AT&T said June 2 that, starting June 7, it will be instituting usage-based pricing for its smartphone broadband users.
Rather than an unlimited data plan, AT&T will offer two tiers of service: DataPlus, which will provide 200 megabytes per month for $15, with the option of 200 MB per month additional increments for an additional $15; or DataPro, with 2 gigabytes of data per month for $25, with an option for increments of another 1 gigbyte per month for an extra $10 for each increment.
AT&T says that 65% of its smartphone users use less than 200 MB of data per month and 98% use less than 2 GB per month, so for most it will be a savings over current plans.
DataPro will also allow data customers, for an additional $20 per month, to use their devices as modems for laptops, netbooks and other computers.
AT&T points out that at a starting price of $54.99 per month for an individual plan, that is $15 less than the price of its current entry-level bundle. IPad users will now pay $25 per month for the 2 GB plan, rather than the $29.99 they had been paying for the unlimited plan.
And in a move that should please the FCC, AT&T says it will send text messages to customers who are approaching their monthly usage limit, and provide a free app to iPhone usres to monitor their usage.
The FCC has been pushing companies to provide more warning to folks about when they may be reaching their useage limits for voice and adding charges to their bills. (See related article, "FCC Survey Estimates 30 Million Get Bill-Shocked")
Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said to look for others to follow suit: "This morning, AT&T announced the first major departure from the industry norm of unlimited data plans, marking what is likely to be a rapid industry-wide transition to tiered pricing for wireless data," he said in an advisory. "We would expect most other operators to follow, perhaps as early as today, with the only significant uncertainty being whether some operators -- Clearwire is perhaps the most noteworthy question mark -- will choose not to follow."