UPDATE (10/20/2017) - Details & Deadline Confirmed
AT&T has updated its internal customer service resource system with more details about the changes coming to hotspots on Unlimited Plus & Choice plans, clarifying some critical details.
In a nutshell:
- Mobile hotspots and aircards will no longer be able to be added to an existing AT&T Unlimited plan as of January 3rd, 2018. The December 5th, 2017 date sent out on some customer bills was in error.
- Existing customers who have a hotspot line active before October 28th WILL be grandfathered in - and the hotspot should remain grandfathered (and unlimited) as long as that line is kept in service. Yay! It is not clear from AT&T's update what will happen to hotspot lines opened between October 28th and January 3rd - so to be safe activate beforehand.
- New AT&T customers who start service after October 28th, 2017 will NOT be able to add mobile hotspot lines to an Unlimited Plus / Choice plan. You need to be an existing AT&T customer to keep the door for adding hotspots open until January.
If you are not yet an AT&T customer and want to have the option of having an unlimited hotspot, time is running out - you need to open up an account and add a hotspot with AT&T before October 28th!
Device Tip: Our top pick AT&T Mobile hotspot device is the Unite Explore (retail $199.99, or $49.99 with 2-year contract), it's the most current on the market offering dual antenna ports (more signal enhancing options) and the latest LTE modem. We are already getting reports of limited supplies in stores & online, but the device is also available through third party retailers on Amazon and even full unlocked at Mr. Aberthon. You can then activate the device on AT&T. But be sure to order in plenty of time to activate by close of business on October 27!
Do you need a smartphone line too? AT&T still seems to be activating mobile hotspot devices as the primary line of service. For Unlimited Plus, this would be $90/mo with auto-pay.
Here's a 20m video we create overviewing this plan, and what you need to do to get it:
The updated original story continues below.
When AT&T announced the Unlimited Plus plans in February 2017 - overnight AT&T went from having some of the worst data offerings for mobile travelers, to being the most data-friendly mobile provider.
Verizon's new Unlimited plan capped high-speed hotspot data usage to just 10GB/mo (now 15GB/mo) even on Jetpack hotspots - while AT&T's new unlimited plans allowed you to add a dedicated mobile hotspot for as little as $20/mo without high-speed data limits!
AT&T was clear that they had no high-speed usage cap for hotspots on these plans at all - other than the standard "network management" occasional slowdown after 22GB of usage on actively congested towers.
For RVers and boaters with any existing voice lines on AT&T, it became a no-brainer to add on a dedicated hotspot to serve as a primary mobile internet option.
AT&T even allowed hotspot devices to be activated as the primary line, meaning you didn't need a smartphone line with the carrier to qualify (however many in this situation opted for activating a Mobley on the much cheaper Connected Car $20/month stand alone plan - which is now retired).
And many cord cutters and rural dwellers were doing the same.
It was a deal that was too good to be true. And it seems that AT&T may have finally realized this.
Yesterday AT&T customers began to notice an odd new block of text added to their bills, and images were posted in public forums:
NOTICE OF DEVICE ELIGIBILITY
Please note that as of 12/05/2017, AT&T Wireless Home Phone & Internet and dedicated mobile hotspot devices will no longer be eligible devices for the AT&T Unlimited Plus or AT&T Unlimited Choice plan.
So, is the party coming to an end?
For new customers - probably so.
Video Edition of this Story:
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Will Current Customers be Grandfathered?
It is clear that AT&T is changing policies - and beginning in
December January will no longer allow existing customers to add dedicated data hotspots onto Unlimited plans.
But what about current customers who already have a hotspot active?
AT&T has now updated its support portal to indicate that current lines WILL be grandfathered in.
With grandfathered unlimited hotspot data, these line may become as coveted as Verizon's classic truly unlimited grandfathered data plans.
What About the Mobley Connected Car Plans?
The announcement in the current AT&T bills only applies to dedicated hotspots and "Wireless Home Phone & Internet" devices, which are cellular home routers that also provide a phone jack.
And the changes only apply to the Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Choice plans, which are part of the AT&T Wireless department.
Nothing is changing with Connected Car plan that so many travelers adopted by activating a Mobley device.
The AT&T Connected Car standalone unlimited plan at the insanely cheap $20/mo rate however has seemingly been retired and is no longer available for new customers.
So far, AT&T is continuing to honor the plan for existing customers who already got in on the deal.
If you have this plan active, NEVER let it expire.
Just do be aware that the original fine print did say the carrier could change the terms or terminate the plan at anytime.
Previously, AT&T also allowed customers to activate a Mobley device on an Unlimited Plus or Choice plan for the same price as a dedicated mobile hotspot (however, we recommend other devices than the Mobley for this, it's actually a pretty basic device not purpose built for full time use) - at present time, we do not know if this policy change will apply to them as well.
It is not clear whether or not AT&T intends to roll out a new hotspot data plan once the door slams shut for new customers taking advantage of the current plan, and if so - just how compelling it might be.
Odds are, any new AT&T hotspot plan will have a high-speed usage cap - like the 15GB limit Verizon currently enforces.
We have reached out to multiple AT&T PR contacts to try and get the deeper details, and will be updating this article here as we learn more.
Attention MIA Members:
We have included some tips below on getting a hotspot grandfathered in to this AT&T plan, as well as for protecting your line - so be sure to log in to read the details.
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