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AT&T freshens tourist-trapping iPhone data plans

'You want savings? Pay us an extra hundred'

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US telco giant AT&T has announced two new international data plans for the Jesus Phone, saying they'll save Americans "hundreds of dollars" on journeys abroad. But we all know this is just another way for the company to hold your wallet hostage.

Tomorrow, AT&T will begin offering a 100MB per month international plan for $119.99 and a 200MB plan for $199.99, augmenting its existing 20MB ($24.99) and 50MB ($59.99) plans. All four packages cover data traffic in 67 countries outside the US, including Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

But if you venture outside those 67 countries, you'll continue to pay by the kilobyte. In most cases, that means $0.01 per KB, but in places like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and the Maldives, the rate jumps to $0.0195 per KB.

Without an international data plan, you'll pay similar per-KB roaming charges across the globe. So AT&T wireless operations international executive vice president Bill Hague feels justified in saying this: "AT&T has worked diligently to provide affordable options for international roaming because the feature-rich mobile experience of iPhone is indispensable to users. With these new international data plans, iPhone users can access more data in more countries for less cost."

Ah, but you're still paying an extra $120 to $200 for data - and maybe more. AT&T's overage rate is $0.005 per KB. What American Jesus Phone owners really want is international WiFi roaming.

When Americans are stateside, with their all-you-can-eat domestic data plans, AT&T has no problem kicking them onto partner WiFi networks. But overseas, the company is, shall we say, less interested in providing WiFi access. AT&T better serves itself by keeping travelers on its wide area networks, where it can charge those extra dollars.

If you opt for an international plan, you're still being bilked. You're just being bilked a bit less. ®

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