Hot on the heels of Verizon’s sudden adoption of an ‘unlimited’ mobile tariff, following a long period maintaining that it wouldn’t go unlimited and that its customers didn’t want it anyway, AT&T has now followed suit with its own new unlimited plan. From today it will be available to all AT&T wireless customers and will include unlimited talk, text and data on 4 lines, along with unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico and unlimited texts to over 120 countries. AT&T’s existing unlimited plan was for users of its DirecTV and U-verse pay TV services only.
You can see the logic of the old offer - if you were already paying for AT&T’s TV it matters not if an unlimited mobile offer causes you to stream additional programming. Plus, AT&T may as well offer you unlimited to get you onto the bundle. The move worked with around around 8 million people signed up by the end of 2016.
The unlimited offer has been opened up to everyone, but there a couple of small snags. First cost.
To most European eyes the AT&T tariff is eye-wateringly high at $180 per month for the first line. Remember this is aimed squarely at households so the real advantage kicks in with a second line for just $40 more, $40 more for a third and the fourth for free. AT&T’s says it will still sell the unlimited plan for $100 a month for a single phone. Then there’s the fact that unlimited doesn’t ‘quite’ mean unlimited. If you go over 22 GB AT&T starts throttling the line if there’s congestion.
The fact remains, however, that in a very short space of time all four big US networks have thrown off their caps and are now looking vulnerable to a price war since very little now differentiates their mobile offerings but price.
So is this the beginning of the end for mobile data caps? Unlimited plans were standard for a while in the wake of 4G (since the new networks were empty to start with) but about five years ago the huge growth of smartphones meant that the networks could become over-congested so the caps went on. Now that the networks have greater capacity with more capacity to come it seems unlikely that blanket caps will be back any time soon.
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