AT&T revives its unlimited data plan, but you'll have to get DirecTV to snag the deal

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If there’s one word consumers can’t get enough of, it’s “unlimited.” From buffets to data plans, there’s something about excess that’s just so … satisfying. And now, AT&T is bringing back its much missed unlimited data plan. However, as with most good news from cell phone providers, there’s a catch. In order to get all the data your heart desires, you’ll also have to pay for a television subscription.

Here’s the fine print from the AT&T: “Beginning tomorrow (January 12), new and existing AT&T consumer wireless customers who have or add AT&T DirecTV or AT&T U-Verse TV may get the new AT&T Unlimited Plan, offering customers more data to use for watching video, playing games and surfing the web on their mobile devices.” You’ll get all the data, talk, and text you want for $100 plus the cost of your TV plan.

Under this new plan, the first phone with unlimited streaming, data, talk, and text is $100, and the next two phones (or a tablet) are $40 each. Add a fourth for no extra charge, or tack on a smartwatch for another $10. In other words, a family of four would pay $180 for unlimited talk, text, and data in addition to the price of a DirecTV subscription.

For current AT&T customers who want to take advantage of the deal and don’t have DirecTV yet, TV packages start at $20 a month for 12 months, with a 24-month contract. After the first 12 months, the promotional pricing for your TV subscription will end. The TV part of the deal is essentially the same promotional pricing DirecTV already offers to new customers.

When you add the cost of the unlimited data plan for a family of four ($180) to the cost of the cheapest DirecTV offer ($20), you end up with a total of $200 per month — and that’s assuming you don’t have devices to pay off as well. If you’re new to AT&T, you’ll have to sign up for a phone installment plan anyway, as two-year contracts are no longer offered at AT&T, and that will bring up the total cost of the plan. Most new flagship phones like the iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6 cost between $20-$30 per month.

Luckily, DirecTV or U-Verse TV subscribers who don’t have AT&T phone plans, can get $500 in credits when they switch to the AT&T Unlimited Plan, trade in their old phones, and buy new ones on AT&T Next. Glenn Lurie, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, called the promotion a “limited time offer,” and there’s no concrete end date set.

The announcement comes on the heels of the service provider’s recent acquisition of DirecTV, and resuscitates an unlimited program that finally lets AT&T compete with Sprint and T-Mobile on unlimited data deals.

“We’ve got the content consumers want, we’re delivering it to the devices they want, and we’re making it as easy as ever for them to consume as much as they want,” said de la Vega in a press release. “And, they will get a high-quality video streaming experience from the start. No compromises in video quality.” That, of course, is likely a slight directed at T-Mobile and its much criticized BingeOn program, which gives select customers unlimited video streaming at lower resolutions.

AT&T’s offer is not an insanely great deal, but if you use a lot of data each month, the unlimited plan offer could save you some money and gain you access to about 145 channels on DirecTV. However, most people really don’t need all that data, so it’s important to weigh how much data you actually need before you jump on the deal.

You can check out our break down on the best family plans here to get a better idea of what’s offered by the four major carriers.

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