March 2018 Update: We are receiving reports from AT&T reps in these rural markets that this plan seems to have quietly retired along with Unlimited Plus on February 28, 2018. Existing customers should be grandfathered in.
AT&T did release a brand new Wirless Internet device that replaces the Home Base in late 2017. And in early 2018 we also noticed they upped the regular (non-rural) plans from 25GB -> 50GB ($60/mo) and 50GB -> 100GB ($100/month) as an alternative option.
There are some evenings you're up late on Facebook, on Valentine's Day no less, and you see something that makes you blink your eyes in disbelief.
250GB of high speed LTE data on AT&T for $60/month?? And 500GB for $100?!?
But that's precisely what Robert Wisner posted about in the Full Time RVers Group on Facebook.
Frustrated with not finding a suitable data plan for RVing while visiting an AT&T store, the managers of the store started looking deeper to help Robert and discovered a brand new regional promotion that had just come across their desk - the AT&T Wireless Home Phone & Internet Rural Plan.
A similar AT&T Wireless Home Phone & Internet Plan has been around for a while and was available nationwide, but at 1/10th the data limits (25GB and 50GB) for the same price.
Even at 25GB for $60/month, this little-known existing plan was one of our frequently recommended options for RVers.
The Home Base device required to go along with these plans is intended for residential use, but in practice it works like a mobile hotspot. It has an ethernet port and (wired) phone jack, and creates a local Wi-Fi network for up to 10 devices.
And it works anywhere you can get AT&T signal!
Rural Plan = Huge Data Limits
The special rural plan Robert discovered takes the AT&T Wireless Home concept to the next level - delivering a literal order of magnitude improvement in data limits.
These plans are not to be found anywhere on AT&T's web pages, and this initially had us thinking this new promotion may have been a typo with an extra zero?
But a back office AT&T employee preparing for a future full-time RV life himself happened to be on the Facebook thread, and he became intrigued and spent considerable time with the AT&T operations team and was eventually able to confirm that the the plan was real indeed:
It's only available in certain areas...
States where this can be found are Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Western PA, and Upstate New York.
These rate plans are intended for specific customers and rural areas with sufficient network capacity. Customers attempting to use these plans in non-targeted areas with network congestion will experience slow data speeds and will likely find the experience unacceptable.
But... Though the plan was only being offered in certain areas - we were quickly able to confirm that it would actually work anywhere on AT&T's domestic network.
These rural plans are subject to 'network management' when on congested towers outside of these specially served markets, but this only means speeds could be slowed during those times.
On a non-congested tower, customers will receive full speed no matter where they go.
Digging deeper, it was explained:
Technically this plan is designed for people in certain rural areas who have limited connectivity to high-speed internet for their landlines. Once you leave those areas you MAY be slowed down considerably ONLY IF THERE IS HIGH NETWORK CONGESTION in that area. What that means is that if the tower you are connected to is very busy your connection takes a back seat priority.
I should state that AT&T towers generally aren't congested. In some instances (like midnight on New Years Eve) it's almost guaranteed, but for the most part the towers aren't even at half capacity.
What this means is that you SHOULDN'T be slowed down.
Note: We suspect it won't take too many RVers with this plan parked near each other to create some congested towers rather quickly...
Getting The AT&T Rural Plan
We reached out to a corporate AT&T store willing to take remote orders.
We tested the process - and we were able to sign up for the 250GB plan ourselves, using our Florida address.
And we've given the nod to share this story and contact information.
Here are the details you need to know:
- The Home Base device is required to use with this plan. In the fine print, AT&T reserves the right to switch you to a "compatible plan" if you move the SIM card from the Home Base to any other device. The purchase price of the Home Base is $199.99 with no activation fee or contract. Or, if you want a 2-year contract you can get the device for free with a $45 activation fee.
- This is a limited time promotion. The flyer copy we received says the offer expires on May 10, 2017 (and David's inside sources say it actually expires sometime in August) - but once you're in, you should be in and grandfathered.
- Robert, the AT&T store manager we spoke with, said you can change between the 250GB and 500GB levels as needed.
Video streaming (i.e. DirectTV Now, DirectTV) WILL count towards the data limits. In contrast, video streaming from certain (i.e. DirectTV Now, DirecTV) sources does not count towards data limits with regular AT&T cellular plans.
- There is a $10/10GB overage charge - which hopefully at these levels, you won't ever encounter. But even so, at $1/GB this is the cheapest overage charge in the history of LTE.
- There is no international coverage.
- There is no 'roll-over' data from month to month - if you don't use it, you lose it.
- AT&T's network does have some off-carrier roaming area - and these plans have domestic data roaming limits of 400MB of data per month. If you exceed that, they may shut down your data access until you are back on one of their towers.
- This is not a plan that will replace any existing mobile shared data plans you have - such as cell phone plans. Think of it more as a wired land line / internet connection like you might have in a sticks & bricks house .. just that it's working over cellular.
- For example, if you currently have a shared AT&T data plan with multiple phones on it, you will still need to keep that if you want to maintain cellular phone service and data on your phones. Consider this plan an addition to any existing AT&T plans you have, unless they are data-only plans.
If you'd like to sign up, here's how to do it according to David:
- You can go to a local AT&T store in one of these served markets. This is a new plan and may need to ask the representative to "pull up MyCSP and search 250gbwhpi". (We're getting reports back that those going to stores NOT in served markets are getting turned away.)
- Call AT&T directly at 888-333-6651 and finding reps willing to sell the plan over the phone.
NOTE: 2/17/17 - We are hearing some reports that when folks call in, they're being told a memo went out this morning saying sales rep are not to sign new customers up for this plan unless their billing address is in one of the intended markets. We are also receiving a mix of reports ranging from units arriving and activating without problem, to orders being flat out canceled before fulfillment by the fraud department.
2/21/17 - We have several confirmed reports of units arriving and activating without problems. And we have confirmed reports of folks being able to place new orders if their original one was canceled. MIAs please do continue sharing in the comment or our Special Announcements thread with your experience.
2/25/17: We are getting numerous reports of folks who just noticed their shipping estimate has been delayed to late March. Seems demand had out-paced supply. Our unit has arrived and activated without problems, we'll start our testing and sharing with our members!
3/6/17: We're receiving more and more reports of folks calling to start this plan and hitting walls activating the rural plan, and some getting their devices with just a 25 or 50GB plan on it (some have been able to get that changed by calling back). Seems the internal memos have been well distributed to reps to activate these plans for those not in the designated zip codes.
With all of the other options available now (Mobley for $20/month or adding on a Unite Explore or even the Home Base to an Unlimited Plus plan) - we recommend that it's likely best to seek those out instead of dealing with the hoops to get this plan. These other options will provide you unlimited data with just network management after 22GB of usage, unlike this plan that is capped and subject to immediate network management when outside the targeted markets.
So, there you go. We feel this is legit enough to share. Even if you do experience some occasionally slower speeds, at this price point, it's hard to go wrong. This plan should make a great compliment to an RVers mobile internet setup on the nation's second best network in terms of coverage.
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