AT&T Has Created a Bundle Plan for the Smartphone Age

AT&T hasn’t offered unlimited data to new customers for five years.
January 11, 2016, 3:06pm

AT&T is bringing back unlimited data, but you may want to read the fine print.

The wireless provider said Monday that all new and existing DirecTV and U-Verse (its older pay TV service) subscribers now qualify for an unlimited mobile data plan. The plan, which is open to new and existing AT&T subscribers, costs $100 per month for the first smartphone, while additional smartphones can be added for $40 each.

The biggest catch here is that AT&T is reserving the right to slow, or throttle, wireless data speeds if subscribers consume more than 22GB of data in a single billing period "during periods of network congestion." The Federal Communications Commission in June 2015 said it would fine AT&T $100 million for allegedly failing to tell customers of its old unlimited data plans that their speeds could be slowed in the event of network congestion.

AT&T began phasing out unlimited data plans in 2010, claiming at the time that the explosion in data consumption caused by smartphones like the iPhone was stressing its network.

The resurrected unlimited data plan follows AT&T's July 2015 acquisition of DirecTV for nearly $50 billion. At the time, AT&T said the newly combined company would be able to sell bundles of programming offering "greater value and convenience" for customers.

AT&T is the second largest wireless carrier in the US. Verizon Wireless, the largest, stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers in 2011. T-Mobile and Sprint do offer unlimited data plans to new customers, but are similarly throttled after customers consume 21GB and 1GB of high-speed data, respectively.