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At AT&T Inc. the picture is similar: Siegel said 98 percent of smartphone customers use less than 2 gigabytes in a month.

Neil Strother, an analyst at ABI Research, believes caps on data usage will make things more confusing for consumers. Carriers will have to be increasingly transparent about what data caps mean and help them keep tabs on how much data they use. The carriers do offer online data calculators and alerts that customers can use to learn about how they use data.

“I think the issue for most people is they just don’t want to have that surprise bill,” Strother said.

The most recent changes don’t mean that data plans will always look this way, though. Some analysts suggest that carriers might eventually offer different speed tiers, perhaps charging more to always use a 4G network, or having customers start off using their 4G network and then switching to the slower 3G network after hitting a monthly data-usage allotment. T-Mobile’s existing unlimited data plan flirts with this idea already.

Strother expects to see some experimentation, saying the carriers will likely try different pricing models in order to keep themselves and consumers happy.

“Frankly no carrier wants a block of their customers to say, `I don’t like this, I’m moving to the other guy.’ They want to keep you,” Strother said.