AT&T has finally publicized details on their extremely unpopular and controversial data throttling scheme. For those of you that are unaware of the situation, AT&T has been covertly limiting the download and upload speeds that the top 5% of their “unlimited data” users receive.
In most previous instances of data throttling, users were altered multiple times (by text message) when they were about to reach the top 5% – however, some users haven’t been as lucky and simply received one message notifying them that they were already throttled.
Users who’ve experienced the wrath of AT&T’s data throttling policies have reported average download speeds of about 0.1Mbps – that’s unbelievably slow in comparison to non-throttled users!
Additionally, most users who are throttled have reported using only 2GB worth of data each month and in theory, that’s certainly more than 5% of AT&T’s unlimited data customers. Many have argued that AT&T’s stealthy practice of limiting user’s download upload speeds in unethical and unjust.
In response to all of AT&T’s disgruntled customers, the company made amendments to their throttling policy. They’ve publicly stated that 3G (HSPA/HSPA+) users, e.g. iPhone owners, will be throttled upon reaching 3GB of usage within one billing cycle and 4G (LTE) users will be throttled upon reaching 5GB of usage within one billing cycle . Building on that, AT&T has also stated that users who are about to be throttled might only receive one notification, via text message, before their speeds are reduced.
Here’s AT&T’s official statement:
With mobile data usage continuing to skyrocket and the availability of spectrum scarce, AT&T, like other wireless companies, manages its network in the most fair way possible so that we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience for all our customers.
How we’re managing the network only affects a small minority of the heaviest smartphone data users still on unlimited plans. Put another way, this does not impact more than 95 percent of our smartphone customers.
Our unlimited plan customers have told us they want more clarity around how the program works and what they can expect. Here’s what customers need to know:
· Customers with a 3G or 4G smartphone – who also still have our unlimited data plan – will see speeds reduced if they use 3GB (gigabytes) of data or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle. For context, less than 5 percent of smartphone customers use more than 3GB per month.
· For customers with a 4G LTE smartphone – who also still have our unlimited data plan – data speeds will be reduced if usage is 5GB (gigabytes) or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle.
Customers will get a text message from us before experiencing a change in speed.
Even with reduced data speeds, these customers will still be able to email and surf the web, and continue to use an unlimited amount of data each month.
Not impacted by this program, launched last year, are customers on our tiered data plans.
The reason reduced speeds only apply to unlimited smartphone customers is because their data usage is significantly higher than those on tiered plans. For example, in January, the top 5 percent of our unlimited data plan customers used an average of over 50 percent more data than the top 5 percent of customers on tiered plans.
Because spectrum is limited and data usage continues to soar, we manage our network this way to be as fair as possible and so we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience to everyone.
We encourage all of our customers to use Wi-Fi whenever possible – especially when watching video, which is the most data-intensive activity.
That’s because data activity over Wi-Fi does not count against the threshold for unlimited customers that triggers reduced data speeds or against customers’ tiered data plans. Customers can find out more at www.att.com/datainfo
For more information on AT&T data throttling, you can visit their new “Unlimited Data – Speeds” page and their “Smartphone Unlimited Data Plan Guide” FAQ section. Stay tuned for more coverage on AT&T and other wireless carriers.