Dallas - AT&T will offer new smartphone subscribers less expensive data plans to replace its current $29.99/month unlimited-data plan, which will no longer be offered.
The changes go into effect on June 7, the same day that Apple is expected to announce its next generation iPhone during its developers' conference.
AT&T described the change as a way to make smartphones more affordable to consumers, but analysts also see it as a way for AT&T to control data usage by a small percentage of subscribers - mainly iPhone subscribers -- who use a disproportionate amount of data traffic and slow data service for other users.
Current AT&T voice and texting plans are unchanged
"To give more people the opportunity to experience [data-service benefits]," said Ralph de la Vega, president/CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, " we're breaking free from the traditional â€˜one-size-fits-all' pricing model and making the mobile Internet more affordable to a greater number of people."
Under AT&T's new two-tier data-plan strategy, a $15/month DataPlus option will provide 200MB of data .Customers who exceed 200MB/month will get an additional 200MB for $15 for use during the month. The DataPlus plan is targeted to people who surf the web, send email and use social networking applications, and it provides enough data to send and receive 1,000 emails without attachments, send and receive 150 emails with attachments, view 400 Web pages, post 50 photos on social media sites, and watch 20 minutes of streaming video.
Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month on average, the carrier said.
The $25/month DataPro plan provides 2GB of data, and users exceeding that amount will get an additional 1GB of data at $10 for use during the month. The plan allows for 10,000 emails with no attachments, 1,500 emails with attachments, 4,000 Web pages, posting of 500 photos to social media sites, and viewing of 200 minutes of streaming video, AT&T said.
Currently, 98 percent of AT&T's smartphone users use less than 2GB of data per month on average, the company said.
Under both plans, AT&T will send a text notification after a subscriber reaches 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of a plan's data limit. AT&T will also send email alerts to a user's email address.
Both plans include unlimited WiFi access through AT&T's 20,000 hot spots. The "vast majority " of AT&T smartphones feature WiFi, the company added.
Consumers who choose the top plan also get a $20/month option to tether their smartphone to a portable computer for use as a wireless modem. Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 during the summer,AT&T said.
Current smartphone customers with the tethering option are paying $30/month for an unlimited data plan plus $30/month for the tethering option.
People who buy new iPads will get one data option, the $25/month 2GB plan, to replace the current $29.99 unlimited plan. iPad customers will continue to pre-pay for their wireless data plan with no contract requirement. Existing iPad customers with the $29.99 plan will be able to switch.