Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the
Today @ PC World blog at
After much ado this summer about gargantuan iPhone bills that ratcheted up so high because of international data roaming fees,
AT&T has introduced two flat-rate data plans. Heavy Internet and mail users will appreciate the $60 Data Global Plan, offers 50MB of data per month in 29 Asian and European countries; more casual users will like the $25 20MB plan.
AT&T instituted the changes to accommodate customers who traveled overseas with their iPhone—only to be astounded by the high roaming charges when they returned home. The phone automatically goes off and seeks new messages in the background, a process that can get costly when you’re roaming on an international network. (The
1.1.1 software update added a feature that allows users to disable Data Roaming.)
That AT&T took this step at all is interesting to me on two somewhat related levels. For one, international travel has typically been something cell carriers considered a heavy business user activity. T-Mobile has had a $20 unlimited bucket of mobile data minutes for three years, but its plan is only valid for BlackBerry devices—which until recently were aimed more at business users than consumers.
The iPhone isn’t really aimed at business users. The iPhone doesn’t work with corporate America’s e-mail and security infrastructures. And yet, AT&T felt compelled to take action with an international data plan. Why? Perhaps the trendy iPhone’s appeal has transcended the need for the usual business device requirements. Perhaps mobile business users have an iPhone for personal use, to supplement their BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device for work use. (After all, the iPhone is the best iPod ever made, according to Steve Jobs—this side of the iPod Touch.) In that scenario, if a user traveled overseas, even if they only used their iPhone as an iPod, they’d be sunk by high data roaming fees. Or, maybe it just means that in spite of economic concerns and the dollar’s pathetic value overseas, gadget-wielding Americans are traveling abroad in droves.
The reasons for AT&T introducing its international data plans could be a combination of all of the above. The bottom line being, whatever the split, a notably high enough number of iPhone users are traveling overseas with their iPhone to warrant AT&T taking steps to keep its customers happy and away from unnecessary, $4,000 bills.