There’s a thread over at MoDaCo (that I found by way of MobileGadgetNews) wherein someone noticed that AT&T has dropped the price of their unlimited GPRS wireless data plan to $24.95/month, down from $50/month (or $80/month, depending on who you talk to).
I think this is a smart competitive move on AT&T’s part, since until now, someone who wanted a cheap unlimited GPRS plan really had only one choice – T-Mobile. There are some caveats and restrictions, though:
$24.99 UNLIMITED mMODE PLAN-ADDITIONAL IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Unlimited service only applies to e-mail, Internet and intranet access on your device; other uses (e.g., tethering, select audio/video content, games or other downloads) are an extra expense. If you use your phone to connect to another device or computer via cable, Bluetooth or infrared, you will be charged $0.001 per KB or approximately $1/MB for data sent to or from your phone and transferred over the AT&T Wireless network. You also will be charged $0.001 per KB if you remove the SIM card from your phone and use it to get wireless data service from another device or computer. The $24.99 Unlimited mMode plan is the only mMode plan available for activation on a UMTS device. This plan may not be used with service devices or with host computer applications. Such prohibited uses include, but are not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, continuous JPEG file transfers, automatic data feeds, telemetry applications, automated functions or any other machine-to-machine applications. This Plan may not be used to provide full-time connections, including without limitation, private lines or frame relay. AT&T Wireless reserves the right to deny or terminate service, without notice, to any person that uses AT&T Wireless’ network and/or service in any manner that adversely impacts the AT&T Wireless network or service levels. AT&T Wireless reserves the right to deny or to terminate service without notice for any misuse, including without limitation, periods of excessive usage that AT&T Wireless, it its sole discretion, determines is the result of prohibited use(s). Standard voice charges apply when using data/mMode applications that generate a voice call.
Now, it could just be legalese, but it sounds like their “unlimited” plan really isn’t that unlimited. Charging $1/MB for using your phone with another device, like a PDA or a laptop, discourages using your phone as a wireless modem, and the other restrictions against “web camera posts” and “machine-to-machine connections” could be interpreted as prohibition of photoblogging, instant messaging, streaming audio or video, or remote access (such as SSH, VNC, or Remote Desktop). I guess it all comes down to how Draconian they decide to be when enforcing these terms.
I’m interested to know how they can tell if data access comes directly from your phone, or from another device (such as a PDA over a Bluetooth connection). Everything I know about GPRS tells me that packets are packets, and there wouldn’t be anything on their end to distinguish packets from a PDA or the phone itself.
Anyway, I know several people with MPX200 Smartphones that are on AT&T, and contractually obligated to stay there, but aren’t able to get the most out of their devices becase of AT&T’s high GPRS rates. This should come as good news to them, especially those that have corporate discounts, and/or are already paying more for the unlimited plan.