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AT&T to throttle unlimited data plans from October 1

updated 04:35 pm EDT, Fri July 29, 2011

AT&T to throttle holdout unlimited uers

AT&T on Friday said that it would throttle the speed for those still using unlimited data. Starting October 1, the company will slow down the connections on those who are in the top five percent of heaviest use. Similar to T-Mobile USA, full speed won't come back until the next month.

The carrier tried to assuage users by saying it would give multiple notices before the slowdown hits and that there would be a "grace period" of an unspecified amount of time.

As with other carriers instituting caps, AT&T insisted that it wouldn't impact the "vast majority" of users and that it would improve the experience for everyone. It blamed the heaviest use on streaming video and steered users towards Wi-Fi. In a strong hint, the company made clear that those who needed performance could go to capped plans, where they would pay extra but get full speed.

The network's political agenda came to bear as it asserted that the throttling wouldn't be enough to solve spectrum crunches. Allegedly, "nothing short" of buying T-Mobile would solve its problems, it said. Sprint has rejected the claims and has argued that AT&T is a "serial acquirer" that buys companies to improve its network rather than work with what it has.

The timing lines up just days after the iPhone 5 is likely to show and may be used as an incentive to push many on the currently superior, grandfathered plans into the more limited plans it would rather have. AT&T's choice is also likely to raise complaints of political manipulation as it tries to portray itself as a victim of spectrum shortages while it tries to muster support for its buyout of T-Mobile.

Verizon just recently capped its mobile data plans but so far still plans to serve unlimited users at full speed. Sprint hasn't complained of significant congestion issues and still offers unlimited plans, albeit at a slightly higher price.

by MacNN Staff



  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    F.U. ATT

    no iPhone 5 for me, at least not with you.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why bother? It's slow enough already

    The sheer amount of traffic already cause it to crawl. Why mess with it?

  1. cvbcvb

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If one is not part of the top 5% why worry?

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    completely changes my reasons for staying with AT&

    1) iPhone has no radio. I like listening to NPR and other (foreign) radio stations on the go, so I stream a lot of audio over my iPhone when away from wifi hotspots. I could get an iPod shuffle but that's carrying two devices which seems silly plus I can't hear the phone ring when listening to the iPod.

    2) Unless you like paying the carriers' outrageous data overage charges, this policy greatly affects use of FaceTime as well as viewing videos while away from hotspots. Now I have to think all the time about my data usage because I'm already at the limit of what I can afford for my monthly cellular bill... so why would I stay with ATT when I have to bother with the same inconvenience with other carriers?

  1. facebook_Bob

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jul 2011


    what speed?

    I have the unlimited plan, with over 3 years of iPhone ownership. I live in a major metroplex and have traveled to many other places in this time. I don't remember ever experiencing any connectivity which I could call fast. Maybe in little spurts here and there, but never consistently fast. Almost always disappoiningly SLOW.

  1. mkral

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    At AT&T rep made a comment back when they instituted capped data plans that something like 5% of the data users consumed over 50% of the data served (I think it was like 70%, but I don't recall specifically). It sounds like AT&T is being pretty reasonable, and is just dealing with the people using the most data. They can still get data, but it's just at slower speeds. If what they are saying is true, the network should speed up for the rest of the users (the ones who are complaining that the network is too slow currently).

  1. slapppy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Carriers, cable providers stifle innovation. What good are your apps or device when your forced to limit usage or get charged stupid amounts!

  1. OS2Guy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Lawsuit People!

    STOP s******* around with these people. YOU signed up for UNLIMITED and by God, AT&T better deliver unlimited or pay a heavy financial price to those they short-change. People are such sheep. Fearful of losing a lousy service if they speak up. Email Congress - NOT just your own Congressperson but EVERY Congressperson and scream your head off. Break up AT&T and Comcast. Neither should be in the business of throttling any customer. Their job is to provide a highway to the internet and by God, they either do it without restriction and they don't do it at all! YOU have just as much power as they have.

  1. normr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sue the b*******

    If they throttle my speed, I will sue them in court, I pay for unlimited data and service, if they s**** with my service, I'll sue and win, anyone wantnto join in?

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Unlimited here.....

    What exactly is "the top 5 percent"? I've had unlimited data for iphone since 2009, my monthly usage varies too much to switch to a limited plan. It just isn't worth it, i will cling to my unlimited data plan & they can pry it from my cold dead hands. ATT, fix your damn network & stop trying to bilk your customers (including me), please?

    - A

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