Come Sunday, January 22, 2012, existing AT&T subscribers will have an important decision to make, and it has nothing to do with which football teams to root for (Go Patriots and 49ers). AT&T is rolling out new tiered smartphone and tablet data plans the wireless carrier claims will "give customers more data and value," which sounds a lot nicer than announcing price increases.
Yet that's what AT&T is doing: raising prices. Starting Sunday, new and existing smartphone customers can choose between $20/month for 300MB (AT&T Data Plus), $30/month for 3GB (AT&T Data Pro), or $50/month for 5GB (also AT&T Data Pro with mobile hotspot/tethering). Each tier is $5 more per month than AT&T's existing tiers, but the data caps are higher as well, up from 200MB, 2GB, and 4GB for each of the three previous plans.
"Customers are using more data than ever before," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “"Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment."
Is that really the case, or is AT&T trying to squeeze additional revenue from customers after its failed attempt to acquire T-Mobile resulted in a significant breakup fee? Perhaps it's both. CNet's Marguerite Reardon tried to get AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel to reveal what percentage of consumers currently fall below the 2GB mark today, but declined to the answer the question, saying instead that AT&T's network is increasing 40 percent each year, which is the reason for the higher data caps.
The good news for existing customers is they can choose to keep their current plans, now and for the foreseeable future. However, for those that do choose a new tiered plan, there's no going back to an old tier.