AT&T expands unlimited wireless options
Company offers two more plans, with benefits for those with pay-TV services
You didn’t really think the “unlimited” plan wireless wars were over now, did you?
The latest salvo comes from AT&T, which announced two new optional plans Monday.
The first is called Unlimited Plus, and it restores some kind of benefit to AT&T wireless customers who also subscribe to one of the company’s pay-TV services: either DirecTV, or U-verse TV.
Customers who opt-in to Unlimited Plus receive a $25 credit on their monthly video bill. But DirecTV Now customers, who weren’t previously eligible for an unlimited wireless benefit before, can also get the bill credit, which can lower the monthly cost of that service to as little as $10 a month once the credit kicks in.
It was only a couple of weeks ago AT&T dropped the requirement for customers who wanted unlimited to tether it to their DirecTV or U-verse subscriptions.
Unlimited Plus customers can also get 10 GB of tethering per smartphone (after 10 GB, max speed 128Kbps), plus the option to connect a tablet and other devices for $20 a month and the ability to add premium video through DirecTV. The combined price (assuming you get a discount for autopay and paperless billing and after the credit) is $115 a month to start.
Customers who still want unlimited wireless on AT&T without tying it to a TV subscription have that option.
The second new plan, Unlimited Choice, is aimed at more budget-conscious customers, and it’s the offering wireless analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics refers to as the “diamond in the rough.” It gives customers unlimited data for $60 a month (for a single line) or $155 a month for four lines. The catch: there’s a maximum speed of 3Mbps.
AT&T claims the cheaper plan is ideal for customers who want to surf the Web or to stream standard definition (about 480p) video at a max of 1.5Mbps. The plan includes unlimited talk, text and data, and the pricing also factors in an autopay and paperless bill wireless discount.
“This is what AT&T attacks with,” Entner says. “Yes, it limits you to 3 Mbps, but the real-life impact of that speed differential is small. I think this is the one where value buyers will perk up as it matches Sprint and beats TMobile by $10 per month.
“I am sure there will be a lot of scorn regarding the 3 Mbps and 480p video, but if 480p video was great for customers until two weeks ago, what has changed today besides Verizon offering HD? Our phones haven’t become big- ger, and our eyes haven’t miraculously gotten better.”
Adds wireless analyst Jeff Kagan: “AT&T is reinventing the traditional television space and wireless space, and they’re bringing them together in ways that no other carrier has before and creating a new marketplace.”
Verizon ignited this recent wave of unlimited-mania Feb. 12, when it became the last of the four major U.S. carriers to offer a fresh unlimited data offering. Before then Verizon was an unlimited hold-out, having last offered unlimited data options to customers in 2012.
Once Verizon moved, all its major competitors acted in kind, including AT&T when it removed the pay-TV requirement. The nature of the business being such, it is unlikely T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon will sit on the sidelines for long.
KENA BETANCUR, AFP/GETTY IMAGES AT&T serves up new options.