updated 05:30 pm EST, Wed January 18, 2012
ATT hopes to eke more from data users
AT&T in a surprise step Wednesday increased its mobile data plan prices with cap changes to match. New customers will pay an extra $5 per month on plans but will get more data depending on the plan they use. Basic Data Plus users get the least increase, moving from 250MB to 300MB per month with $20 the new baseline; the more common Data Pro plans are now $30 and $50, but supply 3GB (up from 2GB) and 5GB (up from 4GB).
Tablet owners signing up for data also have to adopt the 3GB or 5GB rates in prepaid or subscription form, although they will still have the option of the cheaper $15, 250MB plan from before. Overage fees are the same as before and, on 3GB and 5GB plans, cost $10 for every extra gigabyte over the cap. The plans take effect for customers signing on from January 22 onwards.
CMO David Christopher justified the increase as a virtue of "increasing demand in a highly competitive environment" as well as a brace for traffic increases on LTE.
Upgrades to 4G have been used with other carriers and countries as opportunities to raise prices. The decision doesn't make AT&T's service more expensive than its major rival Verizon's service and gives it an advantage in bandwidth for the money, but it returns to higher prices as LTE theoretically makes the network cheaper to run and as economic concerns are still high priority.