March 1, 2012 at 1:23 PM ET
Most AT&T customers are aware of the fact that their data speeds get throttled — slowed down — once they've used a certain amount of data, but up until now the invisible lines drawn by the carrier seemed to be arbitrary at times.
Well, no more of that, says the carrier. From now on the rules for data-throttling — which will only affect those who subscribe to AT&T's "unlimited plans" — are clear:
Customers with a 3G or 4G smartphone – who also still have [AT&T's] unlimited data plan – will see speeds reduced if they use 3GB (gigabytes) of data or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle.
For customers with a 4G LTE smartphone – who also still have our unlimited data plan – data speeds will be reduced if usage is 5GB (gigabytes) or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle.
As the Associated Press notes, some AT&T subscribers have previously reported that "their data service had been throttled at just over 2 gigabytes of data use, lower than most people on AT&T's 'limited' plans."
While it is unlikely that any customers will cheer over the data throttling, especially on a plan labeled "unlimited," it's good that there are at least clearer guidelines now. What remains unchanged, of course, is the carrier's justification of reduced data speeds:
The reason reduced speeds only apply to unlimited smartphone customers is because their data usage is significantly higher than those on tiered plans. For example, in January, the top 5 percent of our unlimited data plan customers used an average of over 50 percent more data than the top 5 percent of customers on tiered plans.
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