AT&T Will Do Day Passes for Tablet Data

Single-day passes will cost $5 for 250 MB.

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REUTERS / RICK WILKING

The problem with monthly data plans for tablets is that you might end up paying for service you don’t use. So AT&T is trying a different approach, where users can buy short-term data plans instead.

As All Things D reports, tablet users will soon be able to pay $5 for a day pass that includes 250 MB of data. AT&T will also offer a three-month pass with 1 GB of total data for $25.

Currently, AT&T’s cheapest individual tablet plan is $15 per month for 250 MB of data, but if you’re on a shared data plan, you can pay $10 per month to connect a tablet, plus whatever you’re already paying for smartphone coverage. The short-term plans are cheaper if all you need is a day or two of data, and you don’t want to deal with recurring monthly charges.

Of course, this requires you to have a tablet that’s compatible with AT&T’s network in the first place, and that can be pricey on its own. Apple’s iPad, for instance, costs $130 extra for 4G LTE connectivity, while Google’s Nexus 7 is $80 more expensive with 4G LTE.

During GigaOM’s Mobilize conference, AT&T senior vice president Chris Penrose said the cost of adding cellular modules to tablets is going down, All Things D reports. Over time, AT&T hopes that tablet makers will start including those modules by default.

But tablet hardware is a cutthroat business. Many device makers are racing to the bottom on pricing, so every dollar reduced from the final retail price is crucial. A teardown of the 3rd-generation iPad by iSuppli estimated that the 4G model cost an extra $42 to manufacture.┬áThe inclusion of cellular modules isn’t likely to become standard until the cost is negligible.

It’s unclear when AT&T will start offering day passes and three-month passes. In the meantime, just consider setting up your phone as a mobile hotspot instead, as this allows you to connect any Wi-Fi enabled device. With AT&T, mobile hotspot use costs $20 extra per month on an individual plan, but it’s free if you’re on a shared data plan.