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.

Source: AT&T

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  • alphacheez - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    It's policies like this that made me leave AT&T. I switched from an iPhone 3g (over a year out of contract) to a Palm Pixi Plus on Page Plus wireless (a VZW MVNO). They don't have good data offerings, the most their monthly plans offer is only 100 MB and their standard plan costs $0.99/MB-down from $1.29/MB, but the price for minutes and texts is much better than the major networks and I feel better not supporting a large corporation directly.

    I wish their were some way for data pricing to better reflect actual costs to these companies and not just be a way for them to pad their pockets with more money. There are a lot of problems that keep this from happening from contracts/early termination fee, incompatible networks (seemingly by design), and unwillingness of companies to build out towers and backhaul to support the data traffic people would like to have on their mobile devices.
    Reply
  • nexox - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Of course, that spectrum that ATT wants from TMobile is the only way I can get 3G in this country on my N900. So after the merger I'm going to be left with basically no devices that satisfy my needs (hardware keyboard, real Linux distribution.)

    Also I tend to use ~350MB/month on TMobile, which costs me $40, with minutes. On ATT that'll be more like $70, for much worse service.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    "Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges."

    After 90% of the tmobile customers flee at the end of their contracts I suspect you'll have a bit of freed spectrum...
    Reply
  • dbrashear - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    so, is this a change of terms that means an ETF would be forgiven due to a materially adverse change? Reply
  • vnangia - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Can you imagine if we had a single provider that actually stuck to the terms of the contract it signed with you? Oh wait, we do - it's called T-Mobile, and AT&T is trying to destroy it. Reply
  • Black1969ta - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    You seems to be misinformed, Verizon has not changed my contract, in fact even if I upgrade my phone and get a new contract I will not lose my unlimited Data Plan. they didn't want to punish me the loyal customer they want to profit from the poor slobs who defect from AT&T and soon to be T-Mobile.

    And another thing, I started on Alltel and they were bought out by Verizon. Verizon didn't change my plan, in fact they retained some of the best parts of my Alltel Plan when I upgraded.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I don't get all the complaints - this will be better for most users. If 3% of the users are taking up a disproportional amount of bandwidth, then why should those users not be throttled? I'd rather be able to be able to get data when I need it, rather than cater to the few data hogs. Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    ... They just need to make the conditions clear. I have a feeling that the conditions probably need to be localized to whatever hardware they have in any given location. Reply
  • iwod - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Exactly. Although i am not from US and never used a US network before, but all the fundamentals of mobile networks are the same around the world. Let those 5% complaint, and let them go. The rest of the 95% users can enjoy a MUCH better network.

    It seems these days everyone expect things to be free.
    Reply
  • sjaxkingpin - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    This isn't for everyone. This is only for those with unlimited plans. They are already paying a premium to get the service those "data hogs" want. This is double dipping on these customers. They are paying more up front and them being penalized when they utilize the service they paid extra money for. Reply

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