If you're an iPhone user who checks out the latest music videos on YouTube, or you're a new iPad owner ready to fire up your Netflix app, then you are sure to be disappointed by this latest bit of news from AT&T. Starting next Monday, June 7th, AT&T will no longer be offering new unlimited data plans for any of their smartphones (and this obviously includes the extremely popular iPhone). Unfortunately, this includes the super popular iPad. Luckily for current smartphone users with an unlimited plan, you won't be forced to make the switch now, but come renewal time you will have to sign up for one of AT&T's new data plans, of which there are only two options:
DataPro: $25 per month; offers 2GB of data per month, $10 per additional GB
DataPlus: $15 per month; offers 200MB of data per month, $15 per each additional 200MB
Current iPhone users will note that the DataPro plan is $5 cheaper per month than the current unlimited plan, which is good for customers who are at worst moderate users data. (Just as a note of interest, I've had my iPhone since June 20th, 2009 and I have received only 2.3 GB of data in 11 months).
Honestly, I don't think this will affect too many smartphone customers, though it does shift the paradigm of subsidized bandwidth. Finally it appears that companies are no longer willing to let its masses of normal-usage customers incur extra costs for the 5% of users that are bandwidth hounds.
However, where I think this new bandwidth policy will have a large effect is for iPad users, as well as any future tablet devices that come to market. A large portion of Netflix's emerging business model is streaming content purchasable for a monthly membership fee. Of course, we all know that HD and BluRay quality movies are huge files, and if an iPad user is going to stream even only five movies a month, we're talking 5GB of bandwidth easy. Before this change from AT&T, all of that bandwidth is covered. Now, a user is going to have to chalk up an extra $30 per month to use his Netflix service. Suddenly, streaming content doesn't seem nearly as appealing as before.
Of course, this has to be a boon to cable companies, who have been heavily pushing their on-demand services deliverable via hardwire fiberoptic cable laid throughout countless cities and suburbs across America.
And though AT&T is the first to do rid of unlimited bandwidth, perpare to see the other wireless phone companies follow suit soon.
It will be interesting to see how consumers respond to this change. I don't see it affecting the smartphone market so much as I do see it inhibiting growth in the tablet and internet-deliverable content market.