AT&T's new data plans are cheaper than before, but not necessarily better

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When AT&T announced that it would open its unlimited data plan to new and existing subscribers last week, it wasn’t quite on par with the competition’s offerings. Unlike T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint’s unlimited data options, AT&T’s uncapped tier didn’t support mobile hotspots and was by far the most expensive. Responding to a chorus of criticism, the carrier on Monday announced changes to its unlimited data plan that position it better among the major plans available.

Beginning Thursday, AT&T’s reworked unlimited plan, Unlimited Plus, will add streaming entertainment to the mix. Customers who opt for the option will receive a $25 monthly video credit if they subscribe to AT&T’s DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or U-verse TV streaming plan, and DirecTV customers who enroll in an unlimited plan will see $25 credited to their existing bill. That brings the price of DirecTV’s premium All-Included Package for new customers to $25, AT&T notes.

But there’s more to Unlimited Plus than a monthly discount. AT&T subscriber get unlimited data, talk, and text, up to 10GB (slowed to 128Kbps after it’s exhausted) of high-speed mobile hotspot data per smartphone, and the option to connect a tablet and other devices for $20 a month, and LTE-connected watches for $10 a month.

With a premium DirecTV package, discounts for automatic bill payments and paperless billing, and the aforementioned $25 monthly credit, the total for AT&T Unlimited Plus comes to $115 a month, AT&T said. Four lines cost $185 a month or $195 with DirecTV Now.

AT&T’s also introducing a cheaper unlimited tier: the AT&T Unlimited Choice plan. For $60 a month, subscribers get unlimited talk, text, and data up to a maximum speed of 3Mbps — videos stream at standard definition (480p) at a max speed of 1.5Mbps. After autopay and paperless discounts, monthly charges for four lines come to $155, and a single smartphone starts at $60 a month.

Both AT&T’s Unlimited Plus plan and Unlimited Choice plan include unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico and unlimited texting to over 120 countries. In addition, subscribers can talk, text, and use data in Mexico an Canada without incurring roaming charges.

As always, there’s some fine print worth noting. Subscribers who use more than 22GB in a month are subject to having their speeds throttled. Monthly bill credits for AT&T’s video subscription plans don’t kick in until the third month, and require a 24-month contract. Autopay discounts start in 1-2 bill cycles. And if voice, text, or data usage in Mexico and/or Canada exceeds 50 percent of a subscriber’s total voice, text, or data, for two months in a row, the feature may be removed.

Still, it’s an improvement over AT&T’s first attempt. And with unlimited plans back in vogue among the major four U.S. carriers, there’s bound to be more around the corner.

See AT&T plans here

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