So, um, why exactly do carriers throttle the top 5% of data users again?
Cell phone bill “optimization” specialist Validas examined a sample of over 55,000 cell phone bills from the U.S., and what they discovered is that the top 5% of unlimited data plans (the people who get throttled) use almost exactly the same amount of data as the top 5% of tiered data plan users. Put another way, the only difference between the people being throttled and those who aren’t is that the throttled users are still on grandfathered unlimited plans.
don't throttle data use, except in cases of network abuse.
Verizon says they only throttle the top 5% of unlimited data users based on local network need, and they stop throttling when network congestion relaxes (e.g. at night). Of course we have only their word to go on, but this would seem like a more measured response. On the other hand, a blanket throttle (even a temporary one) of 5% of all unlimited users still is little more than a temporary punishment for having maintained an unlimited data plan.
AT&T has even less of a defense; their policy not only allows them to throttle the top 5% of data unlimited data users (despite not using significantly more data than tiered customers) but they implement this throttling after just 2GB of use - while tiered data plan users can use 3 GB of data without seeing a slowdown. Worse, once throttled a customer will continue to get throttled data for the remainder of the billing cycle. So unlimited data plan owners may find themselves at greatly reduced network speeds for an extended period, despite committing no crime greater than not having a tiered data plan.
We think that stinks. To be sure, every network has instances of users that gobble truly disproportionate amounts of data (10-20 GB or more) and we can understand if those users must be throttled during times of heavy load to ensure network access to everyone. But the method employed by AT&T – to throttle unlimited users for “being in the top 5%” for the remainder of the month, even if their data usage doesn’t exceed the usage of the top 5% of tiered customers – that amounts to little more than a punishment of some of their most loyal users.
AT&T and Verizon claim they are providing a choice - to reduce their data usage or else suffer a slowdown in data for the "good of the whole." What they really mean is you have a choice between possibly seeing a slowdown in your unlimited data usage, or using the same amount of data without throttling by switching to one of our more profitable tiered data plans. So far this practice only applies to 3G data plans - Verizon has explicitly exempted 4G LTE users (except in extreme cases). But as 4G phones become ubiquitous, how long before we start to see similar practices placed on the owners of unlimited 4G LTE plans?
Regardless, the practice should stop – and that goes for any other carrier that may engage in the practice but not publicize it. We understand that all companies want to increase their profit margins, but punishing customers who have grandfathered data plans is not an acceptable way to go about this.
Let us know what you think in the comments section.
source: Validas, BGR
1. bigdawg23 (Posts: 382; Member since: 25 May 2011)
I have ATT Unlimited Plan. To date(Knock on Wood) have not been throttled when eclipsing 2GB.
My opinion is why they don't touch tiered is if they go over they pay for it. People like me on Unlimited go get to 50GB while still paying $30.
2. squallz506 (banned) (Posts: 1075; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)
dollar dollar bill yall!
ive got 5GB of 4g on magenta, and have yet to go over my limit.
these shady practices are what keeps me on prepaid.
3. LoneShaolin (Posts: 307; Member since: 14 Jan 2012)
f**king agreed! I have one friend who has ATT Unlimited Data and is throttled after 1.5GB religiously. And I have a friend on Verizon Unlimited Data who has used 25GB every month he has had it, even spiking up to 109GB LAST MONTH to test out the throttling theory. Not only was he not throttled, he was never warned about a throttling issue either.
6. pooked (Posts: 56; Member since: 27 Jan 2012)
we all know between verizon and att who the clear winner is...been a big red fan since before late 90's and still remain loyal to the big red army!!
15. superguy (Posts: 271; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
How's that possible? VZ/VZW didn't even exist before 2000.
So who were you a big fan of before 2000?
16. hobble (Posts: 130; Member since: 11 Oct 2011)
I think he's talking about the kool aid man.
21. quakan (Posts: 1195; Member since: 02 Mar 2011)
I think he's talking about the pop or gum. lol
22. corporateJP (Posts: 1557; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)
That's not entirely true.
It was three companies unified into one, then they bought out a bunch of different regionals.
He could've been on Airtouch or GTE before they merged and became Verizon.
