hours of HD video streaming

100 Mbps – 1 Gbps

1 TB

400 hours of HD video streaming

Presumably a household devouring anything like 400 hours a month of HD video is doing so through multiple streams in different rooms - otherwise there’s not much time left over to do anything else.

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