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


Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • jjrudey

    I get completely unlimited 4G LTE. Be jealous.

    • sathed

      Are you outside the states?

    • Steve

      Me too! Go VZ! :-)

    • slurms mckenzie

      u also get shafted up the ass hard

    • http://[email protected] JEFFERY AULT


      • Deltaechoe

        ATT doesn't have to adhere to the conditions that VZW does as defined by the FCC for the spectrum purchase that vzw made

  • http://www.christiantechsaz.com Aaron

    I wouldn't say its a win...., it's just clear on when they can start raking you over the coals. I'm sorry, you have "unlimiited" data, let me slow you to a crawl. Well, it "technically" unlimited. bahumbug...

  • http://[email protected] JEFFERY AULT

    i am personally getting sick and tired of all these bandwith caps! i have Suddenlink Com. for my internet and recently they have set a cap on my 20 Mb internet. You will see that every carrier in the USA is gonna be doing this and they say oooo only 5% of us go over. That is alot of crock it really is. I am not aloud to go past 250 Gigs in a month or i will be charged $10 for additional 50 Gigs. Lets see i used 260 Gigs in 15 days......15 days and that is just using Netflix and no downloading of music.

    The Moral of all this is that the fact that you pay for unlimited anything and now they are saying well u pay more and we will give you that option. 5 Gigs on a phone is super easy to do also and for them to say well sorry you are gonna get slowed down because you use to much. O ya and best of all for me to use my Netflix is to turm the video quality down to make my internet company happy.

    Lastly what i have to say is this is like a city puting toll on a road because more and more use it even though they get more taxes from more people.......BS


    • SLayernet

      you pay for bandwidth on a wired connection?... man its time you switched

      • http://[email protected] JEFFERY AULT

        yes we have tiered speeds for $62 i get 20 Mb internet with 250 Gigs a month of use u can go over 3 times then they will start to charge you for overages....This will be a standard on internet in the USA mark my words its gonna make alot of people mad.

  • Mgamerz

    It sure is a win when I have a crippled unlimited data plan, huh?

    • Cameron Summerson

      Would you rather it cap at 2GB?

      • Deltaechoe

        I would rather people band together and start a big class action lawsuit that succeeds and sets a precedent about throttling customers with "unlimited" data plans. Make unlimited mean unlimited again

        • http://www.unlocktheinbox.com wpfn

          That is not possible due to the contract you signed with AT&T, but I agree with you on the win scenario...just can't understand why unlimited should = 3GB. Blasphemy!

        • Mark

          The unlimited users who are being throttled, it is still unlimited. It's just not unlimited full speed. You can push 10, 15, 20gb through it you want and not be charged extra, how is that not unlimited?

          Throttling does not mean "limited" it just means they're going to slow you down. But you can keep going, there's never a point where they flat out stop you. Honestly if you're pushing 3gb or 5gb through the connection a month, maybe you should be slowed down. I know some crazy people trying to use their phones as their sole internet access at home. Some of those people even try to do torrents. They're abusers. Now I tether once in a while but not as my only connection. I use WiFi at work and at home. When I'm out and about is when I use my phone for internet and/or connect the laptop to my phone for internet.

          • jamesrichardson

            You are one goofy bastard...you call people crazy 'cause they want to use a service that they paid for and for their own purposes, other than yours, and they are abusers? You're for the NWO aint ya?...you suck...you're not American are ya?

        • Deltaechoe

          Or you have people like me who cannot get a decent connection on the school's wifi and would like to listen to music while we study. I use rhapsody for approximately 6 to 8 hours a day on my 4g (with verizon) and use well over 5gb a month (this is with perfectly normal, non tos violating usage)

          And mark, of course their side holds up in court (for the moment), but it is still a completely unethical business practice. They have essentially been lying to the consumers by drafting these compulsory agreements with less than understandable wording. Average consumers pretty much need a lawyer to understand just exactly what they are agreeing to and what strings could potentially be attached. Be honest, when you hear unlimited, you think of access without sanctions should you actually use what you are paying for.
          Honestly, these companies are penalizing their customers for taking advantage of what the customer already paid for.

          While we're on the rant about ridiculous tiers and throttle thresholds, what is the point of making your network more and more able to handle large amounts of data (IE buying more spectrum) while further limiting people's access to it?

          "Oh boy, I can download at 20 mbps, but only for 2 hours before they slow me down for a month..."

          People have actually be saying this to me at the college I go to. We need the fcc and ftc and the bbb (for all the good they do /sarcasm) to step up and enforce some regulations that make cell phone plans fair to the consumer.

