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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  • Aikouka - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I have unlimited and I don't pay anything more than the 2GB people.... I'm simply grandfathered in. I think I only use between 250-500MB anyway. I know that using Splashtop a lot tends to jack up my data use.
  • imaheadcase - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    reason for not upgrading networks.
  • Zoomer - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Their reasoning that the only way to solve the bw crunch is to get more spectrum is bs. A denser tower placement works too.
  • minijedimaster - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    So what are you using on your phone that is taking so much data on your plan? Are you tethering? If so doesn't AT&T already charge more for that in which case why would they throttle you if you are paying for it? If not then what? I find it hard to use more than 1GB of data in a month at AT&T's 3G speeds on my iPhone4. That and with WiFi just about everywhere except for when I'm on the move in a car... I guess I just don't get all the data use on a phone.
  • heffeque - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    "Offending users".

    Really... has no one noticed their use of the language? "Offending"? Seriously? Why don't they call these users "terrorists"? Now that the TSA treat everyone as a terrorist... why not?
  • havoti97 - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    You must be one of these offending users to be so offended by this.
  • heffeque - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    I don't even live in the US (anymore). It's just unbelievable how large corporations twist the language to meet their needs. Everybody does it some way or another, but this level is just too rotten to be acceptable.
  • Ahnilated - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    un·lim·it·ed (n-lm-td)
    1. Having no restrictions or controls: an unlimited travel ticket.
    2. Having or seeming to have no boundaries; infinite: an unlimited horizon.
    3. Without qualification or exception; absolute: unlimited self-confidence.

    If you sold someone an unlimited plan and then limit them I would sue them for not living up to the contract they provided.
  • Dug - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    Their reasoning is that they sold unlimited data, not unlimited speed.
    So by throttling speed they aren't breaking the unlimited data plan.

    It does suck though. I encountered that with Clear. After about 4GB's I was throttled down to 128k! They wouldn't change anything so I left.
  • Ahnilated - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    Apparently you don't know what unlimited means either. If you limit the speed you are limiting the data.

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