AT&T Data Pricing Changes: Good or Bad?

Yesterday (June 2, 2010), AT&T announced changes to it’s data service pricing. The full press release can be found at:

The big news is that AT&T is doing away with their “unlimited” data plans. Many folks will question whether this is a good thing or not. However, the first question is to get an idea of your data usage. The data usage will depend on the device you use and how you use that device. For most, the usage of the device will peak at first while getting to know it. Then usage will taper off. It is possible that usage will continue to grow as you find new ways to use your device.

I took a sampling of two devices I use regularly; an iPhone and an iPad. I’ve used the iPhone regularly for the past year. So, my usage has somewhat normalized. Over the past 6 months, I’ve averaged 243MB/ month in data usage on the iPhone. The peak month was 442MB and lowest usage month was 154MB. The usage is trending upward.

I have only had the iPad for 2 days now. As such, there is still quite a bit of “trying things out” that is happening right now. If I take the data usage over the past two days and extrapolate that over 30 days, I come up with 500MB/ month. Even if I double the value, it is still only 1GB/ month.

AT&T’s two new data plans top out at 200MB and 2GB per month respectively. Using my use case as a typical-heavy user of bandwidth, the 2GB data plan should provide more than adequate coverage for both devices.

As we leverage the cloud more over time, I would expect these numbers to grow. And if you’re starting to use new applications like video streaming from Netflix on the iPad, then the numbers will grow even further.

There is an alternative. Leverage AT&T’s Wi-Fi when you can. Access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi Hotspots is included with the data plans. It’s both faster than the cellular network and provides unlimited bandwidth under AT&T’s new plans. You can also leverage free Wi-Fi in a variety of locations in addition to the Wi-Fi that you may have in your home/ workplace.

Bottom Line: AT&T states that the new plans should help lower the data bills for 98% of their customers. Based on my use case scenarios, I would tend to agree.

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