AT&T is bringing back unlimited data plans. But you'll have to be a customer of either the telecom giant's DirecTV satellite service or U-Verse cable and home Internet business to sign up.
The carrier announced today (Jan. 11) a new AT&T Unlimited Plan, in which subscribers get unlimited talk, text and data for $100 a month. (That's $60 for the plan itself, plus a $40 device access fee.) You can add additional lines for $40 per device, and AT&T will let you add a fourth line at no cost. That puts the monthly tab for a family of four at $180, factoring in the $40 discount.
The catch is you'll also need to subscribe to either DirecTV or U-Verse to be eligible for AT&T's unlimited plan. It's part of AT&T's effort to turn its $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV into more customers for its wireless business. As more incentive, AT&T is offering DirecTV and U-Verse TV susbscrbers up to $500 in credit if they switch their wireless service to AT&T, while wireless customers can sign up for DirecTV starting at $20 a month for the first year of their two-year commitment.
This isn't the first time AT&T has tied wireless and TV service into one deal — back in August, it bundled DirecTV service and a wireless plan with 10GB of shareable data for $200 a month — and it won't be the last. In announcing its unlimited plan, AT&T said it plans "many integrated video and mobility offers" during 2016.
"The customer wins with unlimited data," cable TV and wireless analyst Jeff Kagan said of AT&T's unlimited plan. "AT&T wins by attracting and retaining more customers and winning a larger market share."
Note that AT&T's unlimited plans aren't truly unlimited: If you use more than 22GB per month, the carrier may throttle your data speeds if its network is too congested, though that's a standard practice among carriers with unlimited plans.
Of course, unlimited plans have become few and far between in the wireless world. Until today, AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans to new customers in 2010 and is raising the rates for grandfathered plans starting next month. Verizon dropped wireless plans in 2011 and has also upped rates on the remaining subscribers with unlimited plans. For carriers, too many subscribers with unlimited data plans can eat into their profits.
Still, both Sprint and T-Mobile continue to have unlimited offerings. Sprint charges $70 for an unlimited plan, with additional lines costing $60 each. T-Mobile's unlimited plan costs $95 a month; four lines of unlimited data cost $280 at T-Mobile.