The age of the unlimited data deal grinds a few feet further to conclusion as AT&T announces that it will increase the price of ‘grandfathered’ unlimited mobile data deals from February 2016, in a move which mirrors that taken by rival telcos Verizon and Sprint in October and T-Mobile in November.
That said, the pain won’t be too keen in comparison to the hikes which seem to have inspired it – the price is rising by $5, and it’s the first increase in seven years. By contrast T-Mobile – the only major carrier besides Sprint that still offers unlimited data plans – increased its unlimited one-line plan from $80 to $95. Verizon almost doubled its grandfathered plans with an increase from $29.99 to $49.99. Sprint’s October price increase took unlimited data up ten dollars to $70.
The advisory posting from AT&T adds that customers wishing to abandon their plans because of the increase, presumably not many, will have their early termination fee (ETF) waived so long as they withdraw within sixty days of the increase registering in their accounts.
Various sweeteners have been thrown in to ameliorate the negative PR of what seems to be a Cartel/hive decision, including low-cost iPhone rental, a ‘free’ monthly video rental from Vudu, and no Netflix penalty for those who hop over to limited data plans but still want to binge out with online seasons.
Although the price increase is the least of any of the major providers, AT&T is not in the strongest position to defend increasing costs of infrastructure development, with a perceived history of only investing in cable-laying in response to competition, rather than seeking to genuinely develop infrastructure in North America.
Whether the price is going up arbitrarily because demand is high or because resources must be conserved is an open point. Cisco recently produced a white paper on global mobile data traffic which forecasts critical margins between supply and demand of mobile connectivity over the next four years, and a yearly increase in demand of 61%, as compared to an annual capacity increase of 29%.
If this particular withering vine is irksome, let’s see how far providers get in moving customers to dynamic tariffs in years to come.