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AT&T denies plans to impose tiers on iPhone data

updated 11:55 am EST, Tue December 22, 2009

Carrier struggling to keep up with data demands

AT&T will not be imposing tiered iPhone data plans in the near future, insists the president of AT&T Mobility, Ralph de la Vega. The executive recently spurred controversy by suggesting that AT&T would need to encourage people to use less data, something which might easily be done by forcing people to pay for capped plans. Constant Internet access is one of the main draws of the iPhone in countries like the US.

Although De la Vega has oft downplayed rumors of data tiers, he has more strongly denied them in a new interview with BusinessWeek. "There are things people say I said that I didn't say. We have not made any decision to implement tiered pricing," comments De la Vega, repeating the second sentence.

The president also reiterates suggestions that the company is looking at Wi-Fi as its salvation, for instance through its McDonald's hotspots, as well as those at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and other locations. The carrier is also placing a strong emphasis on femtocells, which shunt home users' cellular communications off to residential broadband. For subscribers with the devices, the advantage is more reliable voice service.

While such solutions are potentially expensive for AT&T, research firm ComScore notes that about 60 percent of US mobile web traffic is generated by iPhones, even though they form less than a quarter of the American smartphone market. AT&T has struggled to keep up with demand, resulting in numerous complaints from iPhone owners. De la Vega nevertheless argues that upgrades are beginning to pay off, pointing to San Francisco, where the network has "never performed better." During the week of December 7th, he adds, AT&T had the fewest dropped calls in its history.

by MacNN Staff



  1. jscottk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Use WiFi instead?!?

    Then why bother subscribing to AT&T? Why not just get an iPod Touch and a cheapy cell phone instead and save a boatload of money? (I wonder if someone from AT&T's PR department is getting ready to tackle this guy before he opens his mouth again.)

  1. FrankMtl

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Another pic

    For the love of god can another pic of de la Vega be found? This "i've-got-wasps-buzzing-near-my-nether-region" pic does not portray him well whatsoever; even less as aCEO.

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why beat around the bush? Verizon is already tiere

    Do they want to save their network or not? If they offered tiered pricing most users would likely end up paying less while the data hogs would pay through the nose unless if they modified their behavior. If you want an ISP, sign up of a wired ISP at home. Cellular networks are not designed to be a substitute for a regular ISP.

    Tethering is supposed to be used as a workaround when no Wifi is available for your laptop.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Another pic

    Actually, I always thought that pic made him look like some guy from any generic commercial.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What exactly is wrong about data tiers? Why should those who use little data bandwidth basically subsidize those who use a lot of it?

    It doesn't matter, though. They'll just not do tiers by charging everyone by the GB. Charge for usage isn't tiered, is it?

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sorry but what is wrong with what I said?

    If you are paying 30 bucks, you are not paying for unlimited data but rather around up to 5-6 GB of data on a cellular network. AT&T is simply not bothering to enforce a limit. The government did not build the towers and those towers have a finite capacity. If you want to torrent or stream, do it at home on your DSL, Cable or fiber connection and leave the cellular network for communication by people on the go.

    Wouldn't you rather pay 20 bucks or less if you use less than 5GB of data per month on your smartphone? Why do you want to pay more if you are never going to use it?

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No tiers.

    Firstly, iPhone uses a lot of data unless you purposely make it not i.e. turn it on airplane mode, secondly, you can't penalize someone for using a device the way it's supposed to be used: a lot, and yea, are people supposed to check the size of apps web pages emails etc and then add them up on the go?

    I think att is wishing it began its 3G deployment a bit earlier.

    - A

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