AT&T eases up on throttling of grandfathered unlimited data plans for smartphones

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2015
AT&T has relaxed its policy of throttling users of its grandfathered unlimited data plans, and will now only impose slower speeds only at times or in places with high network congestion, a small update to the carrier's website revealed on Thursday.




The change, spotted by Ars Technica, undoes a controversial tactic in which AT&T would throttle unlimited plan users exceeding 3 gigabytes of 3G data per month, or 5 gigabytes of LTE data, regardless of network conditions. A U.S. Federal Trade Commission lawsuit is ongoing, and although AT&T has denied any wrongdoing, it recently promised it would make improvements to throttling policies.

The new language on the AT&T website states that people may be throttled if they exceed the 3- and 5-gigabyte thresholds, but only "at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion."

The carrier's throttled speeds can be less than 0.5 megabits per second. That may make many smartphone uses difficult or completely impractical, particularly streaming music and video.

AT&T's approach is now in line with T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon, all of which use congestion-based throttling. The carriers may soon have little choice, as Federal Communications Commission rules limiting throttling to "reasonable network management" are due to take effect next month.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    nobodyynobodyy Posts: 377member

    A response to prevent the FTC from digging into the schemes that are less apparent that they've been using to otherwise gouge and rip off customers. 

  • Reply 2 of 17



    would be nice if they allowed a tethering add-on to grandfather - even if they data limited the tether

  • Reply 3 of 17
    dipdog3dipdog3 Posts: 88member

    would be nice if they allowed a tethering add-on to grandfather - even if they data limited the tether

    Yes, that was a deal breaker for me. Ended up dropping the unlimited plan just for that reason.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,597member

    "at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion."

     

    Don't those conditions naturally throttle everybody's speed?

  • Reply 5 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Probably mostly in response to aggressive competition from T-mo.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,772member
    mike1 wrote: »
    "at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion."

     
    Don't those conditions naturally throttle everybody's speed?

    Not exactly. Everybody doesn't "naturally" throttle down to EDGE speeds.

    AT&T unlimited plans would force you onto the EDGE network when your monthly threshold was reached. You were effectively banished from 3G and LTE until the end of the month.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Probably mostly in response to aggressive competition from T-mo.



    Do you think there are really very many grandfathered accounts left? We dropped ours because we wanted to use the shared family plan. As I recall, the original unlimited plan cost more and was mostly selected by power users. By my logic, most power users have made changes to their account to get other features, adding lines, etc. which would mean dropping their unlimited status. 

     

    Not so sure about the T-mobile as competition idea because AT&T does not offer new unlimited plans. If AT&T's grandfathered customers haven't bailed by now, there isn't much risk they will.

  • Reply 8 of 17
    almondrocaalmondroca Posts: 179member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     



    Do you think there are really very many grandfathered accounts left? We dropped ours because we wanted to use the shared family plan. As I recall, the original unlimited plan cost more and was mostly selected by power users. By my logic, most power users have made changes to their account to get other features, adding lines, etc. which would mean dropping their unlimited status. 

     

    Not so sure about the T-mobile as competition idea because AT&T does not offer new unlimited plans. If AT&T's grandfathered customers haven't bailed by now, there isn't much risk they will.


     

    I'm still on a grandfathered plan and a lot of AT&T users I know are still on them. You can upgrade/downgrade most features without losing a grandfathered plan.

     

    I was tempted by T-Mob/Sprint's $100 a month for unlimited everything (two lines), but once I included the extra cost of getting an unsubsidized phone and the monthly taxes and fees, my grandfathered plan was more than competitive. I'm sentenced to another two years with AT&T.

  • Reply 9 of 17
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Do you think there are really very many grandfathered accounts left? We dropped ours because we wanted to use the shared family plan. As I recall, the original unlimited plan cost more and was mostly selected by power users. By my logic, most power users have made changes to their account to get other features, adding lines, etc. which would mean dropping their unlimited status. 

     

    Not so sure about the T-mobile as competition idea because AT&T does not offer new unlimited plans. If AT&T's grandfathered customers haven't bailed by now, there isn't much risk they will.

