AT&T's New 'Unlimited' Plans Have Wildly Different Data Caps

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

At this point, no one should be surprised when a new cellphone plan branded with the word “unlimited” is anything but. And yet, AT&T’s three new plans have figured out a new way to abuse the definition of unlimited even further.

Starting on Sunday, November 3, AT&T will roll out its Unlimited Starter, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Elite wireless plans featuring “unlimited” data, talk, and text in the U.S., with plans including support for service in Canada and Mexico as well.

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AT&T’s Starter Unlimited plan starts at $65 for a single line (or as low as $35 per line for four lines). However, what the press release doesn’t mention is that data prioritization (AKA data throttling) is always on, meaning your data speeds could be reduced at any time.

Things get a bit better for AT&T’s new $65 a month (or $40 per line for four lines) mid-tier Unlimited Extra plan, which tacks on 15GB of mobile hotspot data and features a soft data cap of 50GB per month.

Finally, there’s AT&T’s $85 per month (or $50 per line for four lines) Unlimited Elite plan (which seems like pretty redundant name), which includes everything you get in the other plans along with a subscription to HBO, 30GB of mobile hotspot data, and a soft data cap of 100GB a month.

Finally, AT&T is continuing to offer discounts on wireless plans to first responders, with eligible customers able to knock up to 25 percent off their cellphone bills.

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While it’s nice to see the Unlimited Elite plan sport a healthy data cap of 100GB per month, potentially being subjected to data throttling at any time on the Unlimited Starter plan feels like a raw deal, no matter how cheap it is.

And if carriers could stop trying to trick customers with claims of “unlimited” plans data that don’t actually come anywhere near being truly unlimited, that would be nice too.

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[Update: 10AM] AT&T has since clarified that throttling will only occur in cases where you have used up your monthly allotment of data and in an area with network congestion. Additionally, the discount for first responders isn’t a new initiative, but merely a continuation of a savings deal that started back in 2018.

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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.