AT&T changes its data plans, adds iPhone tethering

In advance of June's expected roll out of the iPhone 4.0, AT&T has restructured its data plan pricing and added the long-awaited tethering option for Apple's smart phone. Customers can now pick between two tiered data plans, 250 MB per month for $15 or 2 GB per month for $25. The previous plan offered "unlimited data" for $30, though in reality, the plan was capped at 5 GB.

In addition, iPhone users will now be able to turn their phones into mobile WiFi hotspots, allowing them to connect their iPad, laptop or other device to the Internet through their phone's 3G connection. That feature has been available on the iPhone for a year but has not been offered by AT&T until now. Tethering will add another $20 to your monthly bill.

Chris Ziegler reports that the changes are indicative of an industry-wide trend with a still uncertain impact on consumers.

"We're definitely mourning the death of unlimited data -- "unlimited" is a word that consumers always naturally like to hear -- but AT&T points out that 98 percent of its smartphone subscribers use less than 2GB a month, which means that nearly all users ultimately stand to see a $5 reduction in their monthly bills. We spoke to Mark Collins -- AT&T Mobility's senior vice president of data and voice products -- about the changes for a few clarifications on the company's strategy, and he made it crystal clear that the concept of unlimited data is a thing of the past."

For media companies, the struggle over cellular data plan pricing is a question of audience access. As consumers increasingly move to mobile Internet-connected devices as their primary Web platforms, mobile data plan costs are a concern both for mass-market adoption of the devices and for the risk that the added costs might crowd out content subscription fees.

> AT&T Opens the Floodgates With Tiered Smartphone and iPad Data Plans (Fast Company)
> AT&T Announces iPhone Tethering and New Smartphone Data Plans (Mac Rumors)
> New AT&T data plans for iPhones, iPads, smartphones (CNET Crave)


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