AT&T now slowing some of heaviest 'unlimited data' customers

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AT&T now slowing some of heaviest 'unlimited data' customers

By PETER SVENSSON AP Technology Writer Published: Feb 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM PST Last Updated: Feb 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM PST
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In this Oct. 18, 2011 photo, a man using a cell phone passes an AT&T store, in New York. NEW YORK (AP) - Mike Trang likes to use his iPhone 4 as a GPS device, helping him get around in his job. Now and then, his younger cousins get ahold of it, and play some YouTube videos and games.

But in the past few weeks, there has been none of that, because AT&T Inc. put a virtual wheel clamp on his phone. Web pages wouldn't load and maps wouldn't render. Forget about YouTube videos - Trang's data speeds were reduced to dial-up levels.

"It basically makes my phone useless," said Trang, an Orange County, Calif. property manager.

The reason: AT&T considers Trang to be among the top 5 percent of the heaviest cellular data users in his area. Under a new policy, AT&T has started cutting their data speeds as part of an attempt to manage data usage on its network.

So last month, AT&T "throttled" Trang's iPhone, slowing downloads by roughly 99 percent. That means a Web page that would normally take a second to load instead took almost two minutes.

AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans that can be subject to throttling, representing just under half of its smartphone users. It stopped signing up new customers for those plans in 2010, and warned last year that it would start slowing speeds for people who consume the most data.

What's surprising people like Trang is how little data use it takes to reach that level - sometimes less than AT&T gives people on its "limited" plans.

Trang's iPhone was throttled just two weeks into his billing cycle, after he'd consumed 2.3 gigabytes of data. He pays $30 per month for "unlimited" data. Meanwhile, Dallas-based AT&T now sells a limited, or "tiered," plan that provides 3 gigabytes of data for the same price.

Users report that if they call the company to ask or complain about the throttling, AT&T customer support representatives suggest they switch to the limited plan.

"They're coaxing you toward the tiered plan," said Gregory Tallman in Hopatcong, N.J. He hasn't had his iPhone 4S throttled yet, but he's gotten text-messages from AT&T, warning that he's approaching the limit. This came after he had used just 1.5 gigabytes of data in that billing cycle.

John Cozen, a Web and mobile applications designer in San Diego, hasn't been throttled yet either, but he's been so disturbed by a warning that he's "almost scared to use the phone," he said. Complaining to AT&T got him nowhere, and now he's looking to switch to another carrier.

"I don't think two to three gigabytes is an exorbitant amount," he said. "Really, I'm just looking at pictures and text once in a while."

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said that as of last summer, the top 5 percent of data users were using 2 gigabytes of data per month. But he also said the company doesn't actually throttle all of the top 5 percent "unlimited" data users. Last month, the figure was only 0.5 percent, or about 200,000 people, he said.

That's because AT&T only throttles users in areas where the wireless network is congested that month, Siegel said.

Siegel also pointed out that aside from moving to a tiered plan, "unlimited" plan users on the cusp of being throttled can use one of AT&T's 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, where usage is unmetered.

The unlimited plan worked fine for AT&T a few years ago, when the iPhone was new. The company had ample capacity on its network, and wanted to lure customers with the peace of mind offered by unlimited plans. Now, a majority of AT&T subscribers on contract-based plans have smartphones, and the proportion is growing every month. That's putting a big load on AT&T's network.

The limited data plans force subscribers to keep an eye on their usage, so they don't overwhelm AT&T's network. Verizon Wireless has adopted similar plans. But the two companies differ in how they manage their remaining "unlimited" subscribers.

Verizon doesn't slow down the "5 percent" unless the cell tower their phone is connected to is congested at that moment, and it slows them down by the minimum amount necessary. By contrast, once AT&T has decided to throttle your phone, it will be slow for the rest of the billing cycle, even if it's 3 a.m. and there are no other cell phones competing for the capacity of that particular cell tower.

Verizon's measures have drawn few complaints, and indeed, may have gone unnoticed even by the "5 percent."

T-Mobile USA is up front about the level it starts throttling at: 5 gigabytes. AT&T subscribers have no idea if they might be among the top 5 percent until they get the warning, which is soon followed by throttled service. While Trang was throttled at 2.3 gigabytes, he knows other iPhone owners who are using 5 or 6 gigabytes per month with impunity.