     

    I'm one of the grandfathered few or many (who really knows). I can only speak from a perspective of one, but that's never stopped me before. I think the main reason grandfathered people stick with the unlimited data plan is psychological. They know if they give it up they can never get it back, so they never give it up. When the roll-over data was announced, I started seriously considering switching. I just moved, so I don't yet have a baseline for my consumption in my new area. After a few months, I'll be able to make an informed decision. I had gotten the throttle notification before, but I only noticed a difference once. It's possible that the supposed limit was reached late in the month, though.
  • Reply 10 of 17
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by BigBillyGoatGruff View Post

     

    I'm one of the grandfathered few or many (who really knows). I can only speak from a perspective of one, but that's never stopped me before. I think the main reason grandfathered people stick with the unlimited data plan is psychological. They know if they give it up they can never get it back, so they never give it up. When the roll-over data was announced, I started seriously considering switching. I just moved, so I don't yet have a baseline for my consumption in my new area. After a few months, I'll be able to make an informed decision. I had gotten the throttle notification before, but I only noticed a difference once. It's possible that the supposed limit was reached late in the month, though.




    I've never been throttled once, or noticed a degradation of my service in all the years I've had the unlimited data plan.

  • Reply 11 of 17
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BigBillyGoatGruff View Post

     
     I had gotten the throttle notification before, but I only noticed a difference once. It's possible that the supposed limit was reached late in the month, though.


    That was the final decision maker for me. I figured that if I ever hit the limit it would probably be at the most inopportune time, such as using above average data while traveling. If I go over, which only happened once, they just charge me another $10 and I keep my speed. Totally worth not worrying about being throttled.

  • Reply 12 of 17
    emp745emp745 Posts: 5member
    I too have held onto my unlimited data plan. I've never exceeded 3GB/month, but, as the future unfolds, we all will use more cellular data than we do now. Also, when the iPhone first came out AT&T was the only carrier to offer it and, for at least the first five years, iPhone users were FORCED to purchase an unlimited data plan. They didn't know just what we were going to do with these new smartphone thingies, and they protected themselves at our expense. Now as streaming this and streaming that is available they do everything they can think of to entice us away from the accounts they make us take in the first place. Heck with them.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,303member
    Of course, AT&T's definition of "congested" is "two or more phones".

    I should crank up my data. I've been running unlimited since 2009. Got throttled for the first time when I got my iPhone 6+.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    mdbenmdben Posts: 1member
    Too little too late. Just last week said goodbye to AT&T and me grandfathered unlimited data plan after 8 years. Hello t-mobile
  • Reply 15 of 17
    stoney05stoney05 Posts: 5member
    Not exactly. Everybody doesn't "naturally" throttle down to EDGE speeds.

    AT&T unlimited plans would force you onto the EDGE network when your monthly threshold was reached. You were effectively banished from 3G and LTE until the end of the month.

    What are you talking about. AT&T doesn't force your smartphone into EDGE.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    larz2112larz2112 Posts: 291member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     



    Do you think there are really very many grandfathered accounts left?


     

    I am on a grandfathered rollover minute/unlimited data plan that I had from Cingular before they were bought by AT&T. My plan is 70 bucks a month. With streaming video and apps and internet sites that use more data with every new update and redesign, I thought it best to hold on to my grandfathered unlimited data plan. I'm glad I did.

  • Reply 17 of 17
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 1,002member

    This is actually a slight improvement over AT&T's tactic from years ago. Those who are grandfathered into an unlimited plan were throttled without any publication, statement, or notice of the throttling. You simply got lower speeds with no explanation.

     

    Imagine renting a car for $50/day with unlimited mileage. But you find that if you exceed 100 miles in any given day your top speed is ECU-limited to 15 miles/hour. The contract specifies nothing about this "throttling."  Is this truly unlimited? I think the answer by everyone except AT&T would be a resounding "no." AT&T got away with lying to their customers. They deserve to be fined by the FTC.

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