AT&T, the second-largest US mobile operator and the exclusive provider of wireless service for Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, is to scrap its USD30-a-month unlimited mobile data plan and introduce tiered plans for new smartphone and iPad owners based upon data consumption. The company claimed the change would save most smartphone customers money, although critics have condemned the move as ‘retrogressive’. From 7 June new smartphone buyers will be offered a choice of two data plans. One will cost USD15 a month for up to 200MB of data, while the other will cover up to 2GB for USD25 a month. Customers exceeding these limits will have to pay extra charges.
Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said the company was making the changes to give more people the opportunity to experience the benefits of mobile data. ‘We are breaking free from the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ pricing model and making the mobile internet more affordable to a greater number of people,’ he said. However consumer advocacy groups warned that the move could slow the growth of smartphone adoption and mobile internet usage. ‘While AT&T asserts that its high-end 2GB cap will only impact the heaviest users, the fact is that today’s heavy user is tomorrow’s average user,’ said Chris Riley of the Free Press Policy Council.