Sites are now reporting that AT&T has started a new policy in handling their “unlimited” data users. Originally, AT&T users with unlimited data plans were grandfathered in when AT&T decided to go to tiered data plans. Unfortunately, things have now changed. A few months ago, data-heavy customers received correspondence warning them that they were using too much data. AT&T claimed that only the “top 5% were receiving these messages.” This is the same thing they cited when switching to tiered data plans.
The problem is defining the “top 5%.” This is still up for debate. Many analysis stated that it was regionally-based, which seemed plausible since many customers who didn’t go over 2 GB of monthly data usage were warned in certain areas. Now it seems AT&T has set a finite line, in which you are now classified in the “5%.”
“Do you have an unlimited data plan? If so, we have information to help you manage your account if you use more than 3GB, which means you are in the top 5% of data users in our network. If you have a 4G LTE Smartphone with monthly data usage over 5GB, you’ll also be interested in this information. You can check your usage for this month by dialing *data# on your mobile phone.”
Shocking, right? Grandfathered unlimited users are no longer truly unlimited. You will be throttled at 3 GB on 3G. Even more shocking is the 5 GB throttle point for 4G LTE. This is for a brand new network that just launch late last year. Many users aren’t even covered in LTE yet, and they are already being put “under the gun” once they do acquire 4G LTE devices. This marks the first time a carrier has throttled a 4G network—not counting T-Mobile’s questionably named “4G” HSPA+ network.
To be honest, no one but AT&T knows what the real “top 5%” is on their network. It’s head-scratching that it just so happens to be the same amount as their price-equivalent tiered data plan. One thing is for certain, this is not a good sign. As we all know Verizon sure likes to copy AT&T in every way.
It all started with the death of unlimited data. AT&T was the first to end unlimited data, and only a year later Verizon followed suit. Next, AT&T forced people into tethering plans if they were suspected of using the functionality. Problem is, it seemed to only apply to iPhone subscribers, and many iPhone users claimed they never tether and still received the message. Sure enough, only a few months later Verizon customers were reporting they received similar messages stating the same thing.
Even more recently, AT&T were beginning to throttled their grandfathered unlimited users. Representatives claimed it was only for the “top 5%,” remember that from earlier? Well, sure enough Verizon once again was following right behind as their remaining unlimited customers were being throttled as well, but only the “top 5%.”
With this recent announcement by AT&T, it opens the door for Verizon to do the same thing. The “they are doing it, so why can’t we?” mentality always comes into play with Verizon, or so it seems. AT&T, who has only a fraction of the 4G LTE coverage as Verizon and barely any users accessing it in comparison to Verizon, has began throttling their LTE at 5GB, so what is to stop Verizon from doing it to their loyal unlimited data plan users? Nothing, this is what. Worse off is now there is a baseline for 3G throttling too, and it’s placed at 3GB.
The question now isn’t “if” it is “when,” when will Verizon make their announcement that they are capping their unlimited users at a certain amount. I don’t want to see the day, but it’s bound to happen. This is Verizon’s chance to capitalize on their unlimited data users, and don’t think for a second they will pass it up.