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AT&T to begin throttling top 5% of unlimited data users

If you are one of the lucky AT&T users who were able to lock into that awesome unlimited data plan before they changed over to their tiered structure -- and also happen to use more data than AT&T thinks is reasonable under that plan -- be prepared for some potentially slower speeds. AT&T has announced that starting Oct. 1, it is going to begin to throttle the top 5 percent of the data consumers, stating that they are using on average 12 times as much data as other customers. Keep in mind, nothing to freak out over here, but if you are one of those who stream all day, and tether all night, be prepared to notice some slower speeds in the coming months.

Source: AT&T (opens in new tab); Via: TiPB

Jared started off writing about mobile phones back when BlackBerry ruled the market, and Windows Mobile was kinda cool. Now, with a family, mortgage and other responsibilities he has no choice but to look for the best deals, and he's here to share them with you.
  • Hope Verizon dosen't do the same thing to unlimited users
  • VZW already does since Feb
  • They may be throttling but if they are not many customers have felt the pinch yet. I am on the unlimited data plan with my Thunderbolt. I don't use it for tethering, I try to use my wifi whenever I can. In other words I am not a data greedy sob that is abusing my plan, if everyone used their wifi and didn't abuse their plans we may not be in this position. I am not a Verizon fan boy by any imagination but I have great 4G where I live, it's faster then my home connection but still choose to go wifi whenever I am at home. I just don't like to be wastefull. Just my thoughts.
  • abusing plans? data greedy? thats flawed logic just like theirs.
    THEY advertise to US "Unlimited data plans" then impose limits on them.. whos being greedy? Us for using our plans as advertised... un·lim·it·ed/ˌənˈlimitid/Adjective
    1. Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent.
    2. (of a company) Not limited. Or them for changing their plans in an attempt to soak more money from us? cheers
  • It is pure greed by both sides that will screw the average joe.
  • Yeah, no. This comment is only valid in a world where these plans are not advertised as unlimited. Even "Unlimited*" is deceptive. That's the same as Statement of Fact* *The above statement is a lie.
  • There is not now, nor has there ever been such a thing as an unlimited amount of anything. Period. Full stop. No rational adult ever believed for a second that unlimited meant you could truly download the entire content of the internet as many times as you wanted. What they meant, was they would not stop you from downloading after a certain number of bytes (megabytes). They still won't. You just get it slower. There were always limits. Just as there are limits to the available hours in the day.
  • Its not wasteful to use the service you pay for, and people that use more than others got an unlimited plan so they would not be in violation of a FAP. Using Wi-fi just transfers data use from one service to the other. So I see no point in it. To take the side of the company and call the users that pay for unlimited "greedy" makes me believe that you are employed by AT&T. Using Pandora, Netflix, FaceBook, as well as uploading photos will put data use around 3-5gb per month which is not an unreasonable amount. If the phone is someone's only internet than their usage is going to be a lot higher. If they use 15gb per month on a unlimited plan than good for them. It is not our place to judge others.
  • When they introduced the unlimited plans for smartphones there was one or two selections. Blackberry and Windows, maybe a Nokia here and there. That's it. They were used mainly for email and basic web surfing. Then came the iPhone. Then Blackberries started getting more user friendly. And recently, Android. People learned they could tether to their computer. Then people started downloading huge files/movies/music/the entire web. Something a cell tower was not designed to handle originally. That's why there was so much slow down in major cities. The few bad apples (no pun intended) ruined it for everyone else. My point: Cell phones were not designed to be the ONLY source of web. They are extensions of your home computer. Also, a lot of contracts have a stipulation that some services can be changed at any time. And just to be honest. Yes, I work for a cell phone provider.
  • How can they change your contract for you. People didnt sign a contract to those terms. That should be illegal for them to do such a thing. its bs . glad im on unlimited with sprint
  • the ones lucky enough to still have had the unlimited data also have contracts that are probably expiring. maybe october 1st is the date that even the newest of those unlimited data plans will have lapsed.
  • Its fairly easy to get unlimited from at&t if you have multiple lines of service. They toss it in any time they sense you are willing to walk away from the counter. Keeping unlimited is easy too, just ask every time you upgrade your phone. Since an upgrade extends the contract i would guess the majority of those with unlimited are still under contract if they keep up with current model phones.
  • They do it cable/Internet bills all the time. Why wouldn't they do it to cell users. I don't like it and I feel it is poor customer service but if u sign up with them I guess they can.
  • The two year contact has nothing to do with your data feature. In fact, the contract has nothing to do with the services the wireless provider gives you. The contract is merely that you will not disconnect, and if you do there will be a fee.
  • No thats not correct.
    The contract covers all the terms of service by including them by reference. When they change any of those terms or the AUP, you get a free OUT, without paying ETF.
    But if you choose to stay you also choose to be bound by the new terms and the new AUP. Some states have even tougher regs which prevent this kind of change (Washington state for example) but at&t won't tell you about that unless you ask.
