After years of hinting at looming wireless data pricing changes, AT&T has finally buckled to recommendations
by stock jocks like Sanford Bernstein's Craig Moffett -- and killed their unlimited 3G iPhone pricing plan. In an announcement
that insists they're introducing "new lower-priced wireless data plans," the company says the unlimited data plan will be replaced by two new data plans for new users: "DataPlus" and "DataPro."
: Provides 200 megabytes (MB) of data for $15 per month. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle. AT&T insists that 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.
: Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data for $25 per month. If a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle. AT&T insists that 98 percent of their smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.
AT&T says they'll send text messages to users as they reach 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their monthly cap. AT&T also says they're finally going to allow tethering for the iPhone, allowing users who subscribe to the DataPro data package to tether for an additional $20 a month.
The pricing changes of course arrive ahead of the announcement of a new, more HD video-centric iPhone next week. While most users currently use far less than 2 GB of data -- AT&T knows that's going to change quickly. The company has long wanted to impose more expensive caps that would please investors by placing a premium on mobile data in the face of declining voice revenues.
Most iPhone users will very soon use considerably more than 200 MB a month, and will naturally trend toward the more expensive tier. But now, instead of unlimited data for $30, they pay $25 for 2GB and $10 for each additional gigabyte. As we've long noted
-- AT&T's dream pricing model isn't about fairness or usage-based pricing -- it's about shoving most of their users toward a higher monthly wireless data bill.Update
: It looks like existing iPhone customers will be able to upgrade to the new iPhone next week and grandfather their unlimited pricing plan, but they won't be able to add tethering if they do