AT&T brings back unlimited wireless data plans, but only for TV subscribers

If you use DirecTV or U-Verse, you can get unlimited data for the smartphones and tablets in your house.

AT&T Boston store
Credit: Nick Barber

AT&T is bringing back an unlimited data plan—but not for all wireless subscribers. Starting Tuesday, DirecTV and U-Verse customers will have the opportunity to pay $100 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk, and text on AT&T’s network. Additional phones will cost $40 per line, and if you add four smartphones you’ll get the fourth line for free after the first two months.

You can add a tablet as well for $40 per month, or you can opt for a $10 monthly charge and limit the tablet to just 1GB of data per month. Overages on the $10 option are a killer, however, as every gigabyte after that will set you back $15.

The story behind the story: The new unlimited plan is AT&T’s attempt to make the most of its DirecTV acquisition that closed in July. The idea is that the company’s TV subscribers will want unlimited data to stream shows from DirecTV or U-Verse while on the go. Video streams are always a killer for data caps, but that goes doubly so when you have LTE devices thirsty for high-definition images. AT&T says the new unlimited offer is just “the first of many integrated video and mobility offers” slated to debut in 2016.

The limits of unlimited

For AT&T, “unlimited data” means you will be able to use up to 22GB of data per line unfettered. After that, AT&T will slow down your traffic “during periods of network congestion.” That’s standard for AT&T’s new throttling policy for unlimited plans that rolled out in September following a fine in July from the Federal Communications Commission. Sprint has a similar limit of 23GB for its $70 unlimited plan before it will start to throttle.

As for AT&T wireless subscribers looking to get a TV package, AT&T is currently offering DirecTV and U-Verse subscriptions starting at $20 per month. The catch is that price is only for the first 12 months and the deal requires a two-year commitment.

That’s a pretty standard cable deal you can find with pretty much any cable company as a new subscriber. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, you may want to wait. AT&T says it plans to “launch a wide-range of new video entertainment options” later in 2016.

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