AT&T Responds to Verizon & T-Mobile With Underwhelming Unlimited Plan Option

AT&T's Unlimited Plan used to only be available to DirecTV customers, and now anyone can sign up. But it isn't a great deal, no matter how you look at it.

AT&T is the final member of the 'big four' nationwide cellular carriers to respond to Verizon's surprise announcement of a reintroduction of unlimited data plans.

Four days after Verizon announced it would start offering an unlimited data plan again, AT&T today announced it will also be doing the same.

AT&T Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher had this to say in making the announcement:

“We’re offering unlimited entertainment on the nation’s best data network where and when you want to enjoy more of what you love."

As long as you don't love tethering or mobile hotspot usage that is.

AT&T's Major Omission: No Tethering at All

One of the surprise features of the new Verizon Unlimited plan was that it included 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot usage per line, and unlimited 3G (600kbps) tethering after that month amount was used up.

T-Mobile and Sprint responded to Verizon's unlimited data offer by matching this 10GB hotspot/tether allotment.

But AT&T will not be matching the hotspot/tethering capabilities of Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint's unlimited data plans at all.

In fact, AT&T Unlimited Plan lines will have NO hotspot or tether capability at all - similar to the restrictions placed on the AT&T unlimited plans that were offered for a short time back in 2010.

This means all data used on the plan must be used on device - no sharing, no matter what.

AT&T Networking Management & HD Video Support

AT&T's Stream Saver feature encourages you to stream more video, but defaults to 480p "DVD Quality" resolution unless you manually turn it off.

AT&T will be implementing Network Management practices similar to those implemented by the other major carriers.

In AT&T's case, unlimited data customers will get full LTE speeds up to 22GB of usage in a month, after which AT&T will reserve the right to de-prioritize speeds in times or places of network congestion.

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Verizon also de-prioritizes after 22GB, while T-Mobile practices network management after 28GB of usage.

AT&T will also offer unlimited HD video streaming on device - but not automatically. 

By default, the new unlimited plan will be set to use "Stream Saver", which reduces videos to 480p resolution.

Unlimited data customers will need to manually turn the Stream Saver feature off in order to utilize the HD option - but, once it's turned off, it stays off.

AT&T "Roam North America"

The new AT&T Unlimited Plan does support roaming in Canada and Mexico with no roaming fees - allowing you to use your data plan both north and south of the border.

But you do not get this feature automatically.

Customers will need to manually add the 'Roam North America' feature to their account (for no additional charge) before taking a trip. Be sure to do so, or else you might get hit with some nasty roaming fees.

Getting AT&T Unlimited

The new AT&T Unlimited plan will be available starting tomorrow, Friday, February 17th.

AT&T will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan - up until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier.

The new AT&T Unlimited Plan will include unlimited talk, text and data on a single line for $100 per month. Additional lines are $40 each. Buying a fourth line will provide a $40 credit, reducing the monthly price for four lines to $180. The credit will not apply right away, so four-line plans cost $220 for the first month or two.

This makes AT&T's Unlimited Plan more expensive than all the other carriers, and yet it has more limitations.

Hopefully AT&T will try a bit harder next time - but for now their unlimited options are exceedingly underwhelming.

UPDATE (2/27): AT&T Tries Again

Just ten days after this underwhelming offering was announced, AT&T roared back with entirely new Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Choice plans that actually match the other carrier's 10GB tethering limits, and then take things even further by actually supporting unlimited data on standalone hotspots.

Read our news story for the details:

AT&T Tries Again: New Unlimited Plus & Choice Plans are WAY More Competitive

Comparing Unlimited Data Plans

All of the major carriers now have an unlimited data option offered directly to new customers. Here's our quick grid (that will be kept up to date as the carriers continue to compete with each other), comparing the options:

Check the 'Alternative Unlimited Plans' for unlimited data plans we're tracking available from resellers or via obtaining grandfathered in older style plans. For RVers needing to replace a home internet connection, these new smartphone unlimited data plans offered by the carriers will rarely fit the bill. But some of the alternatives may play a strong role at the center of a mobile internet arsenal.

For more: Understanding Unlimited Cellular Data Plans: Network Management, Throttling & Mobile Hotspot Usage

Further Reading:

Confused by all of the Options?

Join us for our next live member webinar - where we'll be addressing how to put together different cellular data plans to best met your RVing traveling style. The webinar will be archived, and available exclusively to our premium members who fund everything we do here at

NEW Topical Webinar Format!
We're trying something new this month for our topical webinars. Instead of broadcasting the topic live, we're instead going to produced a 10-15 minute video in advance. We'll screenshare that video at the start of the webinar and then switch to live to take questions on the topic and then general Q&A about mobile internet.  Our goal is start producing higher quality topical videos for our members to become part of our guides - instead of just lower resolution (and sometimes glitchy) archives taken by Zoom.

Broadcast Time: Thursday, April 26 - 8pm EDT
Topic: Smartphone Selection Tips

Description:  For many a smartphone is not just for making phone calls - but also a primary or secondary conduit to the internet – both directly and as a hotspot serving other devices.

Choosing a smartphone is a personal decision – and there is no universal best pick. In this webinar we'll share some tips on choosing between Android or Apple, hardware considerations, carrier specific traits, buying used and other features that can impact your internet access.

The produced video will be part of the Smartphone Selection Tips guide. Q&A to be held after the replay of the video, which will NOT be archived.

How to Attend Our Webinars and Q&As: Our webinars are a MIA member exclusive. Members, please log in to get the broadcast details or archives of past webinars. If you're not a member, please consider joining.

"Second Sunday" Monthly Q&A Session: Every month we endeavor to host a member exclusive live and casual Q&A. These are perfect for those in their research phase, going through our Mobile Internet University or just have questions on refreshing their setup. We are happy to field whatever questions you have; a device or plan you're considering, optimizing your setup or on recent new items.  We aim to host these the second Sunday of every month at 8pm EDT - so put it on your calendar!

Please note: Our general Q&As are NOT archived for viewing later - they are designed to be casual, non-structured, non-topical and interactive. 

How to Attend Our Webinars and Q&As: Our webinars are a MIA member exclusive. Members, please log in to get the broadcast details or archives of past webinars. If you're not a member, please consider joining.


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