AT&T Officially Confirms Throttling Plans for Heaviest Usersby Brian Klug on July 29, 2011 4:11 PM EST
There has been considerable talk and rumor in the last week about AT&T considering throttling the heaviest users on its 3G networks. Turns out those rumors were true, as AT&T has just announced that it will begin throttling offending users starting October 1.
Starting October 1, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users. These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle. Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.
We've suspected that such a move would be inevitable, and largely marks the start of AT&T's push to begin selling services on speed tiers in addition to data buckets with its forthcoming LTE network rollout. The network already shapes HSUPA traffic to 1.5 Mbps or less in most markets. AT&T curiously notes in its throttling announcement that only a successful merger with T-Mobile will address its spectrum challenges in the short term.
Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges.
Unlimited data plan subscribers will see no changes until the new policies kick on in October. AT&T has yet to provide specifics about what throughput throttled/offending users will see until the end of their billing cycles, or a specific amount of bandwidth that will toggle the throttling. Hopefully such information is forthcoming, as ambiguous and selectively enforced rules only frustrate users. For comparison, T-Mobile limits users after 5 GB to around 256 kilobits/second. One thing is for certain, this author is going to likely experience firsthand what kind of throttled speeds users get saddled with sometime around October 15.