If you’re interested in AT&T, check out the 2012 AT&T 4G Plans for the latest. This is a dated review.
Since last year, AT&T’s mobile broadband plans have only gotten more confusing with different 3G & 4G plans based on the kind of device you’ll use to access their network and your speed.
AT&T’s 4G speed isn’t actually 4G speed. Like T-Mobile, they’ve rebranded HSPA+, an evolved version of current 3G technology, to provide faster speeds while they play catch up in building their new network that runs on the same technology as Verizon’s existing LTE network. Here’s the kicker, AT&T’s self-proclaimed current “4G speed” has been shown to be slower than their 3G speed.
– AT&T 4G Speed Review | 2011 Mobile Broadband Review
One of the biggest surprises was that AT&T’s 4G plan offers everything the 3G plan does for $10 less with a 1000% lower overage fee.
Here I’ll report what AT&T advertises for DataConnect plans (mobile internet for laptops, netbooks, tablets & iPads but not smartphones) then slim down the list to what actually matters:
What AT&T Advertises:
DataConnect 3G plans for 3G Laptop, 3G Laptop Connect Cards and 3G / 4G Mobile Hotspots
DataConnect 4G plans for 4G Laptop, 4G Laptop Connect Cards and 3G / 4G Mobile Hotspots
DataConnect Personal for iPad & Tablets
AT&T actually separates the iPad and Tablets into 2 categories despite identical pricing. I’ve posted the above table once for the sake of simplicity.
If you’re confused the by the myriad of ‘250 MB for this’, 5 GB for that’ data plan amounts, then it means their marketing is working.
An uninformed customer is a higher paying customer.
You can help fix that by doing on of two things:
- See “How Much is 5 GB & Is It Enough?”.
- Use AT&T’s Data Calculator to figure out how much your monthly usage would be (it’s pretty snazzy and helpful).
AT&T’s Mobile Broadband Plans | All You Really Need To Know
For all intents and purposes, AT&T has 2 kinds of mobile broadband plans:
- Laptop Plans (for devices that get your laptop or desktop online)
- Tablet Plans (for the iPad & others)
The Laptop Plans That Shouldn’t Exist
First, the 200 MB needs to disappear.
It costs the same as the 3 GB plan, has 93% less data allotted, and its overage charges per GB are approximately 1000% higher. No overstatement.
Overage charges on the 200 MB plan are $102.40/GB while on the 3 GB plan its $10/GB. However, they mask it by quoting the $102.40/GB in MB to make it appear as $0.10/MB. Looks cheap at first glance but is ridiculously expensive.
Next, the 3G DataConnect 5 GB plan should also disappear.
It costs $10 more than the “4G” 5 GB DataConnect plan, has the same amount of data allotted but its overage charges are approximately 500% higher.
Overage charges on the 3G speed 5GB plan are $51.20/GB while on the 4G speed plan its $10/GB. Like the 200 MB plan, they mask the cost by quoting $51.20 in MB to make it appear as $0.05/MB. That’s extremely more expensive than their 4G overage cost. Furthermore, it’s somewhat hidden on their site. If you try to buy a device, its not available as a plan option. However, when you shop by plans first, it magically becomes an option.
What’s even crazier is the phone conversation I had with AT&T while writing this to confirm one suspicion I had:
Me: Hi, I was on AT&T’s website trying to figure something out. I saw a 5 GB 3G plan for $60 and I also saw a 5 GB 4G plan for $50. If I get the 5GB 4G plan for $50, will I have coverage outside of 4G areas?”
Me: Will that coverage be 3G coverage?
Rep: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: No. Thank you for explaining that. I couldn’t find the answer anywhere on the site.
That means you get to pay $10 extra for theoretically slower speed with higher overage charges. Wow….that blew my mind.
Plans You Should Consider
If you’ve got a Laptop, go for either the “3G” 3 GB hotspot plan for $35 or the “4G” 5 GB hotspot plan for $50. Both plans have $10/GB overages.
If you’d like to be prepared for the ‘faster’ 4G speeds, get the 5GB plan. While they aren’t much faster right now, presumably the price will not change as AT&T rolls out LTE.
If you’ve got a tablet or iPad, then the 2GB $25 plan will most likely be the best bet since 250 MB is a really small amount of data (most DVD movies are 700 MB and so watching one movie via Hulu or Netflix would kill your plan making it an ’email only plan’).
Next, AT&T 4G Speed
In the next installment, I’ll tackle AT&T 4G speed and how its been shown to be slower than their 3G speed.
I don’t foresee this ending well.
Also in this review:
- AT&T 4G Review
- AT&T 4G Plans
- AT&T Prepaid Mobile Broadband
- AT&T 4G Speed
- AT&T 4G Coverage
- AT&T 4G Broadband Cards & Mobile Hotspots
Also check out: The 4G Comparison Infographic to see how AT&T stacks up against the competition.