Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AT&T's increase in data rates may be a sign of the future

Attention future AT&T customers: Your data plans just got more expensive.

You're safe if you already have a contract, but the ever-increasing cost of owning a cell phone just got a little pricier for new buyers.

The lowest tier data plan will now be $20 per month, up from $15 ... and you get a boost from 200MB to 300MB. This increase is negligible, as this much data will be used up in no time.

The next level -- which was $25 for 2GB of data -- is now $30 for 3GB of data. This is more substantial, but the extra cost will still sting some buyers.

If you have a tablet, you can pay $15 per month for 250 MB, $30 a month plan for 3 GB or a $50 a month plan for 5 GB.

What do I think about this?

Well, it might not seem fair, and I certainly sympathize with all new customers who have to pay more. But unfortunately, I believe it was inevitable.

Between the introduction of AT&T's faster new LTE 4G network and the costs involved, and the bath they just took on that ill-fated T-Mobile takeover, the writing was on the wall -- rates were going to go up.

Some people might go elsewhere due to this hike, but I doubt it will be in droves. Verizon's rates aren't any better, and Sprint and T-Mobile are options that not everyone will want to consider.

AT&T says its data plans are still a "great value", compared to the 2GB offered by Verizon for $30. But don't be surprised if Verizon changes their plans to match this in a competitive move.

Bottom line: Buckle up smartphone customers: The sad truth is that it's likely going to keep getting more and more expensive to use our smartphones -- whether you're on AT&T or its competitors. And I'm not sure what we can do about it, except not get a data plan (and how likely is that?).

Matt Myftiu can be reached at matt.myftiu@oakpress.com.


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