By Stephen Schenck | July 29, 2011 5:36 PM
Feeling good that you managed to hold onto one of AT&T’s grandfathered unlimited data plans? You may have to wipe that grin off your face shortly, as AT&T today announced plans to start throttling data speeds for its most active users on unlimited plans.
Starting October 1, if you find yourself in the group of unlimited users that consists of those whose bandwidth consumption places them in the top five percent, you can can look forward to AT&T throttling your speeds.
It’s odd that the carrier hasn’t defined any particular cut-off point; say, throttling after you consume 2GB or 5GB. The way it’s worded this announcement, it intends to continue throttling that top five percent each and every month. If all users on unlimited plans cut their data consumption in half, there’s no reason to keep throttling five percent month after month, but that’s what AT&T says it will do. That makes this scheme sound like it goes way beyond reasonable network management.
What would be really interesting to see would be something for data along the lines of free nights and weekends for voice service. Pay for XGB a month of “whenever data”, and then have the carrier offer unlimited data during those periods when there’s less strain on its network; that would allow it to maximize spectrum use. AT&T’s plan of throttling speeds without concern for the actual amount of data consumed or network congestion sounds inefficient at best and greedy at worst.
Correction: To be throttled, you need to be an unlimited user whose bandwidth consumption is among the top 5% of all AT&T users. That doesn’t change much, though, since we’d expect nearly all of AT&T’s top data consumers to be on unlimited, rather than tiered plans.