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Yesterday we heard a rumor that AT&T may be planning to begin throttling the data speeds of its heaviest unlimited users in early October, and today it's been confirmed by none other than AT&T itself. The carrier just announced that beginning October 1st, customers on unlimited data plans will see their speeds reduced if their usage in one billing cycle puts them in the top five percent of the heaviest data users on the network. Exactly how much data must be consumed to be placed in that group isn't mentioned, but AT&T says that examples of what would typically put a user in the top five percent of heaviest data consumers would be "streaming very large amounts of video and music daily...sending large date files (like video) and some online gaming." You can find the full press release from AT&T below, which contains a nice little tidbit at the end about how even though they're going to begin throttling data, Ma Bell still needs T-Mobile to solve its spectrum and network capacity issues.

This news isn't going to affect any users that are signed up for one of AT&T's tiered data plans, but it's definitely disappointing for any customers that've been holding on to their unlimited plans for this long. Still, the good news here is that even with a throttled unlimited plan, subscribers should still be able to consume more data than either of AT&T's tiered options offer. What do you all make of the decision? Any AT&T customers out there with unlimited data plans peeved by the announcement?

An Update for Our Smartphone Customers With Unlimited Data Plans

Dallas, Texas, July 29, 2011

Like other wireless companies, we're taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data.  Many experts agree the country is facing a serious wireless spectrum crunch.  We're responding on many levels, including investing billions in our wireless network this year and working to acquire additional network capacity.  We're also taking additional, more immediate measures to help address network congestion.

One new measure is a step that may reduce the data throughput speed experienced by a very small minority of smartphone customers who are on unlimited plans - those whose extraordinary level of data usage puts them in the top 5 percent of our heaviest data users in a billing period.  In fact, these customers on average use 12 times more data than the average of all other smartphone data customers.  This step will not apply to our 15 million smartphone customers on a tiered data plan or the vast majority of smartphone customers who still have unlimited data plans.

Starting October 1, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users.  These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.  Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.

This change will never impact the vast majority of our customers, and is designed to create a better service experience for all.

The amount of data usage of our top 5 percent of heaviest users varies from month to month, based on the usage of others and the ever-increasing demand for mobile broadband services.  To rank among the top 5 percent, you have to use an extraordinary amount of data in a single billing period.

There will be no changes for the vast majority of customers.  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.

Typically what puts someone in the top 5 percent is streaming very large amounts of video and music daily over the wireless network, not Wi-Fi.  Streaming video apps, remote web camera apps, sending large data files (like video) and some online gaming are examples of applications that can use data quickly.  Using Wi-Fi doesn't create wireless network congestion or count toward your wireless data usage.  AT&T smartphone customers have unlimited access to our entire Wi-Fi network, with more than 26,000 hotspots, at no additional cost.  They can also use Wi-Fi at home and in the office.

The bottom line is our customers have options. They can choose to stay on their unlimited plans and use unlimited amounts of data, but may experience reduced speeds at some point if they are an extraordinarily heavy data user. If speed is more important, they may wish to switch to a tiered usage plan, where customers can pay for more data if they need it and will not see reduced speeds.

But even as we pursue this additional measure, it will not solve our spectrum shortage and network capacity issues.  Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges.

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102 Reactions to this post

"Should AT&T throttle unlimited data users?"

