AT&T has for a very long time allowed iPhone and other smartphone users to purchase an unlimited data plan, which means that there is a set cost no matter how much data one uses in a month. However, recently AT&T has decided to ditch this plan, in favor of a capped alternative. Users of the iPhone and other smartphones have a choice to opt for a 200mb data plan for $15 per month, or a 2gb data plan for $25 dollars per month. Using more data has overage charges. It is very likely that Verizon will follow suit and force consumers to limited plans. So what are the implications of this shift?
The most obvious implication is that this signals the end of the data buffet. People are soon going to have to monitor their data usage, which perhaps implies that the “always connected” culture that had been developing is going to vanish soon. Even push email takes a small amount of data, so people may choose to wait to read and respond to their emails, or do so over a wifi hotspot. The second, and perhaps large, implication is that this is highly likely to transition from mobile broadband to a wired and wifi policy soon. Already vendors are experimenting with limiting home internet access, and this is a major shift. People had been discussing ditching television plans in favor of watching TV shows online. With limited data that is impossible. This could also greatly decrease piracy: who is going to download a 20gb video game illegally when his or her data cap only allows 5gb a month?
The fact is that these data caps on mobile broadband plans have much farther-reaching implications than many initially thought.