AT&T launches post-paid data billing plan for iPad 2, other tablets

Rival Verizon to stick with current tablet pre-paid plans for Apple's iPad 2

AT&T today introduced a new post-paid monthly data billing option for tablet computers, including Apple's new iPad 2. The move gives AT&T a slight edge over Verizon Wireless, which only offers pre-paid plans for tablets.

Both carriers confirmed today that they are sticking with current data price lists for tablets after the iPad 2 becomes available in the U.S. on March 11 from both carriers.

AT&T had previously offered only pre-paid data plans on tablets. The new post-paid plans take effect today at the same prices as the prepaid plans .

AT&T said that the new tablet postpaid plan will make it more convenient for customers who have a smartphone or other devices and already pay a monthly bill to the carrier. The new plan lets the tablet cost be added to that bill.

Prepaid customers pay in advance with a credit card, with the record of the payment appearing on a credit card bill. Neither AT&T or Verizon Wireless require long-term commitments for tablet customers. By contrast, most smartphone purchases are postpaid and usually require a two-year commitment with monthly bills coming from the carrier.

After AT&T made its announcement today, a Verizon spokeswoman confirmed that data charges for the iPad 2 will be the same as the prices for other tablets, such as the Galaxy Tab or Motorola Xoom. Verizon will retain its pre-paid requirement, she added.

"Same plans, just pay-as-you-go," said the spokeswoman, Brenda Raney. "You sign up on the iPad 2 using a credit card."

Verizon has four data pricing tiers for tablets. AT&T has just two, but the entry level is less than Verizon's lowest price.

AT&T's monthly tablet data pricing is $14.99 for 250MB and $25 for 2GB, whether the user chooses a pre-paid or post-paid option.

Verizon's monthly tablet data pricing tiers are: $20 for 1GB; $35 for 3GB; $50 for 5GB; and $80 for 10GB.

Overage charges are handled differently by the two carriers -- AT&T itself has different overage charges for post-paid and pre-paid customers.

AT&T post-paid customers will be charged $10 per 1GB if they exceed a monthly data allotment. The carrier's pre-paid customers overage are significantly higher -- $14.99 for an additional 250 MB or $25 for another 2GB.

Verizon requires entry level customers to pay $20 per 1GB of overage on its data plan. Customers who purchase 3GB or more are charged $10 for 1GB of overage.

The iPad 2s allow each of the two major U.S. carriers to offer a radio on the tablet that runs exclusively on their respective wireless networks. AT&T runs a GSM/HSPA network, while Verizon runs a CDMA/EV-DO network.

AT&T has been selling the existing iPad with direct network access, while Verizon has sold the original iPad bundled to a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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