Is 200 or 250MB 3G Data Per Month Enough? Perhaps Once but Not Now

U.S. mobile carriers have moved to tiered 3G data plans. AT&T, for example, offers a “Data Plus” plan to provides 200MB of data per month for $15 per month. Their “Data Pro” plan provides 2GB of data per month for $25 per month. You might think that if data charges are linear, AT&T should only charge $2.50 per month for the 200MB plan since it is one-tenth of the data quota alloted by the 2GB plan. If AT&T wanted to provide a realistic and desirable tiered plan, AT&T would offer a 1GB per month plan priced at $12.50 per month. This would be extremely attractive and probably provide a good value for the vast majority of their customers.

The actual purpose of AT&T and other carriers’ odd tiered plans with either tiny or moderately large amounts of data and nothing in between is to provide the illusion of choice but actually driving you to the higher priced plan for more data than you might need (unless you tether in which case it might be less than you need).

I took a look at my own 3G data usage (for an iPhone 4) as reported by AT&T Wireless for the psat six months and noted that while my usage would have fit in the under 200MB limit for two of the months, my 3G data usage surged in late July/early August and leveled off between 450 and 500MB of data per month for the past three months. My guess is that my data use surge is tied to my purchase of the iPhone 4 on June 24 (its launch day). As you can see from my graph, if my data usage remains stable, I would be a prime candidate for 1GB plan. As it is, I will stay with the higher priced plan even though my data usage is nowhere near (currently) the 2GB quota limit.