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AH Primetime: AT&T’s New Unlimited Data Plan Has A Few Caveats

January 18, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

It wasn’t too long ago that AT&T and Verizon, hand in hand, made a crusade against unlimited data plans. Their plot went swimmingly and, for a time, even had T-Mobile convinced. Aside from a few outliers, truly unlimited data plans were, for all intents and purposes, dead. After T-Mobile essentially forced the industry to bring them back, a good number of carriers stuck to their guns and kept tiered data, with some introducing unlimited low-speed data to supplement their tiered plans. Recently, however, an announcement from AT&T indicates they’re bringing back unlimited data plans. Fear not, though, the world isn’t ending; there are just a few caveats.

For starters, this deal is only for subscribers of AT&T’s U-Verse TV service or DirecTV. You can snap up the deal all at once if you’re on another carrier and TV provider but are willing to break free for this deal. Existing customers of AT&T’s mobile service, DirecTV or AT&T U-Verse TV can pick up whichever service is missing from their life in order to get the unlimited plan.

The next point most are probably wondering about is pricing. To put it short and sweet, somebody with no involvement in AT&T or DirecTV can pick up the plan for themselves, along with a basic DirecTV plan, for $110 a month for the first year, plus $7 per month for each set-top box in their home. To go into detail, the plan has a $60 base charge and additional lines on the plan are $40 a pop. The DirecTV plan increases to $50 once the promotional pricing wears off in year two, but if you bundle wireless and TV, you’ll get $10 knocked off. This means one person grabbing the plan at a bare minimum will end up paying $157 a month during the second year. If you already have U-Verse or DirecTV, the unlimited plan alone costs $60, along with the $40 per line, making it just $100. If you already have AT&T’s mobile service, the minimum DirecTV plan on its own is $19.99 per month on promotional pricing and will go up to $59.99 during the second year. Mind you, taxes and fees are still applicable. In any case, the pricing doesn’t beat the competition’s prices for unlimited plans alone, but does beat some of the higher-priced data plans from AT&T themselves. If you are a fairly high data user, typically above 10 to 15 GB in a month, the plan may be a nice consideration, though lower-tier users happy with their plans likely pay less.

AT&T hasn’t specified how long they’ll be offering this deal, but have said it’s for a limited time. Obviously, as such, this won’t be causing any shakeups in the industry. They did mention, though, that customers that sign up for the plan will have it honored indefinitely, basically creating a second generation and type of grandfathered unlimited users. Since the plan is a bit less expensive than the grandfathered plan in some cases, this may even attract some grandfathered plan subscribers. This seems to be an effort to stem whatever subscriber bleeding that AT&T has seen in the wake of Sprint and T-Mobile’s recent aggressive initiatives to win over customers. This move could also make a good distraction from the fact that other carriers are starting to catch up to AT&T in terms of network performance. In any case, there’s a good number of people out there who have steered clear of AT&T or DirecTV for one reason or another or who have AT&T but want unlimited data. For these users, it may be a good idea to snap this deal up before it’s gone. Carriers do have a habit of extending deals that do well, but there’s been no word on this one, making it best practice to assume it won’t last long.