34. CellieCell (Posts: 85; Member since: 14 Apr 2010)
I am also on Verizon's unlimited data and average 12-15GB per month, luckily I haven't seen any throttling. ^_^v
4. Habib (Posts: 114; Member since: 26 Feb 2011)
I would add to the article, that verizon throttles the unlimited with only 3G network, that excludes unlimited 4G data plans :D!
8. iamcc (Posts: 1319; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)
How much can Verizon really throttle 3G? Not trolling or anything because I have Verizon and love it but the 3G is already pretty slow as it is...
5. cybervlad81 (Posts: 84; Member since: 04 Apr 2011)
Running on 3G, on Verizon and have yet to see a throttle, half way through this bill cycle and am at 3.5GB I usually hit +/- 5GB a month due to a long commute and excessive Dogcatcher(Podcast) use.
7. PimpStrong (Posts: 310; Member since: 25 Jul 2011)
I just thank God for T-Mobile's cheap $20 2GB plan because with CPU access at work and WiFi at home, I'll never have to worry about going over or throttling.
Bring on the $20/MO LTE!!
9. imkyle (Posts: 1006; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)
My dad still has the $30 unlimited data plan for the iPhone since 2009 and he says that he does notice a slower speed when used above a certain amount.
10. 14545 (Posts: 1117; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)
I have to stand by VZW on this issue, and this issue alone. I use somewhere between 4-10 gb's a month. Typically around 5-6, but I have had more and less, and I have never been throttled. I consider myself a heavy user, but if you are using >15gb a month, then you need to learn to not be so selfish. I tether when not in range of wifi, but usually < an hour or so a month. I can honestly say, that if I was on ATT, I would leave. I have a friend on ATT and he was throttled at 2 gb last month on his iphone. And he isn't jailbroken and never uses it in a way that wouldn't be deemed "normal" usage.
14. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)
We specifically agreed that it's a legitimate practice to throttle speeds on network abusers - the point is that most people who fall into that "top 5% of data users" aren't actually using any more data than tiered customers, so they are being punished for nothing more than not upgrading to a plan the carrier prefers (be it 4G or tiered...but tiered is what they really want).
11. Jammers (Posts: 6; Member since: 05 May 2011)
The companies won't stop it until We the Consumers use our mighty dollar and take our buisness elsewhere. Sadly, most of us are such sheep we won't. How long before the Big guys decide unlimited texting isn't profitable enough and shy away from 'unlimited' plans for that as well? Don't be so silly to think they WON'T do it if they think they'll get away with it. All it takes REALLY is one of the Big Two.
29. Cwebb (Posts: 501; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)
Because texting is so cheap as it is their already making a killing off that. I remember an older article saying that.
36. Jammers (Posts: 6; Member since: 05 May 2011)
Texting is essentially FREE for the carriers. Trust me though, if they think they can squeeze a few more dollars out, they will. Why do you think AT&T was one of the last to GET an Unlimited plan?
12. remixfa (Posts: 13930; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
lol, i hit almost 20gb of data last month. of course, im on a no-throttle employee plan. :)
17. Magog14 (Posts: 3; Member since: 07 Feb 2012)
If it weren't for people hacking their phones to tether for free the carriers wouldn't bother throttling.
18. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)
The data in the article shows this is not true. While there clearly are individuals who do this and end up abusing their data plan, on average the top 5% of unlimited data users are indistinguishable from the top 5% of tiered data users - so it's unrelated to tethering abuse.
24. corporateJP (Posts: 1557; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)
True, but tethering was a big part of why carriers switched to tiered.
They aren't totally stupid.
Regardless, it is a good point.
33. remixfa (Posts: 13930; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
as a person working for teh carriers, i dissagree. what happened was one carrier had the balls to charge for it... aka a major one.. and the rest followed suite after they realized that people didnt gather their pitch forks.
the only reason there is tiered data plans is so they can reduce the cost for those that dont want the plan but want the phone (in which the carrier still nets more than the people that never make the switch to smartphones), and raise the cost on those that need the plan and intend on using it.
44. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)
limewire was a pretty big contributor (at least in West Michigan) as to the push toward tiered plans
as I mentioned before, it's usually one person to ruin it for the rest of us...i miss my unl data
43. cnpthe3rd (Posts: 51; Member since: 01 Feb 2009)
as for tethering what difference does it make I use my phone basically the same as my computer why does it matter if i tether or not
19. medicci37 (Posts: 648; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)
This is what happens when big bussiness is deregulated. It should be illegal for carriers to throttle customers unless they go over 5 gigs. @ Magog that makes no sense. Its not about tethering. its about how much data people use. Tmo doesn't charge extra for tethering. & users don't have to tether to use more than 2 gigs.
20. xpr3ss10n (Posts: 55; Member since: 15 Dec 2011)
Ive used over 40gb of data this month and never seen a throttle from verizon. Thats why i stickbwith big red
25. corporateJP (Posts: 1557; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)
It's a cash grab for at least one carrier, a few others will follow because they can.
Anyone know who the cash-grabber is?
26. ibap (Posts: 700; Member since: 09 Sep 2009)
So how much extra bandwidth do they gain by doing this? It's totally to convince grandfathered plan holders to switch to a new plan so the carriers can up their revenue. What was all that hooey about how you can't just break a contract?
27. molsky (Posts: 12; Member since: 10 Feb 2011)
I have been trying to speak out on this issue for months exposing ATT and their anti consumer friendly policies. Let me be clear on exactly how they throttle you. Customers with an unlimited data plan are monitored on DAILY usage..not monthly amount of data consumed. If you use a large amount of data in one or a few days they will take this usage and multiply it by the rest of your billing cycle. If this is over a certain amount you are IMMEDIATELY THROTTLED FOR YOU ENTIRE BILLING CYCLE. They punish you for what you might do in the future. I was throttled after only consuming 2GB of data only because I had a few days of high usage. It's like throwing you in jail for the bank that you might rob next month...Everyone needs to leave ATT Wireless when possible. Send a clear message that we will not stand for a corporate lobbyist CEO punishing customers because his own company can't keep up their spectrum based on subscribers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
32. jtech (Posts: 101; Member since: 14 Jul 2011)
That 0.97 throttled speed test is still faster then my throttled 0.4x or 0.3x speed I have with T-MO
35. Phaze0085 (Posts: 101; Member since: 22 Sep 2011)
I agree. It is very wrong for AT&T to throttle users who use 2GB of data and up. I think I can see why they do it. They're spectrum is limited at the moment and they can't seem to keep up the demand. But that is the price you pay when being one of the best mobile providers for GSM phones. I am a loyal AT&T customer, and so far they've been great to me. I don't think I've ever been throttled, but I guess know that question would be like answering the question of "How would you know the difference between a loose woman and a tight one?" I sure do not know. I have experienced lag in my data speeds and sometimes I get no signal at all. However, this could be blamed on my coverage area. I have a 2GB data plan, and I don't believe I've ever used in close to a gig, maybe 500MB, but i don't believe I've ever even come close to using 2GB, plus I am lucky enough to have a strong wifi signal practically everywhere I go. But wrong is still wrong. AT&T needs to find a way to make throttling work, like the guys have, and it would hurt if they also focused their attention on bringing the latest updates to customer i.e. WP7 users. I'm still plagued by the disappearing keyboard glitch.
37. centuro1911 (Posts: 12; Member since: 24 Feb 2012)
You people are so short sighted it is laughable. These companies are not screwing you over now because there is a current problem. They are conditioning you for later when there is an actual problem.
They have set some stupid artificial limit knowing full well that in about 4 years this is going to be a big deal, but they want to be able to say, "see we told you so and we were doing something about it way back then."
This is just like the excuse that they have to charge 45 cents per minute you go over your plan because if everyone talked all they wanted it would clog up the network. And then they started offering unlimited plans.
Haven't you noticed how voice plans have not gone down at all in the last 5 years? The companies are screwing us over just like the banks tried to do. But there has been no coordinated protest so they just keep doing it. If 5 million people cancelled their VZW accts they'd stop, but we let them lock us into ridiculous contracts of 2 years when phones get outdated in 6 months.
38. dcgore (Posts: 206; Member since: 24 Feb 2012)
As always there are two sides to the story. On the one end, i can see why consumers with unlimited data are annoyed. After all, the carriers should be "obligated" to uphold their end of the bargain...unlimited data.
