In an attempt to ease congestion on its network, AT&T is no longer offering new customers an unlimited data plan.
Just in time for the release of a new iPhone, AT&T will stop letting new customers sign up for its unlimited Internet data plan for smart phones and iPads and charge more for users who hog the most bandwidth.
AT&T hopes to ease congestion on its network, which has drawn complaints, particularly in big cities. But the approach could confuse customers unfamiliar with how much data it takes to watch a YouTube video or fire up a favorite app.
Current subscribers will be able to keep their $30-per-month unlimited plans, even if they renew their contracts. But starting Monday, new customers will have to choose one of two new data plans for all smart phones, including iPhones and BlackBerrys.
Subscribers who use little data — like those who may get dozens of e-mails a day but don't watch much video — will pay slightly less every month than they do now, while heavy users will be dinged with higher bills.
The move takes effect in time for the expected unveiling of Apple's new iPhone next week. Analysts said they expect other phone companies to follow. With no caps on consumption, data use could swamp wireless networks while revenue for the operators remains flat.
Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless carrier and AT&T's chief rival, had no immediate comment on AT&T's move. There has been much speculation about Verizon getting to sell its own version of the iPhone, but that prospect still appears distant.
One of the new AT&T plans will cost $25 per month and offer two gigabytes of data per month, which AT&T says will be enough for 98 percent of its smart phone customers. Additional gigabytes will cost $10 each.