  • LMAO!!!!! Sorry bro but you just made yourself look like a total idiot. It is so obvious that you have never read a contract from one of these service providers in your entire life.
  • Truth be told, if you read the fine print on your unlimited contract with sprint, I guarantee somewhere in the black it says "services, availability and price are subject to change at the discretion of Sprint" or something relatively close. But very few people take the time to read the contract in full.
  • Yay. This is going to be super popular with users. And to think that there are people who believe att doesn't care about its users. Oh throttle means slow down? Boooooooooo
  • So what exactly does 12 times the usage of other users mean.? This is an open ended definition, a sliding window, a moving target. As they throttle users, the overall usage goes down, which means the average goes down, which brings yet another group of high data users into the targeted high-bandwidth hogs. When you grade on the curve, even an idiot can get an "A", if surrounded by imbeciles.
  • Ummmmm...........the whole point of throttling is to bring the usage down. They're trying to provide a good service for everyone, not the people who want to abuse the system.
  • if I have unlimited data and pay for the tethering pack because I don't have high speed internet at my house I use anywhere from 10 to 50 gb per month not one time have I ever got a letter or call from sprint nor has it ever been slowed down... another question how the hell am I abusing the system its advertized as unlimited and I use it as such.... phone comp. Don't care much about there customers just the dollar sings go troll some place else...
  • The problem becomes that I highly doubt that anyone's contract states what speed the unlimited data will be at provided at. And like the whole you can't file a class action lawsuit or arbitration thing I'm sure AT&T put something in the contract to protect themselves.
  • You've hit the nail right on the head. Their intention is to drag the overall average use down while simultaneously making money hand over fist.
  • Verizon does not throttle all unlimited users. Verizon's throttling policy only affected new lines, after Feb. 3rd. That policy only says those lines MAY be throttled IF AND ONLY IF YOU ARE IN THE TOP 5%, AND CAUSING NETWORK CONGESTION. To this day, there has not been one report of any Verizon customer being throttled.
  • Your comment makes no sense. First you say Verizon does not throttle. Then you say they do for the top five percent. And then you finish it off telling everyone that you have read every forum post, and talked to every Verizon costumer and not one has had a problem with throttling. Congrats!
    You won the troll comment of the year.
  • Congrats!
    You won the poor reading comprehension comment of the year.
  • Mark, you beat me to it.
  • Your reading comprehension is fantastic. Did you not read the first sentence?
  • Sorry afallingstone, but I guess you win the "I can't read" award. Tim's comment says that anyone signed up on or before Feb 3rd won't get throttled, not everyone. I'll also have to agree with Tim that I've yet to heard of any single user complaining about be throttled. That doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but that no one has made a stink about it yet. Trust me as soon as people do start complaining, those of us who follow these sites/forums on a daily basis will know.
  • Now I have to ask a question. Does the unlimited TOS actually say what the speed will be on the service? If not, I would say throttling back and still allowing unlimited may be legal and not a break in a contract.
  • If you ever get a speed guarantee from any wireless carrier you let me know, ok? It will never happen.
  • My comment on Verizon throttling was in response to a comment. Was my comment the only one you read? Don't blame this poor commenting system on me. Everything I said is 100% true.
  • Learn to use the reply button instead of the new post button and confusion will be avoided.
  • Hey Wait.... Shouldn't the AT&T globe logo be placed over the other guys head in the [above] picture for this article? Meaning, to illustrate how AT&T will "constrain" a top 5% [unlimited] user's data speed? Or is this picture suppose to illustrate the [future] frustration that a top 5% unlimited user will have towards AT&T?
  • Didn't they say something like 98% of users were under that 2GB limit they set? Do does that mean that the remaining 2% plus the top 3% of the in-usage users will get throttled?
  • The reply button gets your messages lost. This commenting system sucks. Disqus is much better.
  • I'm on verizon unlimited plan and I guess I will be the first to say that I get throttled. I don't even do too much. I play some pocket legends, stream some music for about an hour a day, maybe watch a show or two on Netflix, hit up forums, email, twitter, browse the web a bit, ect.. I know that might sound like a lot but that's an average day for me. I hardly ever use more than 3gb of data a month and on a heavy day I can actually see the throttling when youtube takes 5 min to stream a 1 min video and a song takes 2 min to load. Really thinking of breaking contract and hitting up sprint.
  • Slower speeds due to peak times does not mean you are throttled. Once throttled, it lasts for the rest of your billing cycle, and the next. You are not being throttled.
  • Ok well I doubt they really need the extra bandwidth at 1am. But I forgot that you were there and you used my phone and once the slow down happens it does last for the rest of my billing cycle. Sorry guess I should have said that to begin with. I do get throttled. When my wife's phone can download faster than mine now thats on the same network and same phone model. But your probably right seeing as there is no conceivable way you could be wrong as you know it all right. Don't be a troll.
