AT&T sets threshold for 'unlimited' data plan throttling

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


A new policy to be applied to AT&T unlimited 3G and 4G data plans puts a cap on the amount of bandwidth users are allowed before being throttled, effectively bringing and end to truly 'unlimited' data use on the company's network.



In an attempt to handle the increasing number of data users on its network, AT&T announced on Thursday that unlimited 3G and 4G LTE subscribers will see a download speed decrease when their usage exceeds 3GB and 5GB, respectively, reports The Wall Street Journal.



The new system is similar to the company's previous "top five percent" plan in that customers approaching the new 3GB per month cap will receive a text message warning that their data speeds will be throttled for the remainder of the billing cycle. Once the period ends, speeds will return to normal, however if the limit is exceeded for a second time, users will not get repeat warning text before throttling is initiated.



Company spokesman Mark Siegel said the new limits were enacted to alleviate confusion over when unlimited data users could expect a slowdown, but declined to give specific details as to how much speeds would be affected.



The Dallas-based telecom giant has created a website to explain the new policy and to answer questions regarding the new changes.



AT&T was the first partner telecom to carry Apple's iPhone, and offered $30 unlimited data plans when the device rolled out in 2007. As the handset's popularity grew, so did the number of data users as the carrier required iPhone buyers to also subscribe to a data plan, a practice that continues today. In June, 2010, the company moved away from all-you-can-eat data subscriptions for a tiered model, which itself saw price bump in January.



Currently, AT&T is facing a near-overload of data consumption as the network's limited amount of wireless spectrum is being filled by a growing number of smartphone users, a large portion of which are iPhone customers.



In the last quarter of 2011 alone, the nation's second-largest mobile carrier activated a record 7.6 million iPhones which accounted for 80 percent of the company's smartphone activations during the period.



To deal with demand, AT&T said that it would reduce the connection speed of the top 5 percent of unlimited data users starting Oct. 1, 2011, though customers began to complain that the company was enforcing stricter limitations in January. Some users were reportedly throttled after using only 2GB of data, which is well below the 3GB allotted to subscribers of identically-priced tiered data plans.





AT&T attempts to cope with a wireless spectrum shortage by throttling heavy users. | Source:







In addition to the new bandwidth caps, AT&T is also sending notices imploring those customers who are still using 2G devices to upgrade to a 3G model, despite the apparent lack of spectrum.



"We're simply urging them to upgrade to a new device if they want to," Siegel said.



The letter sent to 2G handset owners warned that a user's "current, older-model 2G phone might not be able to make or receive calls" and a degradation of wireless service in certain areas may be experienced.



According to Siegel, the move is meant to allow for a portion of the existing 2G network to be converted to newer technologies, though the representative fell short of specifying whether the new spectrum would be the iPhone 4S-compatible HSPA+ or 4G LTE.



AT&T's policy announcement comes just days after an iPhone user successfully sued the carrier in a California small claims court, claiming that its implementation of bandwidth throttling was unfair to subscribers. It is unclear whether the new conditions are a result of that suit.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • razorpitrazorpit Posts: 788member
    Even though I usually go no where near 3GB a month it ticks me off knowing I will get penalized if I do. Loyalty is a thing of the past I guess. Once all 4 of my phone replacements are "sync'd" I will thank AT&T by switching back to Sprint.
  • SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 23,629member
    Must be that small claims court lawsuit win against AT&T that forced their hand.
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,474member
    Ah, so when they start throttling way before 3GB, despite them saying 3GB, there'll be cause for a class action lawsuit that really doesn't have much chance of losing at all since AT&T was kind enough to provide an explicit definition of when throttling starts.



    Good.
  • SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 23,629member
    Let the lawsuits begin, crush AT&T's stock price, then let Apple sweep in and buy them out. Why didn't I think of that...
  • ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Ah, so when they start throttling way before 3GB, despite them saying 3GB, there'll be cause for a class action lawsuit that really doesn't have much chance of losing at all since AT&T was kind enough to provide an explicit definition of when throttling starts.



    Good.



    Nope. Your contract denies you from class action status. Arbitration only. The supreme court sided with AT&T on that as well. You're more than welcome to take it to Judge Judy.
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    Nope. Your contract denies you from class action status.



    Is that legal?
  • grmacgrmac Posts: 67member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by razorpit View Post


    Even though I usually go no where near 3GB a month it ticks me off knowing I will get penalized if I do. Loyalty is a thing of the past I guess. Once all 4 of my phone replacements are "sync'd" I will thank AT&T by switching back to Sprint.