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Toxic_starz NO! we pay to have our unlimited data and we pay for these expensive phones to provide the fastest speeds, and now there taking it away from us and we cant do anything about it? Thats such B.S.
Anonymous I have already called and told them what I thought of it. Their getting $300.00 a month from me on 5 phones. They sell 4G phones and promise the speed. So take our money and put the techonolgy into it and put the equipment on the towers or don't promise what you can't do. I pay too much money for your service you're not giving me.
Matthew Dyer I'm on a Family-Talk plan and I can't afford a smartphone for my Mom so I'm glad my contract ends in 10 months for me and only 7 for my Mom I'll just pay the etf on my line and have my mom keep her number to transfer call quality is only good in NY FL and NJ I don't know where else but in where my aunt lives AT&T doesn't work well in the Norfolk Metro area Verizon all the way!!! at least I can afford a smartphone for my Mom and go on seprate plans and still be on the same network I've had problems ever since I went from a single line to a family plan I'd only keep AT&T if they bundled unlimitted texting with my minutes but that will never happen which is why I'm leaving!!!
Adam Fontaine Well I personally feel that no one should be throttling anyone, but I guess I understand why they do it.
Josh Nthecity Yes they do and will.
Geoffrey P. Spicer Noooooo! Paying for it. To much.
Taylor Foster Aarons breath stinks!
Stephon Parker As a customers of AT&T I really don't think they're trying to piss off their customers, it has to do with the fact that they've become to big to manage themselves. They've completely outsourced their customer support and the in store associates refer you to their awful customer support because it's cheaper. I had a problem with my plan and it took 2 billing cycles and 8 phone calls for them to fix it. I couldn't understand a single person I talked too and I'd be willing to bet not a single American even takes calls in their call centers anymore. So adding another service that they can't really do a solid job of up keeping and again screwing us isn't really something I'm in support of
Larry Smith Jr. Helloooo Mcflies.........Sprint has pledged not to end its unlimited data plan. A few million leave ATT and join Sprint watch how fast ATT reinstates its unlimited data plan clean and clear. Or stay and watch ATT continue to fuck you over and s demand payment for the rape.
Larry Smith Jr. I don't get why people aren't running in large droves away from ATT. They clearly don't care about thier customers and openly admit thier trying to piss people off enough to get them give up thier plans or leave altogether. And this company want to be the biggest and largest in the land. Please don't let the merger go thru thier gonna destroy the cellphone industry.
Silver Diaz @Harry Tess you totally ripped that line from that one video that talks smack about the evo 4G and sprint vs the iphone LOL
Wood Franklin I don't really care ;)
Ted Williams IV I just ate tilapia and I'm still hungry
Cyr Parlapiano Sounds to me like once this mergers complete they will go out of business. Verizon wants 80 for 10gb a month? And just added lte. Lets give them ten times the speed and cut them off. If sprint can keep unlimited and manage the bandwith then they will become top carrier. Dan you crafty s.o.b.
Junior Roman No Whats The Point Of The Fastest 3g Network If Your Throttling Speeds Of Users Who Use The "Unlimited" Plan ....... Jr.
Ricardo Duran Throttling is dumb how u gonna have phones with netflix and not be able to watch a movie without being scared buffering is gonna mess the movie experience cuz off buffering
Jason Weaver @George Millhouse, if I were to roll out my own network, I would do it right. Oh, the very idea not to promise the moon and deliver rotten cheese.
Josh Sussman Unlimited = unlimited. If you are going to limit it, don't call it unlimited. It's as simple as that.
August White They still have unlimited plans? LOL Sprint FTW!
Jacob Piehl Why ask us? it won't change what they are going to do.
Gary Brown At&t trying to make people buy blackberry again. Those things never go over two gigs.
Derrick Bird Throttle my data... just give me the Galaxy S2!
Ediben Yoonan Yessssssssssss
Myron Black Tmobile does
Chris Ziegler I'm not going to pay for unlimited if it's not going to be
Lamont Johnson They all will do it soon..customer service is an after thought these days
Zaben Hashish Whats at&t? Oh its a phone company that sucks its customers dry of their money and gives them the spottiest slowest coverage. Why do they brag about their network? Flatter themselves...
Karl Brown Another moronic phonedog facebook question. Using 10gb a month on sprint and loving it.
Ian Mcclendon I'm pretty sure their gonna throttle their entire subscribers not just "data hogs"
Julius Ray Washington One word... Sprint!!
