AT&T to Drop Data Overage Charges

John Lister's picture

AT&T is dropping overage charges for mobile data plans. Instead of charging extra fees, it will slow down the connections of users who exceed their monthly data allowance. The move is accompanied by a general price rise, though it will only affect new customers or those existing customers who choose to change plans.

The change makes AT&T the last of the three biggest carriers to drop mandatory fees for customers who go over their monthly data cap, an issue that became even more important as truly unlimited data plans were phased out across the industry.

T-Mobile dropped overage charges in 2014. Customers who hit their data allowance aren't charged but get a slower connection for the rest of the month unless they buy a data "top up."

Verizon Charges Fees Either Way

Meanwhile Verizon introduced an optional "Safety Mode" that lets customers have a reduced speed rather than pay overages. Unlike with its rivals, choosing this option carries a $5 a month fee, which could even work out worse value than overage fees depending on how much data a customer uses above the limit.

With all three carriers, the reduced speed after hitting a data limit is a mere 128 kilobits per second, roughly equivalent to 2G mobile speeds. This is just about fast enough to cope with emails and basic web browsing, albeit with painful waits, but makes audio or video streaming virtually unworkable. (Source:

Tablets a Big Data-Buster

Last year, a survey found 25 percent of AT&T customers and 20 percent of Verizon customers had paid an overage fee at least once in the previous six months. The problem appeared to be particularly driven by tablet users who consumed more data than expected thanks to watching full-screen, high-definition video. (Source:

Whether it's overage charges or slow speeds, some critics argue that the options stem from the underlying issue that monthly data caps simply aren't high enough to cope with demands for wireless data, particularly for those on high-speed 4G plans.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you ever gone over a monthly mobile data limit? Would you prefer to pay an overage charge or have your connection speed heavily reduced? Should carriers offer truly unlimited data packages again, or is that too open to abuse?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I've just upgraded my cell phone from a quad core 1.4 GHz Android to a Octa-core Samsung S6 Edge, and also decided to change my monthly plan.

Previously I was paying $15 a month for 50 minutes of talk per month (no data and only 100 text messages a month - yes, and ancient plan); now, I am paying $13.50 a month for unlimited SMS and MMS (pictures with SMS) texting, then have the option of 1 GB of data that never expires (a 'top up') for $30, and 500 minutes of talk for $25, which also does not expire and rolls over to the next month, courtesy of Koodo mobile Canada. In all, I'm paying less per month, but getting much, much more than my previous plan. Being able to text anywhere with unlimited restrictions is huge - that is pretty much all I use my phone for. Previously I had to wait until I had Wifi to text through Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.

As for having unlimited data - personally, I don't use data much because I work from home and have access to the Internet pretty much 24/7. And even so, when I go out, most places offer free Wifi and I use that whenever possible, though don't expect to stream online videos with that.

raymond_tissier_3601's picture

hey hi..

Old guy here, i saw on the news that University College London achieved the fastest fiber connection of 1,25 TbS.. with 1Tb easily achieved... and everyone will need this speed if we ever hope to print a decent pepperoni broccoli Sicilian Cucina Rustica Pizza... the speeds we get now wherever in 2016 is shite, and it makes me feel sorry for those poor who will soon have to settle on WalMart frozen and not fresh hot thermal molecular Terra-bite printed brands simply because they cannot afford more than 2Mbs so cant print wholesome food, let alone veg, and black Angus molecularly printed steak; and no chance of printing a Tesla Model X, or a certified genuine, "Taylor Swift" clone.. i wish. Sad.

ok guys so here is the challenge... im downtown wherever.. and im picking up 11 different freebie WiFi signals, why cant my fablet log on to all of them at once and chop up my download and divide it amongst them into pieces each so i achieve perhaps 300Mbs down? or more??

actually i hate(i know i shouldnt hate/one could get arrested)but i hate At& you know who, and the whole dang lot of them, we need proper SPEED.. GRRRRR!! we're starving!!

matt_2058's picture

I busted my talk minutes one month...and only one month. I was buying a home in another state and was on the phone constantly. By the time I thought to check my minutes, the bill was $300+ . I immediately switched to an unlimited plan. And as soon as my contract was up with V, I switched to Sprint's unlimited everything and got a smart phone. My bill is a little more, but it's much better than paying the inflated price for busting the limits.

There are not enough hotspots in our area, so depending on that is a pain. And when it is offered the speed is so bad I think my 1995 28.8 modem was faster.

I like unlimited data and understand controls may be needed. Slowing speeds or maybe try something similar to the old line timeout to kill unattended streaming connections.