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Tiered plans to replace AT&T unlimited wireless data plan

An Apple customer displays the new iPad, left,

An Apple customer displays the new iPad, left, next to his iPhone. (April 7, 2010) Credit: AP

AT&T is moving away from unlimited wireless data usage and toward tiered Internet data plans on its smartphones and iPads, days before Apple's expected release of a new iPhone.

The carrier, which has been criticized over congestion on its network, especially in New York and other large cities, said Wednesday that it wanted to make it cheaper for more people to use the devices.

As of Monday, new customers will not be able to sign up for the $30-a-month unlimited data plan, but current subscribers can choose to keep it - even if they renew their contracts.

Subscribers who don't watch a lot of videos or use other data would end up paying slightly less, while heavy bandwidth users would face higher bills.

The limits won't apply to usage over Wi-Fi networks.

The cheapest plan will cost $15 a month for 200 megabytes of data, which AT&T says is enough for 65 percent of its smartphone customers. If they go over, they'll pay another $15 for 200 more megabytes.

Another option will cost $25 a month and offer 2 gigabytes of data per month, which the carrier says will be enough for 98 percent of customers. Additional gigabytes will cost $10 each.

AT&T said a smartphone could cost as little as $55 per month before taxes and add-on fees, down from $70 now.

Customers on Long Island had mixed reactions Wednesday.

Joe Chiarelli, 39, of Lindenhurst, welcomed the new plans. "I think they give a better price break for the casual iPhone user," he said. "I'm looking at saving some money."

Chiarelli said his wife didn't need unlimited data and would switch to the $15 monthly plan. "Myself, I use a little bit more data so I may have to go for the higher data plan," he added.

But Sean Beal, 29, of West Babylon, said he stays on the 3G network on his BlackBerry during his two-hour commute into Manhattan and in his office.

"A two-gigabyte cap is really a hard limit for me," he said. Beal, a computer programmer, said he has used as much as 3 gigabytes in recent months. He said AT&T should have kept an unlimited option available to everyone.

Carl Viñas, 27, of Huntington, said that based on his past iPhone usage, "if I ended up going with the low [price] plan, I would probably go over that 75 to 80 percent of the time. I'd end up paying the same for a lot less data usage."

Analysts said they expect other phone companies to follow suit. Verizon Wireless had no immediate comment.



Data usage, broken down by apps


200 megabytes equals about:


  • 1,000 e-mails (no attachments)



  • 150 e-mails with attachments



  • 400 web page views



  • 50 online photos



  • 20 minutes of streaming video


2 gigabytes equals about:


  • 10,000 e-mails (no attachments)



  • 1,500 e-mails with attachments



  • 4,000 Web page views



  • 500 online photos



  • 200 minutes of streaming video



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