The war on data throttling has been raging on for what seems like forever, with many users left furious that their carrier would slow data speeds to a crawl after X amount of gigabytes (usually two). While most carriers draw a clear line as to when throttling will occur, AT&T has taken a rather shady approach with its unlimited customers in the past, simply stating that "the top five percent of users" will be throttled. The problem is, most users want to know their exact data limit, so this ambiguous barrier just hasn't been good enough.
Today, however, AT&T announced a change to its policy that finally gives a real 'data cap', leaving users with no doubt as to when throttling will begin. Not only that, but the numbers are actually more liberal than we've seen offered by other carriers: 5GB for LTE devices and 3GB for non-LTE devices.
While it's still unclear to what speeds users who break these caps will be throttled down to, it's at least good to see Big Blue setting some clear guidelines. Even though throttling isn't something that we are all happy about or agree with, it's pretty safe to say that we can all call this one a win for unlimited users on AT&T.
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