    That will definitely ensure that you stay well under 3 gig a month.
  • shivas ironsshivas irons Posts: 9member
    Being 'grandfathered' into AT&T's unlimited data plan was the only reason I'd stuck with AT&T. Assuming this new cap also applies to iPad plans, then I'll be buying a Verizon-enabled iPad next week and switching iPhones over to Verizon when the iPhone 5 comes out later this year. Given Verizon's superior LTE coverage, is there a reason I wouldn't switch over to Verizon?
  • ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Is that legal?



    The US Supreme Court said it was.
  • ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shivas Irons View Post


    Being 'grandfathered' into AT&T's unlimited data plan was the only reason I'd stuck with AT&T. Assuming this new cap also applies to iPad plans, then I'll be buying a Verizon-enabled iPad next week and switching iPhones over to Verizon when the iPhone 5 comes out later this year. Given Verizon's superior LTE coverage, is there a reason I wouldn't switch over to Verizon?



    Well they do have that 2 gig data cap with overage charges. They have that deal now where you can get 4 gigs for the price of 2, but who knows how long that will last.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    A new policy to be applied to AT&T unlimited 3G and 4G data plans puts a cap on the amount of bandwidth users are allowed before being throttled, effectively bringing and end to truly 'unlimited' data use on the company's network.






    Data hogs ruin it for everybody. Because of the greed of a few, everybody else suffers.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shivas Irons View Post


    Given Verizon's superior LTE coverage, is there a reason I wouldn't switch over to Verizon?



    You cannot talk and surf the web at the same time with Verizon, and that ability is very important to iPhone users.



    Maybe you weren't aware of that?



    For example, if your wife calls you on your 25th Wedding Anniversary, and you had forgotten, you can make a dinner reservation online while you chat with her. Then you don't get in trouble.



    With Verizon, you end up in the doghouse for the night, instead of enjoying sa delicious meal with your beloved.



    Its not worth it. Stick with ATT.
  • rcfarcfa Posts: 571member
    It's time that someone stops the myth about limited spectrum being the cause of this issue.

    Yes, spectrum is limited, and there is only so much bandwidth that can be crammed into that spectrum.



    However, how many users have to share that bandwidth depends not only on the available spectrum, but on the cell size. Smaller cells that cover a smaller area mean less users need to share the same bandwidth, allowing the spectrum to be reused multiple times as compared to one or only few cells covering the same area.



    Because unlike in Europe regulation in the US does not require service levels, only coverage, cells in the US are stretched to nearly their max. size to keep infrastructure costs low and profits high.



    Because cell density is much higher even though data use isn't any lower and mobile Internet is even used as last mile transport for video on demand and home Internet services, there is little to no need to throttle the Internet there.



    e.g. in Austria, even in the densely populated Vienna and surroundings you can get truly unlimited mobile Internet for ?15/month with contact, and 15Gb for 15? in 30 days prepaid without contract.

    Just for reference: ?15 is about $20.



    Now compare that to AT&T's rates and constant whining, and the exorbitant surcharges they want for tethering a laptop to a phone, which are equally unheard of in Europe. There data is data, regardless if that data is consumed by a phone, a computer or a computer via the phone.



    US carriers truly operate by the motto "a sucker is born every second, and we're there to take them."



    AT&T etc.: Stop milking the cash cow, stop whining, start building infrastructure!
  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post


    You cannot talk and surf the web at the same time with Verizon, and that ability is very important to iPhone users.



    So why haven't I heard even a whisper about it since the Verizon iPhone 4 launch? And why do people still buy Verizon and Sprint iPhones, then?



    I don't expect an answer. I don't WANT an answer. I'm exposing nonsense, is all.
  • dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 11,160member


    AT&T sets threshold for 'unlimited' data plan throttling



    How can that sentence make any sense... don't words have meaning?



  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 39,474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    AT&T sets threshold for 'unlimited' data plan throttling



    How can that sentence make any sense... don't words have meaning?




    Unlimited data, not unlimited speed.



    If they can take away legal rights in a contract, they can choose what, if any, part of a word's definition applies in one, too.



    To be clear, I don't like it either.
  • mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    I hope this doesn't affect business users. I have a 4G LTE unlimited data only account for business which costs $75 per month. They better not even think about touching that account.
  • bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,719member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Is that legal?



    Just about every time you agree to anything with a corporation or bank these days, you also agree to settle all disputes with arbitration. It is a situation that works against the consumer in almost every case...
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    So why haven't I heard even a whisper about it since the Verizon iPhone 4 launch?



    I can't really know for sure, but my first guess would be confirmation bias. The second would be cognitive dissonance.
  • bigbillygoatgruffbigbillygoatgruff Posts: 290member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Is that legal?



    I don't believe it's a violation of any law. By signing a contract, customers agreed to those terms. Just about anything you agree to in a contract is enforcable.
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