  • <3 Sprint.
  • Using wiring when possible is like giving a pregnant woman your seat on the bus. Maybe I took that a little far...
  • You are not being throttled. It lasts for the next billing cycle as well, per their policy. Something tells me that you had service before Feb. Only new lines after Feb. 3rd would be subject to throttling. But, maybe you are a new customer. Regardless, the policy states they would only throttle if your usage was causing network issues in your local area. You accuse me of trolling, yet your claims of being throttled make you out to be the troll. Maybe you should've read the policy before trolling.
  • I'm on that plan. Last two months, I've had to use the phone tethered for work as I ran into multiple problems getting on a client network in Chicago. Since I still only used less than 1 gig in June, I don't expect there's any throttling going on, but throughput last Monday and Tuesday was horrendous. My corp vpn tunnel may also be at play here, but when I did finally get on the client network, using the same vpn client, it wasn't nearly as slow.
    So, I think I can see the "why" behind all this, there was clearly a bandwidth problem in this case last week - and a couple days the week before. ADS
  • For those who think it is OK for a wireless company to advertise unlimited and not provide unlimited, I pose this question. If you have unlimited calls in your plan and after using 5000 minutes in a month, the carrier decided to end your calls after five minutes, would you be OK with that? What if after so many text messages, the carrier decided to shorten your texts to 80 characters instead of 160? Would you be OK with that even though you are paying for unlimited?
  • dwaynewilliams...throttling isn't's just a slowdown. You are paying for unlimited data, not unlimited speed. Nowhere will you find any carrier guarantee a speed. Some areas of the US have rolling blackouts, in the summer, to keep the electrical grid from being overwhelmed. This attitude and sense of entitlement some people have make me sick.
  • When company's like verizon start throttling down to a 33.3 k then call it a broadband speed when my last 3 months were 2 gb per month and the month they throttled was only at 1.2 gb and can't fix their mistake I have a problem with that. I was told I was over my 5 gb limmit mind you I was on the store phone with customer service showing the employee on a t-84 they were figuring the bites in 5 gb wrong maybe they should learn math first. Verizon is not the only one either Sprint messes up my parents bill monthly. At least Verizon gives a 10 gb option now so big users can have an option to have full speed.
  • Then they should be up front with it. I don't mind paying for my service, but I want the carrier to be honest with what they are giving me and not hide behind the small print or false advertising. I think people have a right to be told the truth when paying for services. I still have an issue with the extra costs on my bill that no one at Sprint seems to be able to explain. They are small amounts, but the principle is the same.
  • I don't think that the intention was to be deceptive. The company found that unlimited data is unrealistic because of the gorging. They're now taking provisions to resolve that problem: If you us 'X' amount of data you get speed 'b'
    You can run to another carrier if you want but trust me, everyone will be doing it soon. Companies look at the bottom line. If you pay $30 and you use 10-15gb plus of data in a month they you're probably not making money for them. In fact you could be costing them money by crippling their network. They don't care about you. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that they'd much rather the top five percent find another carrier.
  • Didn't AT&T see a major jump in usage on their free wifi hotspot network?
    When you make customers feel like they're being robbed of data on their wireless plan, they will increase their data usage and clog up the free network the company offers. In closing, I feel that AT&T customers should use the the 2Gb of data on their plan and download all of the biggest files you can find using their wifi network.
    It is free.
    Make the company pay for the extreme data usage out of their own pocket.
  • please explain why everyone thinks when a carrier says they will begin throttling heavy users means you are NOT getting unlimited data? You are still getting unlimited data, just at slower speeds. No where in any carrier does it state you get get Unlimited calls, Unlimited data, Unlimited text and Unlimited data speeds. Throttling means slower speeds, not removing or capping your unlimited data downloads. Do we finally understand??
  • Just be glad you kept the unlimited. They could end that any time they want.
  • If you don't like the idea of being "throttled" then use your wifi when you're at home, work or school and stop treating it like a take-out all you can eat buffet.
  • I think they may have already started this throttling.
    I am one of the people who use 20-50 GB a month on my unlimited plan.
    I dont have internet at home, because I dont exactly have permanent home. So wired/wireless tethering is my only access to the outside world.
    A few months ago at places I frequented often, I would reach 5+Mbps on my Streak and 7+ Mbps on my Atrix.
    Now I'm lucky if I hit 500Kbps on either phone in these locations.
    Its near impossible to do anything at those speeds. To be honest why purchase these nice new HSDPA/LTE enabled phones if they're only going to disallow our access to the higher speeds these phones allow? I might as well stick with my Motorola v557. Whats the damn point of 4G(or in my case 3G) if companies are starting to discourage the use of it? We pay them for the service. They should use the money we give them to build up their infrastructure to support our addiction to data. Not penalize us for using it. /rant