AT&T to enact metered billing of wireless data


announced a new set of wireless data plans that would require users to
pay extra money if they exceeded monthly limits set on the amount of
data they sent and received through their phones.

On its line of smart phones — including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, for which AT&T
is the sole carrier — the telecom has for years offered so-called “all
you can eat” plans that allowed users to send and receive an unlimited
amount of data — including e-mails, Web pages, music and video.

The new plans would be a substantial move away from that model. Instead of paying $30 per month for unlimited data usage, new AT&T smart-phone users could opt to pay $25 dollars a month for 2 gigabytes of data. If users exceeded that allotment, they would pay $10 for every additional gigabyte.

The company said its $25 plan would
include enough data to satisfy the needs of 98 percent of its smart
phone users. Two gigabytes, it said, was enough to send and receive
“10,000 e-mails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 e-mails with
attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social
media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video.”

There will also be a $15 plan that would allocate users 200 megabytes of data (or one-tenth of the amount offered in the $25 plan).

Current AT&T smart-phone subscribers will be able to stay on the $30 data plan.

The limits do not include data sent over local Wi-Fi
networks — an exception that in essence encourages users to wait until
they get home (or to the office) to use their phone for data-intensive
activities like watching Web videos or listen to music. Shifting heavy
use off of cellular networks and over to the broadband Internet would
lighten the load on AT&T’s beleaguered cellular network.

The company has come under fire for slow speeds on its wireless networks in major cities — chiefly San Francisco and New York
— where iPhone usage is highest. Imposing data limits represents a way
for the company to rein in heavy usage of its most data-hungry users,
and thereby increase speeds on its network.

In December, the company hinted at its plans to curb unlimited data consumption.


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