Daniel Rohm No, we pay for UNLIMITED, we should get it!
Michael Diaz Hell no
Jose Pablo Islas No...greedy basterds
Steve Moore George you're right in the fact that it seems to be perfectly legal. It's still misleading. I bought a Moto Atrix 4G from them and asked before I purchased it if 4G was offered in my area. The rep said it was and it should be downloading at much faster rates than it was getting. It took me forever to have someone admit that 4Git wasn't available in my area yet, though the whole time my signal indicator was reading that I was in a 4G area. It is those kinds of experiences that make me feel that AT&T is using misleading advertising practices to bolster their image. To me I would've looked at them in a more positive light had someone just told me the truth from the start. Let customers know up front what they're in for before they spend their hard earned jack. If I buy an unlimited data package it would be nice to know up front, and im talking about not having to find out from another source. That's the only reason we know what throttling is in the first place.
Frank Porter Should AT&T throttle unlimited data users? Why would you ask such a moronic question and exactly what type of response do you eexpect to get? Of course they shoudln't throttle data usage but who the hell cares what we think is right or wrong? AT&T sure doesn't and they're gonna do what they want to do anyhow so it makes no difference what I or any other reasonable thinking AT&T subscriber thinks about it. If AT&T would actually re-invest some of their stock piled billions into strenghtening their own netowkr and oh I dont know, use some of that extra spectrum that reportedly isn't bein gused for anything, this they wouldn't have an eaxcuse to wine about heavy data users. We pay them huge cunks of money each month for their grandiose service, we deserve to get our money's worth. I'm so disappointed and flabbergasted at you PhoneDog but more so at whomever it was on your staff who thought it a good idea to ask such stupid quesiton. And those of you on here who I saw post yes as a response, I'm curious just why it is that you agree with AT&T ripping their customers off.
Kenny Joe wonder how slow this will make my connection :o
George Millhouse o yeah its so easy Jason....why dont you make your own network?
Robert J Adkins Sure, if it keeps my speed the same go ahead. We just use wifi at home where the majority of our usage is done.
Jason Weaver Say NO to throttling, metering, and managing. Build a network that can handle the traffic and not worry as much about bilking another dollar or two out of every poor slob.
Orion Pax That's why they are called aTNT.
Teron Facey I'm not with them and I say no. What's the point in having an unlimited data then?
George Millhouse its still unlimited data period and the only people who need worry are the abusers anyways who ruin it for everyone else
George Millhouse no steve unlimited means does not say umlimited speed. there is nothing illegal at all or misrepresented here
Steve Moore Wow, next time I'll use my computer to post. Missed a few words..
Steve Moore Unlimited means unlimited! Plain and simple. Throttling means you're putting limits on something their marketing as unlimited. I hate suggestive advertising. At&T uses totally unfair business practices on a daily basis. I purchased an iPhone 4 from them in March and returned in in 2 weeks and they tried to charge me for early termination. I was well within my buyers remorse period of 30 days. I took me 3 months of calling/faxing receipts and case number after case number, and they even had their customer Rep call the store and verify that I returned the equipment. I'll never use AT&T again, not even for home service.
Bryan Kawashima Bite me AT&T!!!
Jeremy Reinhardt If people would use wifi where available and not the network data it wouldn't be this bad. I'm always connected to wifi when at home or where wifi is available. It's just common sense that is why smartphones have wifi built in as well.
Bryan McHenry No, it's a joke. If you an AT&T unlimited user, you have been a loyal user. Thanks for NOTHING.
Jeremy Rothgeb No, that would not be using the word "unlimited" correctly!
Greg White ATT sucks balls anyways so it doesn't matter
Christian Crow well they shouldnt be selfish , hell just get 4gb plan iPhone 4 tether plan is best
Jeff Daunis @dustin well i have att dsl and i have paid a bill 3 times already and they wont clear it. i hate their customer service...very rude...and ugh i just hate att
Jamil Oquendo They should lower the prices of unlimited data users if that's the case.
Rodrick Darling Tmo- 4 phones- unlimited- throttling- 250 a month- its alright, better than some companies and really no complaints!
Steve Doré Am I surprised, not really perhaps one day isp's will be able to cope with technology bit probably not, ill expect my grandfather clause for unlimited internet to be voided and my streaming fun to end. Im so happy I have a 4g phone that will soon be like dial up.
