AT&T to throttle top 5 percent heaviest data users

Ronny Kerr · July 29, 2011 · Short URL:

Starting in October, heavy data customers will see slowdown for one billing cycle

To all you hardcore mobile users on AT&T’s unlimited data plans: the free ride is over.

Beginning in October, smartphone customers on AT&T’s semi-retired unlimited data plans will see their speeds throttled for a billing cycle if their usage “puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users.” Data will still be unlimited, albeit at slower rates, and the original speed will be restored in the next billing cycle.

“Semi-retired,” I wrote above, because new users have been unable to subscribe to an unlimited data plan since June 2010, when AT&T replaced it with two new plans, both with explicit data limitations. The only way anybody could be on an unlimited plan through AT&T at this point is if they’ve stayed on the plan since before that date.

Thankfully for most customers, today’s announced changes won’t be affecting most people, according to the company,

There will be no changes for the vast majority of customers.  It's not how much time you spend using your device, it's what you do with it.  You can send or receive thousands of emails, surf thousands of Web pages and watch hours of streaming video every month and not be in the top 5 percent of data users.

The company says the data users it’s talking about typically use 12 times more data than the average of other customers. That means 15 million smartphone customers won’t be affected.

AT&T has for some time now struggled with an undying chorus of user complaints about its service, and those complaints probably reached a fever pitch while the service provider was the exclusive carrier for the iPhone. Earlier this year, when the iPhone dropped on Verizon, many had hoped data stress would be alleviated on AT&T’s end. Today’s announcement seems to say the opposite.

And with the iPhone 5 surely around the corner, things will only be getting worse.

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