With unlimited data plans disappearing, data-starved wireless users got some good news from AT&T Wireless yesterday: The carrier is increasing the sizes of its respective data plans. But as is so often the case with such hikes, the good news comes with bad: AT&T is also raising prices.

"We're launching new smartphone and tablet data plans on Sunday, January 22," AT&T's Mark Collins wrote in the AT&T Consumer Blog. "The new plans give customers more data for more value ... Existing customers will be able to keep their current plans but can also choose from one of the new plans."

The new plans for smartphones work as follows:
  • 300MB of data per month for $20 (previously 200MB of data per month for $15)
  • 3GB of data per month for $30 (previously 2GB of data per month for $25)
  • 5GB (including mobile hotspot access) per month for $50 (previously 4GB of data per month for $45)
The new pay-as-you-go plans for tablets  are:
  • 3GB of data for $30 (previously 2GB of data for $25), plus $10 per additional gigabyte
  • 5GB of data for $50, plus $10 per additional gigabyte
(AT&T also previously offered a 250MB pay-as-you-go plan for tablets for $14.99 per month, but that's been discontinued.)

"As the AT&T network gets even faster with 4G LTE deployment—up to 10 times faster than 3G—and devices and applications become even more sophisticated, it's clear that data usage will surge even more," Collins wrote, explaining the need for the data-plan bumps, though not necessarily the price hikes. "More content downloading, more video streaming, more apps. Connecting with family and friends 24x7."

AT&T users can take solace in the fact that prices on that network are still considerably lower than on rival Verizon Wireless. That carrier's least expensive data plan costs $30 and provides just 2GB of data, one-third less than with AT&T. And Verizon's international data plans are also considerably more expensive than those of AT&T.

I switched to AT&T from Verizon in 2007 when I purchased the first iPhone and have been grandfathered into its unlimited data plan since AT&T canceled that service in mid-2010. But even with rising data use, few users come anywhere near to hitting their caps, and AT&T's lower-end plans will probably work fine for most users. AT&T customers are advised to keep an eye on their data usage and plan accordingly: AT&T provides this information via its website and, more conveniently via a handy myAT&T mobile app for smartphones.