"It seems very random," Trang said.

Sprint Nextel Corp. is hanging on to unlimited data plans without throttling, alone among the "Big Four" national wireless carriers.

Tallman sees few prospects for a lawsuit against AT&T. The company is still providing unlimited data usage to throttled customers, even if the speeds are so low as to make the phone useless for anything but phone calls and text messages. The company made no promises that "unlimited" data would always be coupled with high speeds, he notes.

"They just guaranteed the highway. They didn't guarantee the speed limit," he said.
http://www.komonews.com/news/tech/ATT-customers-surprised-by-unlimited-data-limit-139226414.html
 

Party Rooster

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Tallman sees few prospects for a lawsuit against AT&T. The company is still providing unlimited data usage to throttled customers, even if the speeds are so low as to make the phone useless for anything but phone calls and text messages. The company made no promises that "unlimited" data would always be coupled with high speeds, he notes.
That's bullshit. You should be able to be let out of your contract at the very least. Using a navigation program at dialup speeds renders it totally unusable.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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At least T-Mobile lets you get to 5gb before they throttle. And they'd don't throttle 99%.The scary thing is that AT&T probably has to do this to somehow limit network utilization. The need for bandwidth as opposed to existing infrastructure is really becoming a problem.
 

CousinDave

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AOL used to charge per minute then went to a flat rate for unlimited use per month.

The data plans from the cell phones companies will have to go unlimited within 2 years.
 
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The data plans from the cell phones companies will have to go unlimited within 2 years.
It's going to go in the opposite direction, actually. As phones get faster with 4G LTE and beyond, people are going to start using their phones as their home devices, and the networks simply couldn't handle that load. If they don't find some way to either rapidly increase network capabilities (ie, buying T Mobile.... Fucking ass holes) they've got to somehow limit usage.
 

Party Rooster

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The funny thing is AT&T probably won't even mind the bad publicity about this. It's scary stories like this that get people switching to their wifi networks more then they would otherwise. It's a lot better on your battery to use wifi anyway.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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It's going to go in the opposite direction, actually. As phones get faster with 4G LTE and beyond, people are going to start using their phones as their home devices, and the networks simply couldn't handle that load. If they don't find some way to either rapidly increase network capabilities (ie, buying T Mobile.... Fucking ass holes) they've got to somehow limit usage.
Funny you mention that. The T-Mobile merger would have probably prevented this. Or more accurately, put it off for a while.
 
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That was the whole point of the merger. The Fed blocking it just completely fucked AT&T's ability to rapidly ramp up their network capabilities, so they're having to take bad press now because the fed fucked with the free market.

Yay fed.
 

Southtown

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It's scary stories like this that get people switching to their wifi networks more then they would otherwise. It's a lot better on your battery to use wifi anyway.
I agree with this. We have free wifi at work, and I know a few people that dont bother with it because they say they have the unlimited plan. I then tell them I heard its faster for them to be on the wifi and they say they dont care. People are just stupid
 
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I still have the iPhone 4 (not S) so it really doesn't matter what mode it's on, it's slow, but I keep it on WiFi as much as possible even though I've got unlimited.3G definitely seems slow as hell in the past 6 months or so.
 

Larz

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That was the whole point of the merger. The Fed blocking it just completely fucked AT&T's ability to rapidly ramp up their network capabilities, so they're having to take bad press now because the fed fucked with the free market.

Yay fed.
I really doubt this... acquiring t-mobile wasn't about adding capacity, it was about acquiring more subscribers while simultaneously knocking out the only GSM competitor. If they really wanted more capacity they could have spent the $40 billion to bulid out the network like Verizon has.

I was a longtime AT&T subscriber through my employer but the horrendous network quality in my area was becoming a business liability. They finally got a contract with Verizon early last year and the service has been nothing but phenomenal. Not a single dropped call on my end... just upgraded to LTE data and the DL speeds are amazing. 30gb of useage last month and not a hint of being throttled. I have coworkers that have gone way above that torrenting shit all day. Probably won't last, but Verizon seems to do a lot of things right while AT&T has a tendency to shit all over their customers.
 