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

          @wpfn Slight correction, even with signed contracts, a class action suit is completely realistic because the practice of throttling speeds to the point that the service can no longer be used as advertised was not in place when any of the unlimited customers signed their agreements. Also, the terms of service have changed substantially since any unlimited customer signed a contract...and I can say with certainty, not all of those changes to the terms of service have been announced to me as per their legal obligation. Since they've changed their practice and the terms of service, both since making the agreement to provide a service which was advertised as capable of meeting a certain expectation, they can be sued for a number of charges; at a minimum for false advertising and misrepresentation of services, and at worst for bait-and-switch (need one hell of a good law firm to score with that one though). I'm a little surprised that there isn't a firm already petitioning to start a class action.

      • Mgamerz

        What if I bought a car that could go 150 miles per hour (legally too), but then later they said that once you hit 60 they make it suck 2x the amount of gas? That seem fair?
        I think not.

      • Eric

        That's a awful, dismissive reply.

        It's a complete false dichotomy as if it can only be 2GB or 3GB. Nevermind what it was sold as.

  • skitchbeatz

    At least they're being more transparent about it.

    • Deltaechoe

      That's like saying "Well I'm going to rape you but its ok because I'm being honest about it"

  • chris

    Att was sued by a customer in arizona in a small claims court because they capped hit data. he was awarded $800.00 and was released from his contract with no termination fee. you do not need an attourney to file. in most places its $45.00 to file the paperwork. mine will be submitted on monday. i look forward to seeing big blue in court.

    • http://[email protected] JEFFERY AULT

      how can you sue when they tell you they are doin that to the service....funny part is thatyou sign a contract stating that there is no cap and then they change it on you without a signed approval by you ya i can see a case

      • chris

        Yea thats how he won. they changed his tearms of service without permission. att is appealing but this could be the first of many lawsuits.

    • Deltaechoe

      With the clarification ATT it won't just be that simple in court, they just made the clarification to avoid getting sued a lot and having to release a decent chunk of customers. They're playing legal damage control, so a new precedent has to be set.

    • jamesrichardson

      Wow, the same amount to file a suit as it is for their monthly fee.

  • http://www.unlocktheinbox.com wpfn

    "it's pretty safe to say that we can all call this one a win for unlimited users on AT&T."

    Wow! Really? I couldn't disagree more. 3GB is NOT unlimited. How is this a win for the unlimited users exactly?

    • Cameron Summerson

      Because it's still quite a bit better than what most other carriers offer, as well as where AT&T previously set its cap.

      • Deltaechoe

        I disagree, Sprint still has unlimited and as far as I know they don't throttle their "4g" (if wimax could be called that), verizon doesn't trottle 4g either and I believe t-mobile starts to throttle everything at 5gb (that includes 3g). If this is the case, ATT is still the worst out of the bunch as far as policy goes.

  • Atrixxxxxx

    How is this a Win... Last April I bought my Atrix staying with ATT for my unlimited plan vs going to a more reliable network in my area Verizon.... All before verizon switched to tired plans. Now im stuck on ATT with BS unlimited... I pay 30 every month for years to have my unlimited data. How is this fair when years later they say F U to me out of nowhere your unlimited is really capped well can somone explain hte definition of unlimited, as wel las the promise of 4G I live outside NYC still no 4g 1 year later. ATT SUCKS!!!! and now I cant switch to Verizon and get unlimited its too late... Ok let me go to sprint with crappy coverage so in 5 months they can tell me your unlimited is nto really unlimited liek hte others... WTF is happening... plus there was a recent study proving how BS the data usage on unlimited vs tiered was afecting the network proving it was all BS..... every other month this country is raping me in new ways dose att work for the GOVT now

    • Atrixxxxxx

      Whats next FIOS cablevision, time warner etc going to start Tired plans for my home broadband.... GOOGLE please Please buy out all these shit heads and offer us cheap true unlimited data.....

    • Eric

      Don't forget your atrix having HSUPA disabled for a couple MONTHS while they advertise the FAST 4G UNLIMITED SPEEDS.

  • Mgamerz

    This 'unlimited' plan you have is now the exact same as their normal plan, $30 for 3GB, no overages. But you didn't sign up for 3GB. Once you hit 3GB, your internet turns to dial up.

  • Jonathan

    Ive been with ATT for a long time why i dont know But to ATT or anyone for that matter who throttles unlimited or any data plan, FUCK YOU.

    I hope i have the power to fuck with you one day.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Let's keep the comments clean, please.

      • chris

        Yes use protection and stay clean.

        • slurms mckenzie

          but its so much better unprotected

  • Jeromy

    I am so happy that they did this. If I can't go into ATT and get an unlimited plan, you shouldn't be able to keep it either. I have to pay $30 for 3GB, so do you. Fair is fair. You got almost a year of unlimited data while everyone else paid out the ass. FACE IT UNLIMITED DATA IS GONE GET OVER IT. If you don't like it go somewhere else and free up some bandwidth for the rest of us.

