The end of unlimited data is near for users of AT&T’s home Internet services. In addition to its wireless arm having imposed wireless mobile broadband data caps last summer before the launch of the iPhone 4, AT&T will be following suite for its home mobile broadband users subscribed to the company’s DSL or U-Verse networks. Customers will begin to receive notices from March 18th to March 31st, according to AT&T, and there will be overage charges for those who go over their monthly data caps at home.
DSL, which is slower than AT&T’s U-Verse service and works over a home telephone line, will get a usage cap of 150 GB of data per month. U-Verse, which works over fiber optics and promises speeds much faster than DSL and is seen as a rival to Verizon’s FiOS or cable modem, will get an imposed cap of 250 GB of data per month.
Compared to mobile broadband data plans on AT&T, that’s a lot more than the paltry 2 GB a month plan on smartphones for $25 per month, or a 4 GB data plan with tethering for $45 per month.
AT&T says that the average customer uses only about 18 GB a month, so even the 150 GB monthly limit for DSL subscribers seem fair. The changes will only impact about 2% of DSL customers who consume “a disproportionate amount of bandwidth,” says the provider.
So what happens when you go over your monthly limit? According to AT&T’s spokesperson, not much. The carrier will impose a $10 overage charge per 50 GB of extra data transferred on its network. However, the overage fees will only be implemented for those who exceed the caps more than three times on the life of the account. So, if you go over your 150 GB or 250 GB cap for any three months, you can expect to see an extra $10 minimum for overages on the fourth month you go over.
The home broadband provider will be applying lessons learned from managing a wireless data infrastructure. AT&T will provide users with tracking tools, usage monitors, and other utilities to help gauge data consumption. “”Using a notification structure similar to our new wireless data plans, we’ll proactively notify customers when they exceed 65%, 90% and 100% of the monthly usage allowance,” says AT&T to DSL Reports.
It’s unclear how AT&T’s new direction with home broadband pricing will affect the company’s investment in OnLive, a social game playing engine that requires Internet connectivity.
An alternative to wired home broadband services, like DSL and fiber optics networks like U-Verse, would be wireless mobile broadband. Sprint and its partner Clearwire are the ones right now that still promise unlimited 4G data, which could be a viable alternative to home broadband services. Sprint currently offers its 4G network through WiMax technologies in the U.S. and the carrier provides a number of phones, USB modems, and wireless mobile routers–like the Overdrive made by Sierra Wireless–which is capable of delivering between 3-6 Mbps. Users of smartphones could create an instant hotspot, great for tethering, or use a mobile broadband router that will open up access to Sprint’s 4G network via WiFi–you should check with the carrier to enquire about data charges, rate plans, and any long-term commitments before you sign on with the service. Where Sprint doesn’t have 4G access, users will roll back to 3G data on the carrier’s CDMA/EV-DO network–on 3G there are mobile broadband data caps every month so you should enquire with Sprint to see if you’re in the carrier’s 4G coverage area.