U.S. Cellular ends punitive overage charges on mobile data

U.S. Cellular(s usm) has finally done away with that relic of a bygone 3G age: Punitive overage charges on its mobile data plans. Only a few years ago operators tried to discourage their customers from consuming more data than their plans allowed by charging exorbitant rates for every megabyte over the cap. Almost all of them have now stopped the practice for their smartphone and tablet plans, but until this week, U.S. Cellular was the exception.

When U.S. Cellular launched its first LTE tablet in March, it was charging 25 cents for every megabyte over the cap consumed. That works out to be about $250 per gigabyte used in excess of a customer’s plan. This week it restructured its plans so that overages (except on its lowest tier plan) are charged at $10/1 GB, which is pretty much industry norm. FierceWireless reported that the carrier announced the changes at its first quarter earnings call.

U.S. Cellular also lowered the cost of the data plans themselves, aligning them with prices charged by Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) and AT&T(s t). It now offers 300 MBs for the $20 plan (charging $10/300 MB for overages), 2 GBs for $25, 4 GBs for $45, 5 GBs for $50 and 10 GBs for $90. At 4 GB or higher, you can also use Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities at no extra charge, but not with the lower-priced plans.