The head of AT&T’s wireless division has raised the possibility that his company could charge very, very heavy data users extra for all the wireless bandwidth they are using, but he hopes that step won’t be necessary.
According to Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, a small percentage — just 3% — of its smartphone customers are using 40% of all the wireless data with “things like video or audio that plays around the clock.” This is causing problems for other AT&T customers who have to share the relatively limited capacity of a cell tower with one of these extreme users.
As a first step, this carrier is setting up ways to let users know how much data they are using. In the past AT&T has done this with its landline customers, and spoke with the heaviest bandwidth users. “Once alerted, they reduced their consumption without anything other than being told that data was being used in an inordinate fashion,” said de la Vega.
It is going to do the same with its wireless users. “We have to get to those customers and get them to recognize they have to change their patterns, or there are things we will do to change those patterns.”
If this small percentage of extremely high data users — mostly iPhone owners — don’t voluntarily reduce their usage, then this AT&T executive warns his company could encourage them to do so by increasing the monthly fees they pay.