    • chiDan

      Fair? It was at&t that signed up customers on an unlimited, no overage data plan. Just because you didn't sign up when they where offering it, isn't other customers fault. They should have been grandfathered. Force them get new data plans when they upgrade phones or change any plan or services. It would have been easier to swallow.

      Just taking it away doesn't help the "At&t is Evil" image they got going for em! (And whats up with 3gb HSPA+ data? At least t-mobile allowed 5Gb when they started!

      • Jeromy

        I hate to break it to you, but all the phone companies are evil plain and simple. This is the way it will go with the other three in time, and just because they don't now doesn't make them any less evil.

    • Deltaechoe

      You can't get it because they don't offer it anymore, however people did sign contracts that contain agreements for both sides. AT&T is under legal obligation to continue to provide unlimited data to said customers who signed that particular agreement for the period that the contract remains valid

      • Jeromy

        The contract said "unlimited" but did not guarantee any set speed.

        • Deltaechoe

          not the argument I was making in this particular reply

    • Eric

      That's a childish punitive attitude. I'm sorry that you have to live your life being upset that others have something you don't have. It's not like it's free either, we've paid thousands of dollars over the years.

      Fantastic job of just rolling over for the big corporation though, you'd make an excellent senator.

  • Jeromy

    Oh yeah, I don't think that LTE users should get 5GB either. You didn't buy that phone with unlimited data, you tricked the system.

    • Fuck you

      Fuck you how about that dipshit ... you mad bro?

      • Jeromy

        Ha Ha sounds like you're the one thats mad. You're lack of Intellect makes me laugh. If you read my above post you would realize that I support ATT's decision to throttle the data hogs.

        • WB5MGR

          Some of those people you call "Data Hogs" actually work for a living and use their phones and tablets as a mobile office. I probably use 2500 min and 16-18gb of data per month on my phone and I have no sympathy for AT&T or Verizon as I am a paying customer who has a contract for Unlimited Data and Unlimited means UNLIMITED not Unlimited until it hurts... I'm sorry that they were dumb enough to step in that pile of manure in the first place in order to get the platform off the ground, but that again is not my problem. They are making billions! Invest in more data lines, more towers, more routers, etc until I can't saturate the network!

    • http://twitter.com/PhantomGP01 CaoimhĂ­n Navalta

      Us grandfathered in unlimited users didn't trick the system. AT&T grandfathered us in. Not our fault they chose to grandfather us in when they decided to do away with the unlimited data plan. They could have just plain told us that they were going to do away with the unlimited data plan and once our contracts were up, we would have to choose a tiered data plan. But, because they were afraid we would just plain go to another company that offered unlimited data plan, they instead chose to grandfather us in, hence giving us the incentive to continue doing business with them.

      In the end, the 5GB limit isn't really the problem among unlimited data users. It's the amount of throttling AT&T dishes out. 3G was available when unlimited data users signed up for the unlimited plan, so why is it that AT&T throttles us down all the way to EDGE speeds instead of just 3G speeds? That's what many find unfair.

      • jamesrichardson

        Listen there buddy...it wasn't up to them to "grandfather" anyone in. It's not their decision. They can't let go of all of those contracted customers....They have contracts too.

  • J-Dog

    2 things....

    1.) according to AT&T:
    "The reason reduced speeds only apply to unlimited smartphone customers is because their data usage is significantly higher than those on tiered plans"

    But according to a recent NYT article:
    "Validas [a company that analyzes wireless bills] analyzed data use on [55,000 cellphone bills from AT&T and Verizon subscribers in 2011] from unlimited data plans and customers on limited, tiered plans to calculate the amount of data used by the top 5 percent for each type of customer.

    The results? For Verizon bills, the top 5 percent of data customers on unlimited plans used nearly the same amount of data as those on tiered plans. And for AT&T, the top 5 percent of customers on unlimited data plans used only slightly more data than those on limited plans"
    (Source: )

    "[...] their data usage is significantly higher than those on tiered plans" vs. "unlimited data plans used only slightly more data than those on limited plans". Something seems to be rotten in the state of Denmark, as it were... I think I'd rather believe a (seemingly) impartial research group than a company trying to justify an alleged means to get customers onto a more expensive plan for the same services.

    2.) Throttling is done to ensure those of us who use a lot of bandwidth on our mobile devices don't prevent others from getting their fair share, right... That way, hopefully, we can avoid the NYC/SF iPhone issue of 2007 or whenever it was you couldn't access AT&T's data...

    If that were the case, does slowing me down after I reach an arbitrary value make (the most) sense? There is nothing to ensure we don't all, heavy & light users alike, try to get on at the same time & bring the network down.

