First the good news: AT&T has announced that iPad, iPhone, and other smartphone users will be able to tether their mobile to a laptop and share the 3G data connection.

Now the less good news: Tethering will cost you $20/month on top of a $25/month data plan, which brings the total to $45.

Now the bad news: Starting June 7, A&T will no longer offer unlimited data plans. That $25/month data plan I just mentioned? It has a 2GB data transfer cap each month.

AT&T is announcing a new pricing plan for mobile broadband. The DataPlus plan costs just $15 per month and provides you with 200MB of data transfer. The DataPro plan costs $25 and gives you up to 2GB of transfer. And the tethering, which is only available with the DataPro plan, costs $20.

What’s missing is an unlimited data plan, because AT&T won’t be offering that anymore. Existing customers will be able to hang onto their unlimited data plans for the iPhone or other smartphones if they don’t want to make the switch. But then you’re left without a tethering option. If you do choose to make the switch, AT&T promises to let you do so without a contract extension — which makes sense, since they’re kind of offering you less for more.

To be fair, 2GB of data really isn’t bad for a typical smartphone plan. AT&T suggests that 98% of users won’t be affected by the change, and that the 2GB plan would let you send and receive 10,000 emails without attachments, view 4,000 web pages, post 500 photos online, and watch 200 minutes of streaming video in a month. That said, I wouldn’t recommend tethering your phone to a laptop and watching high quality streaming video, which could run down your monthly allotment pretty quickly.

Update: This didn’t even occur to me at first, but when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, one of the most exciting parts of the announcement was the news that customers would be able to sign up for a $30/month unlimited data plan, which is much cheaper than similar data plans for laptops. Since the iPad is designed as a media consumption device allowing users to watch streaming videos from ABC, Netflix, and other sites, I can see how it would be fairly easy to hit a 2GB limit pretty quickly on that particular device. A slashdot poster calls AT&T’s move a bait and switch, and it’s hard to say that’s wrong.

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