AT&T, a company with a reputation for evil such that placing their logo inside a Death Star has always seemed genuinely appropriate, has announced some changes to pricing on its mobile data plans today. While some of those changes are genuinely good if you're a subscriber with a large data bucket or have some pretty particular usage habits, many new customers can expect to pay $5-10 more a month under the new structure, which AT&T of course claims is a totally innocuous attempt to "simplify" things for customers.
Here's the deal - currently, AT&T charges $25 a month (plus $25 per phone if you BYOD or use Next) for 1GB of data, $40 for 3GB, and $70 for 6GB. The 1GB and 3GB plans are without a doubt the most popular data plans AT&T sells, because they cater to individual or two-line subscribers. Apparently it's not happy with how this is working out for the bottom line since introducing rollover data, because guess what: they're essentially restructuring these plans to try and extract more money from you. All three of these tiers no longer exist - after today, you won't be able to get them. Instead, there are now two "simplified" tiers - 2GB for $30 and 5GB for $50. The new plans go into effect tomorrow, August 15th.
Initially, this doesn't sound too bad (and, in fact, you could save $10 a month if you only used 1-2GB a month previously). Until you realize the new tiers are inherently designed to get $5-10 a month more from subscribers on average and / or reduce rollover data benefits. Here's the way that works. (Note: no current subscribers are being forced to switch, but if you do choose to change your data plan at any point going forward, you can't go back to the old plans.)
- People who use less than 1GB of data a month now have only the 300MB plan (which is of course worthless), so people with those usage habits are essentially going to pay $5 a month more than they would have under the old plans, because now their only option is 2GB, which is conveniently $5 more expensive than the old 1GB plan. Even if you do get "more for your money," you're still spending more money.
- People who use only 1-2GB a month do benefit - the new 2GB plan is $10 less than the 3GB plan and $10 less than using the 1GB plan with a $15 one gigabyte overage each month, and you wouldn't lose rollover data. So, if this plan would work for you, hey, you're today's lucky winner!
- People who use 2-3GB a month and would opt for the 3GB plan no longer have that option. They can go for the 2GB plan, but if you go over that 2GB, you're getting a $15 per gig overage... which would constitute an increase of $5 a month (if you went over the cap every month) over the old 3GB plan for the same amount of data. Oh, and you don't get to roll over that overage, because AT&T doesn't allow that. For reasons.
- If you don't like the idea of paying a penalized $45 per month for 3GB and essentially losing rollover instead of the old $40 with rollover, AT&T will of course happily push you up to the 5GB plan, which is just $10 a month more than the old 3GB plan. This is likely because basically nobody on an individual plan was going for the old 6GB/$70 tier, and with rollover, the 3GB option probably worked for a lot of 2-line subscribers. AT&T clearly hopes to corral everyone using more than 2GB a month of data into the new $50 / 5GB plan.
See what the play here is? AT&T is basically trying to raise the bottom line by pushing some subscribers who use low to moderate amounts of data per month into new plans that would ever so slightly increase their bill. And by not allowing data rollover on overages (an existing policy), they're encouraging people to move higher up the data pricing ladder. And seriously, let's not pretend AT&T is the hapless fool in all of this - they know exactly what they're doing, and I'm sure a lot of math and subscriber usage analysis went into this new structure. This isn't something they scrawled out on a napkin last night with the intent of "helping" you and I out. If they really wanted to help out, they'd use a flat pricing structure per gigabyte and drop all the bullshit pick-and-choose tiers dreamt up by the marketing department.
Now, the news is not all bad! If you're a big bucket subscriber on AT&T, there are some positive changes in store for you. The old 10GB/$100 tier is now a 15GB plan at the same price. The pricing for 20GB has dropped $10 a month to $140. And there's now a 25GB for $170 option. 30, 40, and 50GB plans are also still available.
You can read more about the new plans at the source link below.