AT&T Announces Unlimited Data Plans — with a Catch

The Offer Is for Its DirecTV and U-Verse Subscribers

ATT_logo_lThis week, AT&T launched unlimited data plans for its DirecTV and U-verse subscribers.

The company announced its all-you-can-eat option to utilize its DirecTV and U-verse subscriber numbers. It’s a bold shift from AT&T’s 2010 decision to become the first major US carrier to stop offering unlimited data plans to new customers in an effort to push users to Wi-Fi and limit congestion on its network — a choice followed by Verizon in 2011, while Sprint and T-Mobile continued to offer unlimited packages.

The latest statement outlines that DirecTV and U-verse customers can pay $100 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk and text on AT&T’s network. Additional phones and tablets cost $40 per line, or $10 per line for customers wishing to add a tablet but keep their data usage to less than 1GB per month. AT&T’s “unlimited” data allows up to 22GB per line before AT&T might begin throttling access to the network if congestion demands it. Sprint takes a similar approach with its $70 unlimited plan, restricting use after a 23GB threshold is reached.

The offer is AT&T’s attempt to utilize its acquisition of DirecTV, which closed in July 2015, and the company is heavily pushing multiplay connectivity across wireless and television. Unlimited data plans will enable subscribers to stream shows from DirecTV or U-verse at home or away. Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, referred to the unlimited plan as a “reward for our valued customers who like to take advantage of our integrated offers of TV and wireless services”. The announcement comes as a number of carriers in the US market aim to offer more than just mobile connectivity, with the launch of T-Mobile’s Binge On and Verizon’s Go90 streaming services demonstrating accelerated efforts in the area.

CCS Insight believes that the plans reflect AT&T’s growing competitive spirit as it accesses its recently acquired DirecTV customers to increase its mobile subscriber total. The move coincides with a trend away from buying pay-TV services, but offers the freedom of unlimited usage across a range of devices and the convenience of dealing with a single supplier. AT&T’s strategy should be particularly concerning for Sprint, which has been losing market share over the past decade. The US market could be in for a new round of competitive jostling.