AT&T To Begin Throttling the Data Transfer Speeds of Its Heaviest Users

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Those who have an unlimited data plan with AT&T, be warned: this carrier is going to begin slowing down the data transfer speeds of those who use an “extraordinary” amount of data during a one-month billing cycle.

AT&T LogoAT&T no longer lets new customers sign for its unlimited data plan, but there are still large numbers of people who were allowed to keep their plan when the carrier switched to tiered plans last year. It’s this group that will be affected by the change, which will go into effect on October 1.

The carrier did not give an exact amount of data subscribers that can transfer in a month before their speed gets throttled–instead, the carrier says that it will happen to anyone in the top 5% of heaviest data users. AT&T says that subscribers 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%. It goes on to say that the only ones who will be affected are a small group that uses, on average, 12 times more data than is typical for its other smartphone data customers.

Anyone whose data speed is going to be throttled will receive multiple notices before it happens, and there will be a grace period. While data speeds are being slowed down, the user will still have access to unlimited data, just at a slower speed. Although AT&T did not specify how slow the data transfer speeds will be, other carriers have handled this by not allowing the affected user to access their 3G and 4G networks, instead restricting the customer to the 2.5G standard EDGE. Full data speeds will be restored at the beginning of the next billing period.

AT&T said in a prepared statement, “This change will never impact the vast majority of our customers, and is designed to create a better service experience for all.”

A Common Practice
AT&T is not alone in trying to control how much data some customers use with throttling. Verizon already slows down the top 5% of its subscribers on its unlimited data plan. Those with T-Mobile’s unlimited plan have their speed throttled when they pass 5GB of data transfers in a month.

That leaves Sprint as the lone member of the Big Four U.S. carriers whose unlimited plan is still available to new customers, and is truly unlimited. 

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