Friday, July 29, 2011

Heavy Data Users to be Throttled by AT&T

AT&TAT&T is putting into effect a new policy that is said to affect customers who are heavy users of their data plans. This new policy will only affect customers who are still on an unlimited data plan and only the top 5% of that customer base. AT&T will be throttling these users beginning on October 1. Throttling is when a carrier slows down the connection of a device in order to keep it from consuming more data. At the moment, AT&T hasn't specified what exactly the "limit" will be, though the company says the amount of data that would trigger throttling will vary from month to month.

This isn't a new idea from AT&T, however, AT&T is just the most recent carrier to do this. Throttling is the newest way for carriers to deal with the explosion of wireless data users. Throttling is just the move that illustrates the difficulties it faces, and signals that the era of unlimited data plans is almost at an end. However, if unlimited data is coming to an end, I fear that a lot of users will stop using smartphones all together; I know I might.

AT&T is stressing, however, that this move would only affect a small minority of its customer base and, furthermore, that it is designed to improve the experience for the rest of its users. On the other hand, this move is definitely going to receive a strong reaction from users who are quite used to, and quite attached to, their unlimited data. According to a statement from AT&T, "These customers on average use 12 times more data than the average of all other smartphone data customers."

In a kind gesture, AT&T did say that it would send several notices and offer a grace period to the carrier's heaviest users before throttling them. In addition to that, the users will have their speeds restored at the beginning of each billing cycle. AT&T moved to tier pricing last month in order to deal with the capacity crunch. This capped data usage at 2GB of data, though customers who had an existing unlimited data plan were grandfathered in and kept their plans.

These actions were taken primarily due to the changing way in which AT&T customers have begun to use the iPhone. The iPhone clogged up AT&T's networks and resulted in years of crappy service, especially in areas like New York and San Francisco. In addition to that, data usage has seemingly exploded, especially considering the new Android phones the carrier has added.

It is rumored that Verizon may go to throttling as well. The carrier has already switched to tiered data plans just like AT&T. Sprint is currently the only carrier to offer truly unlimited data plans though it too has suggested jumping on board with everybody else.

Source: CNET - AT&T says it will throttle heavy data users

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