But now think about this, the potential to massive data usage in the future which could bring service to a halt Say you are the avg. peson who uses 1GB per month or so. Then a new shiny new service becomes popular in the future like netflix instant streaming for instance. So now from the avg. 1GB you go to 6GB or more. Now compound that times a lot of people that end up doing the same. Big problem.
The carriers know things are just getting bigger, pictures, files, videos. They are trying to prevent massive future consumption because of legacy data plans. For one, i am very happy AT&T is getting good in NYC where i live. So to an extent, i like people getting capped but would hate if I get capped. Ha!
39. kcombs (Posts: 248; Member since: 15 Dec 2010)
I work for at&t customer service, it is based on their location. The more contested area's (like New York city, or LA) you will get throttled sooner, the less congestion in your area the more data you get. I have unlimited and live in Orlando, I used 3GB one month never got a notice, or throttled. I have personally seen customers with 10GB not being throttled, and I have seen some with 4GB being throttled. This has always been in effect it's just no one ever reads there contract details. Before the tiered data at&t had a soft cap of 5GB for each customer, they just rarely enforced it, if you excessively went over every month they would offer to cancel service with no ETF.
40. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)
i think the difference here however is going to be those who are on unlimited have the capability of going over. They are more than likely throttled because if they're allowed to use 100gbs a month the cellphone companies arent making anything extra
on the other hand those who have limited data plans (using the same as unl and throttled) have the potential to go over and pay out the butt for overages.
from a business standpoint i see entirely why they do it. we dont have to agree with it, but the potential to do something is why companies act on it before it gets out of hand. IE the douche bag that tethers his or her phone to play Xbox Live or playstation network or use it to torrent and use an inordinate amount of data
one person ruins it for all i suppose
41. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)
"those who are on unlimited have the capability "
add the word dont in there for me ;)
42. cnpthe3rd (Posts: 51; Member since: 01 Feb 2009)
it all comes down to greed. take for example in my immediate family, I regularly go over (i have 5GB) however my sister and mother both pay for "unlimited data" and my sister may use at most 1GB and my mom often uses NONE at all so "heavy users" are more than made up for by light users "unlimited" should mean just that "UNLIMITED"
45. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)
until 'that' jackass kills my nearby tower for tethering and doing torrents.
plans need to be tiered. unlimited was the golden age of internet....even your regular providers are capping usage
46. kanagadeepan (Posts: 683; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)
So AT&T punishes its users for continuing to be their customers... Just $crew the greedy at&t...
47. Asphyxiation (Posts: 3; Member since: 26 Feb 2012)
I do not really see how people using so much data could be a problem. More satellites and towers are going up all of the time. How much data is used when using Wi-Fi at your home or connecting a computer or gaming system to ethernet? Reflect on that for a moment or two. Now why exactly is data usage exceeding any certain amount going to harm anyone? Yeah, some people don't use that much of their data each month. Well, there are a lot of people that do utilize that data that they pay for. Life is business. It is all out of greed. People are power-hungry. People are money-hungry. Anything that can be done to obtain these two things is done as soon as possible. Those of you that are all for companies throttling data usage only are for such a thing because you do not use that much data each month or each day. Also, because you believe what the world has to say. "Holy crap, the news just said that the reason my data *might* be so slow is because of people using insane amounts of data! It must be true if it was on the news." Honestly, you are probably in a bad area. It is extremely possible for you to have every single bar of reception and still have amazingly slow data speeds. It has been tested. And if it has not -- I tested it. I will achieve 7+ megabytes per second in one area of full reception and 3 megabytes per second and below in another area. Seriously, this is only an issue for customers as they are being ripped off by the companies. People are paying in money as well as loyalty for their plans. Unlimited data plans are almost unheard of now and the only people that still have them are the ones who have been loyal to their respective companies. Either that or the people who go with a company that still offers unlimited data. Until the world learns that money is not everything, people like the few of us on this website will be in dispute over things like this. It is not even one another who should be fighting over such things. We, the people, and they, the companies, should all treat each other with respect and stop ripping one another off.
That's all I have to say. If you want to dispute my opinion, that is fine. We are all entitled to our own opinions. Deuces.
-In His hands,