Anousone Jake Keomany i call it gay t&t
Manuel Campas This is why I have Sprint! We had T-Mobile and it sucked donkey ass! Verizon was kinda pricey for two lines. And AT&T was just out of the question because its so expensive with crappy customer service and limited data. I'm am SOOO happy with Sprint I'll never leave this carrier :D
Anthony Douglas How will you be able to use a smartphone to its fullest if your limited to what you can do. For those that do not mind being throttled I hope you do not install an app that runs in the background & you get charged overage....OR if you have reached your limit & REALLY need high speed data but you can't b/c you went over.
Eric Kroh Doesn't matter what ATT does with their awful service...and tmo merger..aside from.raising everyone's's infrastructure is VERY thin
Harry Tess Lol @ sprint users. I'd kill myself before signing a 2 year contract with a company that puts more money into nascar then they do into their network.
Kelvin Reid No, don't start that throttling nonsense
Jason Allen Lucas Lol, them and tmobile already do think they dont is just silly lol
Christian Carlos Falu SPRINT FTW. UNLIMITED 4G =P
Sochit Jovovich Thats it, i am.done, i have a smart phone but this is it, they are a bunch of money holders!
Becky Richardson See Don't care! I'm on Sprint where I get UNLIMITED data!!
Nathan Tyson Face it no one really knows wat the companys we use and depend on really tell us. This may be a rumor to only scare people who go over their data. Im with AT&T and they have some of the best phones and their quality of their network is unbeatable.
Truly Nice Unfortunately throttling is the way of the future for all carriers.......smartphones is the reason behind this....."smartphones".......a gift and a curse
George St. Martin If it makes my data speeds faster, I'm all for it. I only use 1GB per month, so this doesn't affect me.
Jason King ha ha ha ... It just gets worse ... They are really trying to make Verizon Number One .. but how weak is their service if they have to do that .... Crazy ... Unlimited but slowed down ... Nice ..
Carlos Roldan Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Starting now. Yes!!!""!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Richard Quintanilla They won't there the evil under lord!!!!
Mike Jackson No one should get throttled! They should expand there network
Mohit Gadre J.C. Sutton. You like Mr.Omar from Every Hates Chris. And ATT should not do that.
David L. Clark I would rather they not throttle at all. However, as an Unlimited user, I would not mind it. All for the greater good.
Richard Ameen If they don't have stupid capped data anymore. Sprint ftw
Dustin Carney @kim think twice, verizon doubled billed me and wanted me to pay both that month, so we left for att, on verizon we had 3 smartphones and 1400 mins a month and our bill was 390, on att our bill is 240 and we added another smartphone and more minutes. and just wait until 1 of your "awesome phones" from verizon breaks and it needs replaced you get about 10 dud replacement phones before 1 comes that works properly.
Anthony Douglas J.C. said it best!!! Seriously if I was on their tiered plans I would have overage out the ass and all the apps you download from the Apple store or Android market that use data you will have to monitor them VERY closely to ensure you do not get charged overage. If everyone would either go to Sprint for TRUE unlimited data maybe carriers like Tmo/At&t & Verizon would wake the hell up & listen to their customers!!! I am not bias to Sprint as I am with Vzw but seriously they are the only major carrier that gives you unlimited data...think about it...I do NOT want to have to check my data use online (which from you phone may cause additional data usage) or become tied to a pc/mac everytime I want to run an app on my phone to make sure I do not go over my cap...job'osiuandg'ionadfi'nhagpnhk
Peter Combs no they shouldnt at the price may have u pay
Heather Linares that is why we left the at&t mafia.
Tony Meredith Yes, they wont let me on unlimited...
Regina Sharkey No but their doing like t-mobile
Jeff Daunis thats alright, im about to go with verizon. Yes they throttle too, but least they have better phones, better plans and dont try to screw the customers too much, just a little
Paul Gicewicz That will make att officially worse than verizon.
Ricky Rodriguez Nooo u always gotta take advantage of data this sucks
Wasim Mazahreh yes, people that use over 5gb, they ruin, conjest the towers, and ruin others expierence
John Lenihan AT&T -SUX! everybody knows this...........
John Resch Yes, the data hogs are taking advantage....
Steve Mauerman No carrier should ever throttle their users, customers should get what they pay for.
Aldo Gallinar Wait, what exactly is throttle??
J.C. Sutton Hell naw! I don't "throttle" my payment every month!
Lyn Roz That's why I'm not with ATT. They are a rip off...........

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