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

post #1 of 73
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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 ]
post #2 of 73
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.
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post #3 of 73
Must be that small claims court lawsuit win against AT&T that forced their hand.

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post #4 of 73
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.

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post #5 of 73
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...

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post #6 of 73
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.
post #7 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

Nope. Your contract denies you from class action status.

Is that legal?

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post #8 of 73
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.
post #9 of 73
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?
post #10 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Is that legal?

The US Supreme Court said it was.
post #11 of 73
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.
post #12 of 73
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.
post #13 of 73
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.
post #14 of 73
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!
post #15 of 73
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.

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post #16 of 73
AT&T sets threshold for 'unlimited' data plan throttling

How can that sentence make any sense... don't words have meaning?
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post #17 of 73
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.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #18 of 73
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.

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post #19 of 73
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...
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post #20 of 73
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.
post #21 of 73
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.
post #22 of 73
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.

I have to wonder about those with Unlimited plans who think they have some "grandfathered" contract from a higher power that will prevent AT&T from not allowing them to take their Unlimited plan with them when they sign a future contract for a new phone, or for those who are not on any contract. I'm certain one day they will completely eradicate the Unlimited user.

Perhaps after Sprint gets rid of it, something that is likely to happen if they can grow their capacity the way Verizon and AT&T did. People think Verizon thasn't had any bandwidth issues but back in October they offered those who would get '4G' phone double data to help alleviate the strain on their network as the iPhone 4S was coming out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Must be that small claims court lawsuit win against AT&T that forced their hand.

Perhaps, but I was expecting this since the price for unlimited is the same price as 3GB so throttling under 3GB was silly. Remember when AT&T first offered tethering but made it a requirement for 4GB and that price was identical to getting 4GB without tethering? Well eventually they made it that getting a 4GB or more plan would auto allow tethering. Same basic concept IMO.


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?

Limited speed as a measure of bandwidth usage.
Limited duration as a measure of time usage.
Unlimited data usage as a measure of data usage.

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post #23 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

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.

Who needs class-action??? Take them to small claims and win a few thousand dollars. It is more than you would get from a class action settlement.

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post #24 of 73
Small Claims Court x Millions.
post #25 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Is that legal?

Pay no attention to the big Red, White, and Blue dick being shoved up your ass.
post #26 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

Data hogs ruin it for everybody. Because of the greed of a few, everybody else suffers.

I stream audio every day during my commute, very small amount of bandwidth used over along period of time puts me over 3G and occasinally near 4G every month. So I'm labeled as GREEDY and a DATA HOG for pulling a massive trickle of data throughout the day over the course of a month. Complete BS.
post #27 of 73
Hmmm. I wonder how Sprint's customer service is these days....
post #28 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by S8ER01Z View Post

I stream audio every day during my commute, very small amount of bandwidth used over along period of time puts me over 3G and occasinally near 4G every month. So I'm labeled as GREEDY and a DATA HOG for pulling a massive trickle of data throughout the day over the course of a month. Complete BS.

He's not a serious poster. He thinks he's being clever by posting what he thinks the ultimate Apple apologist would say. Best just to ignore him... or make him cry.

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post #29 of 73
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? 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.

Well, it seems to me that Zither doesn't believe it either, he is just trying to stir the pot.

However, I will answer your question as best as I can. Many (most?) of the Verizon iPhone buyers were already Verizon customers so they were never accustomed to having voice and data at the same time. They have no cause for complaint. OTOH, people who did switch to Verizon did so with the full knowledge of that limitation--it's not like it was a secret. They would have known that they were making the choice to give up simultaneous voice and data in return for better coverage in their area or a better rate plan or whatever. If THEY were to complain they would rightly be called idiots.

For me, I don't use voice and data simultaneously all that often, but when I do I find it extremely useful--usually I have GPS and maps going while talking on speakerphone. I have even helped family members with dumbphones find their way by using my maps while talking to them... It wouldn't be a deal breaker for me, but I would certainly miss it!

Finally, we will never know how many people decided to stay with AT&T because of this functionality. Who knows, maybe that is exactly the reason the long rumored mass exodus never occurred when Verizon got the iPhone.

If you find this line of reasoning to be nonsense, that is fine with me. It will be a moot point soon anyway with LTE, I guess...
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post #30 of 73
Since Sprint is slowly circling the drain, Apple should buy them and offer unlimited everything for free while yanking iPhones and iPads from AT&T & Verizon. When they melt, Apple & Google can fight it out for them.
post #31 of 73
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.

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.

I prefer the alternative, if I am online and she calls about the Anniversary I don't get the call, I save money and my mistress is happy. Verizon is the only way.
post #32 of 73
20,000%? I got around 560% with my math.. can someone give me clarity how they got their #?
post #33 of 73
AT&T follows the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Never be afraid to mislabel a product. Market it as unlimited, operate it as dial-up.
post #34 of 73
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? 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.

People on those services don't know they could have it on other services.
post #35 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by domerdel2 View Post

20,000%? I got around 560% with my math.. can someone give me clarity how they got their #?

I assume that the 7 million and 39.4 million you used to do your calculation is for the number of smartphone units (or devices that pay for data) on their network in 2007 and 2011, respectively. The 20,000% is the rate by which their network load has gone up as smartphones have become more user friendly in terms of data usage and the network speeds allow us to consume a lot more data in a shorter time frame.

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post #36 of 73
VZ and T have market caps of $109 and $182 billion...

Maybe an opportunity to disrupt the US cell phone service industry and the cableco service industry too...
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post #37 of 73
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.

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.

Now that wifi is a necessity for most iPhone users due to the insane data caps/prices, I never find myself not on wifi wishing I could talk and use data concurrently.

Was a bragging point I suppose when I had AT&T. Now on Verizon and haven't looked back. The solid voice connections is reason enough for me - there are constant AT&T call droppage issues in the surrounding Seattle area.
post #38 of 73
Sign up for AT&T Unlimited Plan*
post #39 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcbrided View Post

Now that wifi is a necessity for most iPhone users due to the insane data caps/prices, I never find myself not on wifi wishing I could talk and use data concurrently.

Was a bragging point I suppose when I had AT&T. Now on Verizon and haven't looked back. The solid voice connections is reason enough for me - there are constant AT&T call droppage issues in the surrounding Seattle area.

I can't imagine not having this, not to mention the much faster '3G' speeds. Pretty much everytme I'm on a call I'm using my phone for data to read an email, read a website, read a text, use an app. Yes, I'm using a headset, I'm not speaker phone.

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post #40 of 73
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.

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.

I've thought long and hard about this. I've decided I'm switching to Verizon when my contract is up in June. Although I'd love to be able to surf and talk at the same time, it doesn't make any sense to have this feature if I can't maintain a phone call. I've been with AT&T since the original iPhone and now with iPhone 4. My calls still drop more than ever and nothing has changed here in San Francisco. Using my phone as a phone is the most important feature for me and Verizon wins in that department.
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