Unlimited data plans are becoming something of an endangered species. Though most networks offered them five years ago, as smartphones and tablets have become more common-place, networks have started capping plans or charging significantly more for the privilege of unlimited data. The reasoning is pretty simple: Now that the world and its dog has a smartphone packed with apps that are capable of guzzling tons of data, networks are under more strain than ever.
Despite the costs associated with offering unlimited data, some networks recognize the value customers place on these all-you-can-eat plans and are willing to offer them in an effort to get one up on the competition. However, AT&T clearly isn't one of them. CEO Randall Stephenson recently said that he regrets ever offering an unlimited data plan with Apple's iPhone. Speaking at a conference last week, Stephenson described unlimited data for the iPhone as his 'only regret.'
“My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat," the New York Times quotes him as saying. "And it's a variable cost model. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital."
AT&T ditched unlimited data in 2010, three years after the iPhone came out, and currently offers tiered data plans depending on your device and your usage. These range from $14.99 a month for 250MB (tablet only), $50 for 5GB of data. In fact, the only unlimited plan the company now offers costs $10 per month and only applies to those with 'standard phones' (in other words, no smartphones allowed).
So, while Sprint has said the new iPhone (whenever Apple decides to launch it) will come with unlimited data, anyone hoping that AT&T would match that offer is probably going to be disappointed. Boo.