AT&T Lowering Data Plan Prices, Adding Tethering (Finally!)

Last Updated Jun 2, 2010 12:21 PM EDT

It's not often -- okay, ever -- you see the words "AT&T" and "lowering prices" in the same sentence. But that's the news this morning: Starting June 7 (the day Apple officially announces the iPhone 4), AT&T will offer lower-priced data plans to new and existing customers.

The new DataPlus plan affords 200MB of data per month, enough (according to AT&T) to send/receive 1,000 emails without attachments or 150 with, view 400 Web pages, post 50 photos on social-media sites, and watch 20 minutes of streaming video. Price: $15 per month. (If you exceed the limit, you'll automatically get billed another $15 for another 200MB.)

DataPro bumps the cap to 2GB of data per month, or 10 times what you get from DataPlus. AT&T says 98 percent of current smartphone customers use less than that amount. Price: $25 per month.

So what's the catch?


To my thinking, there isn't one. Unless you rely heavily on 3G (I suspect most users are on Wi-Fi networks at least some of the time), you stand to save at $5-15 per month ($60/$180 annually) by choosing one of the new plans.

What's more, existing "unlimited plan" customers can keep their plans if they want. And as before, all plans include free access to AT&T's 10,000-plus Wi-Fi hotspots.

Personally, I'm delighted by the new options. I'll probably try the DataPlus plan for a month and see if I can get by on it. If not, DataPro will more than cover me, and for $5 less than I'm currently paying. You can question AT&T's motives all you want (this is really just a form of bandwidth capping, after all), but for a user like me, it's a much-appreciated change.

Also in the news: tethering. At long last, iPhone owners will be able to share their handsets' 3G connections with laptops and other devices. The price for that privilege: $20 per month. That's not bad, IMHO, but I desperately wish AT&T would consider a "day pass" option. I don't need tethering often enough to justify paying for it every month.

What do you think of all this?

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.