Josh_R

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I am on the grandfathered unlimited plan, but I had no idea that the throttling was at 99%. I use 8gb/month, this is going to totally fuck me over if they hit me with it. I am off contract, so they can go eat a dick if they try that bullshit on my phone.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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I really doubt this... acquiring t-mobile wasn't about adding capacity
That's what AT&T claimed. Whether it's true or not is another story. Either way, both companies are screwed now. I hope everyone likes Verizon, because they'll have a virtual monopoly within 10 years.
 

Chino Kapone

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I am on the grandfathered unlimited plan, but I had no idea that the throttling was at 99%. I use 8gb/month, this is going to totally fuck me over if they hit me with it. I am off contract, so they can go eat a dick if they try that bullshit on my phone.
I'm on that same plan. Ever since I got my droid, I have been getting a text that says "Your data usage is approaching the top 5% of users. Use wifi to help avoid reduced speed for this billing cycle."

Fuck you att.
 

Your_Moms_Box

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#17
I've had AT&T (when they were cingular), T-mobile, and Verizon is my current carrier.

I'm grandfathered in to Verizon's unlimited plan and use quite a bit of data and have never been throttled that I can tell.

Sprint has spotty coverage in my area.

I loved T-mobile back when I had my sidekick, but again, spotty coverage in my area.. I would go from full signal to none all the time.


I would never go back to AT&T if for no other reason than they fucked me over becasue I live near the maryland border and I would randomly get baltimore towers and they would charge me a fuck ton back before everything was nationwide.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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I loved T-mobile back when I had my sidekick, but again, spotty coverage in my area.. I would go from full signal to none all the time.
It may be a little better now. Dover is one of the few places in Delaware where I get 4G coverage. Even most of Wilmington is only 3G. Where I live now none of the companies get coverage. I have to use wifi calling.
 

Your_Moms_Box

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It may be a little better now. Dover is one of the few places in Delaware where I get 4G coverage. Even most of Wilmington is only 3G.
It's 4g with Verizon since November... it is insanely fast...

I actually paid a $100 fee to leave AT&T and i just don't see ever going back to them.

Besides, I'm a big android fan, and Verizon gets the better phones it seems.
 

Josh_R

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I'm on that same plan. Ever since I got my droid, I have been getting a text that says "Your data usage is approaching the top 5% of users. Use wifi to help avoid reduced speed for this billing cycle."

Fuck you att.
I used to love Verizon, but EVERYONE in my shop had to switch because there is no coverage where I work. It sucks, because my options are limited to Sprint or T-Mobile.
 

Danesy

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I'm going to Sprint. They are the last of the Unlimited plans.
I was looking into AT&T today and found out that for text messaging you have to pay an additional 20 bucks along with the 30 dollar data plan. That's 50 dollars on top of the 70 they already want you to pay. Fuck them.
 

Your_Moms_Box

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I'm going to Sprint. They are the last of the Unlimited plans.
I was looking into AT&T today and found out that for text messaging you have to pay an additional 20 bucks along with the 30 dollar data plan. That's 50 dollars on top of the 70 they already want you to pay. Fuck them.
Everyone I know with sprint loves them.

T-Mobile claims to have unlimited data, but it is throttle/capped at I think 5GB
 

Don the Radio Guy

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It's 4g with Verizon since November... it is insanely fast...

I actually paid a $100 fee to leave AT&T and i just don't see ever going back to them.

Besides, I'm a big android fan, and Verizon gets the better phones it seems.
Verizon does get the best phones, and their 4G is crazy fast. T-Mobile's 4G is almost as fast in some areas. In others, not so much. Oddly enough, I've gotten much better download speeds in the Philly suburbs than I have in downtown Manhattan. You'd think the biggest city in the country would have better coverage. I will probably make the switch one of these days, but right now Verizon wouldn't be an improvement over T-Mobile, and their customer service is nowhere near as good.
 

Danesy

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Everyone I know with sprint loves them.

T-Mobile claims to have unlimited data, but it is throttle/capped at I think 5GB
I know a couple of people that have Sprint, they have no issues at all.
My friend has the EVO, loves it. So I think that's the plan.
Plus I think I can get an 18% discount because I work for the state.
 

Turfmower

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Fuck the asshole that uses all the band with throttle his ass so mine doesn't slow down i have 2 gig plan i i never hit the 2 gig cap. Let the fucking loser hipster buy cable so they don't need to watch every thing on their phones.