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Unlimited Smartphone Data Plans Are Back From the Dead

Jan 11, 2016

AT&T will once again offer unlimited data for new and existing subscribers, the carrier announced Monday. The catch: it's only for those who subscribe to AT&T's DirecTV or U-Verse TV services, or are planning to do so in the future.

The unlimited plan costs $100 per month, with unlimited talk, text, and smartphone data. Additional smartphones and tablets will cost $40 each per month.

AT&T customers will be able to add a fourth phone to their unlimited plan for free. Subscribers can also add smartwatches to the plan for an extra $10 per month.

AT&T also wants existing DirectTV and U-Verse TV subscribers to switch to its wireless phone service as well. The company is giving these customers $500 in credit when they trade in their old smartphone and buy a new one on an AT&T Next plan.

Existing AT&T wireless customers, meanwhile, will be able to add DirecTV service starting at $19.99 per month for 12 months, but they'll have to commit to a 24-month agreement. After 12 months, the standard $49.99 pricing for the package applies.

Read more: How to buy a phone now that 2 year contracts are dead

The announcement comes as AT&T is abandoning two-year contracts for wireless service. The carrier hinted that more changes may be unveiled soon, saying this is "the first of many integrated video and mobility offers the company plans to announce in 2016."

AT&T axed unlimited data plans for smartphones and tablets back in 2010, while Verizon stopped offering them to new customers in 2011. T-Mobile and Sprint both offer unlimited data plans, but as The Verge points out, Sprint throttles data speeds after a certain amount of usage. T-Mobile also notes that customers who use more than 23GB of data in a billing cycle will have their data usage "de-prioritized" compared to other users during peak times.

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Although Verizon hiked the price of its unlimited data plan by $20 for those who are still eligible for it, the carrier's Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo has told CNET that Verizon isn't "in the habit of throttling customers."

Still, AT&T's decision to bring back unlimited data is just one example of how carriers are competing to offer more compelling deals for customers who stream a lot of media on their phones and tablets. T-Mobile announced its BingeOn service last year, which lets customers stream video from nearly 40 services including Netflix and Hulu without eating into their data.

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