AT&T’s Rollover Data is Bullshit

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Long before the era of unlimited plans, in the dark times when people used their mobile phones as phones, cellular plans were differentiated by the quantity of minutes they included. In 2002, mobile carrier Cingular (now AT&T) introduced Rollover Minutes. This fairly revolutionary change meant that unused minutes from one month would roll over to the next month. For example, if your plan provided 400 minutes each month and you only used 200 in August, you’d then have 600 available for September. These rollover minutes lasted a full 12 months before expiring, allowing plenty of time to use them if needed.

With the advent of smartphones, users have been far more interested in having additional data, rather than more minutes. At the end of 2014,T-Mobile unveiled a “Data Stash” program in an effort to woo customers from the larger carriers. With this plan, unused data rolls over to the next month, just like the old rollover minutes. This data is good for a full year as well, giving users have plenty of time to use it. It’s a very nice perk.

Less than a month later, AT&T responded with a plan called “Rollover Data”. However, unlike Data Stash or their own previous Rollover Minutes feature, AT&T’s Rollover Data is garbage. First, the data expires after just one month. That means that if you earn rollover data, it’s fairly likely to disappear before you have a chance to use it. Worse, rollover data is used last, after you use up your allotted data for the month. So if you happen to have a low usage August where you roll over some data, and then follow it with a high usage September where you actually do use some of that extra data, you’re guaranteed to not have any additional data in October.

The best that can be said about AT&T’s plan is that it’s better than nothing at all. But unless you have some bizarre usage pattern where your usage fluctuates up and down in alternate months, you’re unlikely to be able to enjoy much benefit from this change. You’ll never be able to cascade data savings across several months, nor can you build up a large buffer for use during a busy period. But hey, at least AT&T isn’t charging extra for their largely useless new feature.

When T-Mobile introduced their plan, their gregarious CEO John Legere stated “If you buy data, it’s yours”. That seems fair. If you’re wondering how AT&T feels about that idea, look no further than their rollover data FAQ, where you’ll find a question about data that’s automatically sold to you when exceed your allotment (“overage data”):

Does Rollover Data include overage data that’s been added to my plan during the bill cycle?


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