AT&T signals end is nigh for flat-rate data: report

Dylan Bushell-Embling
10 Dec 2009

US carrier AT&T has signaled it wants to end flat-rate wireless data plans.

The head of AT&T consumer services, Ralph De la Vega, has foreshadowed the introduction of usage-based pricing New York Timesreported. The specifics of any charging-based initiatives have yet to be determined, but he told the Times the end of all-you-can-eat pricing was inevitable.

Growing complaints about connection quality issues prompted AT&T, the exclusive iPhone carrier in the US, to launch an iPhone app this week allowing users to report problems such as dropped calls.

The operator is also upgrading its network to cope with steeping data usage, but just 3% of smartphone users are consuming 40% of AT&T's network capacity, De la Vega said. Streaming audio and video are, unsurprisingly, among the biggest drivers of bandwidth consumption.

De la Vega also stressed the need to educate subscribers about how much data they are consuming, stating that AT&T is upgrading its systems to allow consumers to track data usage in real-time.

“'We need to educate the customer... to get them to understand what represents a megabyte of data,” he said.

The major problems on AT&T's network have been concentrated in New York and San Francisco – two areas with unusually high numbers of smartphone users, De la Vega added.

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