    Wouldn't a smarter idea be to instead only throttle when needed... "Verizon Wireless has a '5 percent' formula similar to AT&T's, but doesn't throttle unless the particular cell tower a heavy user is communicating with is congested at that moment (Source: ). In this case, as long as the tower/network can handle everyone, we all get to blaze along at full speed. But if too many devices try to get on, then those of us who've already had our share of data get slowed so others can use the network. Then its back to full speed when the resources are available again.

    The only time living in a rural setting will come in handy, lower chance of connecting to a congested tower when there's only 5,000 of us.... :D

    Then it doesn't matter if I use my 2GBs evenly throughout the month or on the 30th I decide "Well, I want to get my money's worth I'll use the remaining 1.9GBs on a HD Netflix movie" along with the rest of San Francisco. The only time throttling come into play is when what its designed to do is a factor, to keep the network from grinding to a stop & to let those who rarely use it get priority... And when its just me connecting to the tower, who cares if I'm about to breach the 1TB threshold. I'm not ruining anyone else's experience with the network.

    • jamesrichardson

      Thank you for stating the truth...these idiots don't know what that is.

  • Jon Carey

    What a bunch of greedy jackass's hey you offer these super smart phones with all kinds of video & audio streaming .. social networking services and then say "no data for you unless you pay us a butt load!" With ever increasing number the cloud storage services what your saying is if I want to listen to your own music or watch a movie or even look at youtube its not on wireless right.. I mean you offer 4G LTE and that's like data Nos; so you go through even more of it.. Arrogant greed douche bags for shame on you .. I got it , lets just all get jitterbugs and put the Smart phones back in the boxes..

  • Phreqd

    "I got it , lets just all get jitterbugs and put the Smart phones back in the boxes.."

    That made me LOL! You are awesome!!

  • AT&T sucks!!!

    No shit we use more data than a customer on a tiered plan! That's why we bought and payed for the unlimited plan. What a bunch of bastards. Fuck AT&T. I have been an AT&T customer for 9 years now. Funny I want to cancel my account I have to pay an early cancelation fee but they can make adjustments like this and tell me to go fuck myself if I don't like it. AT&T- how about this unlimited minutes plan we sell... I think it might suit you well. Me- ya you know I think it just might. I tend to go over my 1400 minute plan quite a bit. AT&T- great just sign this bee 2 year contract... Thank you your locked in now bitch by the way if you use more than 1401 minutes of your unlimited minutes plan we will tune down your cell phone reception. You will still have unlimited minutes though. Expect dropped calls, poor signal, no signal, and a big fat bill fucker lol hahahaha. Oh not to worry though at the beginning of each billing cycle we will return your cell phone signal back to normal. Thank you for being such a loyal customer all these years dumb ass.

    Really if they throttled our cell phone reception for using to many minutes on your unlimited plans. Everyone would be pissed but I'm supposed to just smile and take it in the ass when they fuck with me for using to much data on my unlimited data plan.
    Fuck AT&T!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Iraqvet2003 Roger Pemberton

    Let me get this straight you want to pay less and get more at the same level of service that a person such as myself who got rid of unlimited data for a 5 gig lte tether plan, yeah I think you need to lay off the crack pipe!!! I never go over 5 gig a month and I'm on my phone alot a whole lot!!! I also have high speed wifi at home and take advantage of att hot spots though. If you want to complain cause you can't watch movies guess what neither can the rest of us that are on tier plans!!! Its simple economics for Att, we on tier plans pay more for our service and get less!!! So who do you think they should cater to since they are in business to make money? Like the old saying goes money talks and bullshit walks!!! All cell companies throttle their networks even sprint and their service sucks!!! Cricket may not but their coverage area is limited to the point that their service sucks! I also have unlimited messaging on three phones as well as 1400 shared anytime minutes. Seeing as how Att allows unlimited calling to cell phones anytime and everyone and their brother and nephew have a cell phone. Yeah I have no pitty or heart felt simpathy for anyone who feels they need more than 1400 minutes a month. That is over 23 hours of talk time to landlines only a month!!! If that isn't enough maybe you should put you phone down for an hour a day and get outside or something. Plus Att still gives roll over minutes for crying out loud!!! Hell go to someone else be just fine with me, stop dragging the network down for the rest of us that pay more for less!! I guarantee you won't be happy where ever you go!!!

    • jamesrichardson

      hey man, at the cost to the american public for their intrusions into our lives with their data stealing they should be paying us there Buddy.

  • jamesrichardson

    Yea it's about ridiculous to state the obvious you friggin weirdos. I hate their excuses. When I want to use it at three in the morning, it's still the same...this is a crap excuse.