Good news 1: AT&T is exchanging their ‘unlimited’ $30/month iPhone data plan for a $15 200 MB/month and $25 2GB/month plan, with relatively sane overage handling.
This is good because AT&T’s been blaming a lot of its woes on out-of-control data usage by iPhone users exceeding their network capacity in the most crowded markets. If they’re actually charging based on usage, the incentive structure changes from them wanting to minimize our data usage [pushing costs down] to wanting to make it as attractive as possible to actually use the network [pushing revenue up, rewarding infrastructure buildout].
That means AT&T is more likely to give people things they want, and I can’t say a bad thing about that.
Good news 2: AT&T will finally start offering iPhone tethering (11 months behind schedule) for an extra $20/month on top of the 2 GB/month plan.
Adding tethering is a must for AT&T as the US exclusive iPhone carrier to compete with Android phones, which can already tether on any network without jailbreaking and will soon have the feature officially in the OS.
These exclusive carrier agreements are horrible for consumers; it took this long for a competing phone to catch up enough to actually push AT&T into action. If we’d instead had an open phone market, so you could buy any phone and use it on any network, we’d have had somebody offering official consumer-friendly tethering the second the iPhone 3Gs was announced.
Bad news: That $20/month doesn’t actually get you anything real — you have the same 2 GB limit that you’re already paying for, but you’re more likely to reach or exceed the limit. If the issue is data limits, why do I need to pay extra to NOT get a bigger limit? This is particularly silly if customers can tether for free on any other network, or on the same network with any other phone, or on the same network with the same phone if they jailbreak the software. Hello?
But let’s give AT&T props for baby steps — they’ve already been offering similar smartphone tethering plans that don’t add anything to your data caps for their other smartphones, so that’s what they know.
What it probably does for me is to make me feel less guilty about considering getting the poorly-advertised unlimited international smartphone data plan ‘without tethering’ and then using tethering anyway on my Android-based Nexus One. It’s enough money that I’d feel like I’m paying for my US tethering during the months that I don’t have any international travel. :P