AT&T "throttles" data usage
On October 1, AT&T will be the next wireless carrier to start throttling data usage, following Verizon’s move in February and T-Mobile’s move last year.
“Like other wireless companies, we're taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data,” AT&T said in a July 29 press release.
AT&T will start ‘throttling’ users once they use more data than 95% of other customers (so, once you’re in the top 5% of data users). Once a user hits that data threshold, data upload/download speeds will drop drastically.
AT&T’s throttling plan only affects unlimited data users; users that have tiered data usage plans with AT&T will not be impacted.
According to AT&T’s press release, unlimited data users would have to use an “extraordinary amount of data in a single billing period” to cause throttling to occur. The amount of data used by the top 5% varies from month to month.
“There will be no changes for the vast majority of customers,” AT&T’s release said.
“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.”
I have a Verizon unlimited data plan and, in theory, could be subject to throttling (Verizon also throttles the data stream for its top 5%). In reality, I probably won’t.
I used 6 GB of data last month; 2.5 GB of data this month so far. Primarily, I check my email, send and receive pictures and surf the web. I also stream Pandora at least 8 hours a day. I’ve never experienced throttling and it doesn’t seem like I’m in danger of being throttled. If it were T-Mobile, though, I'd be in trouble.
Verizon’s throttling method is a little different from AT&T’s single billing cycle setup: your data is throttled during the current billing period and the following billing period.
For now, the only data provider that doesn’t throttle its users Sprint, and Sprint does throttle data on its Virgin Mobile brand (the data cap is set at 2.5 GB, the lowest cap of all wireless providers). The only question that remains: When will Sprint make its move to throttle data usage? For that matter, when will Sprint stop offering unlimited data all together?