AT&T still throttles its customers with unlimited LTE data

AT&T still throttles its customers with unlimited LTE data
Sometime next year, AT&T promises that it will stop automatically throttling the data speeds of its unlimited 4G LTE subscribers. In a statement made on Thursday, AT&T passed along this news of good cheer. But the nation's second largest carrier refused to say if this action would take place closer to the beginning, middle, or end of 2015.

AT&T has an uneven throttling policy. For those customers with a 3G or non-LTE 4G phone, or who have been grandfathered with a unlimited data plan, throttling takes place after 3GB of data has been employed inside of a month. And this data speed slowdown occurs only "at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion." So if you live in an area that has a low population, chances are you won't have to worry about AT&T taking out the big stick. Any throttling is done only until the start of the next monthly cycle.

On the other hand, the carrier's throttling policy for those with unlimited 4G LTE data is a bit tougher. Regardless of network traffic conditions, once you exceed 5GB of data usage in a month, the tall shadow of AT&T can be seen hanging over your mobile device, throttling your data speed for the remainder of the month. And we are talking about a 24/7 slowdown until the start of the next billing cycle.

AT&T customer Julian Benton of Santa Rosa, California is a prime example of what is going on. His Apple iPhone 6 has had a tremendous drop in data speed on AT&T's 4G LTE network, from 23.51Mbps to just 0.11Mbps. It currently is holding steady at about .5Mbps. Benton's slowdown started on November 19th, and his current month doesn't expire until December 9th. Ouch! With his children home for the holidays, the home Wi-Fi network started to slow down too much, forcing the AT&T subscriber to turn to a cell tower right near his home. 

Benton is a victim of AT&T's attempt to get all of its customers off of unlimited service, and into a plan that will have them pay overage for surpassing a monthly data cap. 80% of the mobile operator's subscribers are on a limited plan leaving guys like Benton as part of a small group of holdouts. When he contacted AT&T about his situation, the company basically told him not to use streaming music and video services unless he is on a Wi-Fi connection.

But change is coming. Next year, AT&T will treat unlimited LTE users the same as the other unlimited subscribers it has left. And that means that these customers will have their data slowed only when network conditions warrant it. Just when this switch comes might determine whether AT&T loses a few subscribers, or a lot more than it would have wanted to.


source: arstechnica via BGR

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31 Comments

1. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

It's almost like they WANT to lose customers to T-Mobile.

3. Tre-Nitty

Posts: 470; Member since: Nov 16, 2010

They lost my 3 lines to T-Mobile because the constant throttling.

30. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I wish I can switch to T-Mobile too... Some places I travel to often has no T-mobile services...

31. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

Within 6 months you'll see that DRASTICALLY change. T-Mo is getting low freq spectrum at quite a quick pace. You can google the maps of locations where they bought 700mhz and it's quite a few places. All that's left is to put that spectrum into use, which is what they're doing as we speak.

2. johnny9000

Posts: 50; Member since: Sep 10, 2011

The article makes it sound like AT&T committed some heinous, devious crime. Yes, I think throttling and the stated reason of "network optimization" is bull, considering there are plans now that allow 100 GB of shared data, and those who have it certainly are not slowing down the network for everyone. We all know it was done to get people off unlimited data and pay for overages, if necessary, but guess what? AT&T is a BUSINESS, not a charity. Unlimited users were notified months before the change went into effect, and every single wireless company writes into its terms of service the right to change plans / policy at any time, period.

25. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Creating the impression of public support by paying people in the public to pretend to be supportive. The false support can take the form of letters to the editor, postings on message boards in response to criticism, and writing to politicians in support of the cause. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=astroturf

4. bugsbunny00

Posts: 2266; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

come on at&t stop throttling ..tmobile is coming your way..

5. imkyle

Posts: 1115; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

Every carrier throttles data.

6. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

Not T-Mobile. If you're on T-Mobiles unlimited LTE option, you get all the data you want, with no throttling. That's counter to what AT&T and Verizon do to grandfathered unlimited plans.

7. joe1blue

Posts: 169; Member since: Jul 25, 2013

T-mobile only throttles if you go over your limit you don't even have to worry about overages AT&T is doing this in irder to get people to switch to another plan where they have the ability to create overages on your bill.

8. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

The major difference between T-Mobile throttling and AT&T is that with T-Mobile, you have no overages absolutely, and you select the plan you want, and it is very much specified, at what point your speed will degrade to next to nothing. I'd say 0.50Mbps is great on AT&T...since with T-Mobile, you get 0.02Mbps, 500kbps vs 20kbps. On the flipside, you still can get full high speed unlimited data on T-Mobile if you aren't happy with the really slow speed. AT&T does not offer that. AT&T also states that speeds are only throttled in congested areas, yet claims they have the most reliable network, always expanding capacity, so when and where can they really logically throttle if they have this awesome network? According to them, it should be never and nowhere. Aside from this, the issue lies at hand that 100GB shared plans on 5 different devices are able to stream stream stream, and somehow that doesnt congest the network, yet a single unlimited customer using 5GB does? Logic here?

12. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

Actually T-Mobile throttles you to 2G OR 3G. In my area, their 3G is on par with Verizon LTE (11Mbps vs 12Mbps for Verizon). Their 2G I've actually gotten .25Mbps which is some of the highest speeds 2G goes (and out of the carriers 2G capabilities, T-Mobiles is capable of the fastest speeds). That .25Mbps is what I used to get on Verizons unlimited 3G a few years ago! Occasionally it would go to 700kbps (.67Mbps) and with 5 bars near tower I'd get 900kbps (.88Mbps) but on average I'd get 150-450kbps (.12Mbps-.42Mbps) with it being quite common on the lower end of that spectrum.

16. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

You are confused, 2G is a technology based on GPRS or EDGE, and 3G is HSPA - When you are throttled, if you are on a plan that has a limited amount of high speed data (they also offer full unlimited high speed data) then the speed you will receive are "2G-like speeds" which is generally 20-70kbps, regardless what technology you are on, be it 2G GPRS/EDGE, 3G HSPA or 4G HSPA+/LTE. 2G as a technology is being replaced with 4G LTE, but just because that is happening does not mean, throttled customers will get LTE speeds, they can limit it across all technologies.

21. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

I'm actually not confused. I know the technology behind them and I know they mention that they slow you down to 2G OR 3G (which is up to 42Mbps HSPA+). GSM (2G) -- 9.6Kbps GPRS (2.5G) -- 35Kbps to 171kbps EDGE (2.75G) -- 120Kbps to 384Kbps The 2G technology that T-Mobile uses is predominantly EDGE, with the occasional areas still on GPRS. EDGE speeds are generally enough for streaming music, tweeting, some social networking, etc. This is the one that they cut you down to and it's better than Verizon and AT&T. Verizon's and AT&T's purpose of throttling is to force you to increase your data allotment, while T-Mobile's purpose is to keep it usable (ideally) while keeping bandwidth for those who pay for more data so they get peak speeds. It's usable so you don't HAVE to and aren't forced to purchase more data, but have the option to, if you want optimum experience. Quite fair, if one is to be honest.

27. pjs312

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 08, 2014

No Willie is right, they just limit your LTE and 3G speeds to 2G, not limit you to the 2G network.

9. wtmana

Posts: 56; Member since: Nov 27, 2013

I have t-mobile unlimited date, and i use about 21gb every moth, my speed is alway more 25mbps.

10. DeusExCellula

Posts: 1390; Member since: Oct 05, 2014

What the hell are you useing it for LOL 21 GB jesuu

11. wtmana

Posts: 56; Member since: Nov 27, 2013

Videos, games, internet, hotspot etc etc etc. I enjoy my unlimited data.

14. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Hotspot is limited to 3GB per month, but it is not hard to use the internet, videos, games, app downloads, social networking uploads if you are a power user to hit that. But the reality is that MOST T-Mobile users are 5-15GB users.

13. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

AT&T: 1. Claims most data users use between 2-3 GB of data per month. 2. Claims data usage has exploded so many x folds year over year. 3. Claims that less than 5% of all customers are abusing data. If most users are using only between 2-3 GB of data per user per month, why not continue offering Unlimited Data - I mean, certainly this amount of data is not overloading the network correct? Yes, data usage has exploded, from 200 MB per month to 500 MB to 1 GB to 2-3 GB per month over the last 5 year span. But so has 3G technology and spectrum efficiency with HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE networks. In fact, these networks were built rapidly to handle the data increase and increase capacity and spectral efficiency. There is no reason 2-3 GB per user should slow the network or technology down, especially when it is well capable of delivering speeds of 100Mbps in lab testing, and 20-60Mbps in real world usage. If they claim that 5% of all data users are abusing the network, that is only 5 million using more than 3 GB per month, even then, AT&T cant claim these people are abusive even if they are using 6 - 20 GB per month, as AT&T sells 10, 15, 20, 30, and 100 GB plans, the comparison is asinine to state that a person with a set cost of $30 per month unlimited data using only 5GB is somehow more abusive than a person who has paid $60 for a 15GB plan. The comparison is double the price for only 1/3rd the amount of data. That is not abusive, that is actually giving AT&T capacity and charging them more per GB than the 15GB user. So I fail to see any of AT&Ts arguments, and their logic has more holes in it than a salad sieve.

15. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

I was just thinking the same thing!! Or when Verizon said the average user uses ~2GB. Why not leave it untouched? After all, Verizon's old pricing included a $10 and $20 data option (1 and 2GB I believe) so why not leave it as it was? Let alone the fact that they ADMITTED that even if they sold unlimited data at $10/month, they'd still be making a profit!! Also that point you brought up about if I buy 100GB of data, it's all fine and will run at full speed. Hell even if I go over my monthly allotment, Verizon or AT&T are MORE than willing to charge you the $10-15/gb over allotment, and you can use all you want in that scenario without any slow downs. Pure and simple, it's greed.

17. toiletcleaner

Posts: 224; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

I'm on Verizon unlimited data, and I never got throttles , thank God I left at&t

18. LiyanaBG

Posts: 381; Member since: Nov 07, 2013

i have Verizon unlimited data recently they started to throttles so don't know what you talking about. they slow the speed alot.

22. toiletcleaner

Posts: 224; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

In my case. I neve seen my speed to slow down, I thino sometimes is not the network, is the phone we are using

29. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

nope they throttle the speed

19. toiletcleaner

Posts: 224; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

I'm not a apple fan but u I'm not a hatter, I hate to see ppl fitting over cellphones , tablets etc. I use both and I'm ok whit that, my phone is and will be a android, my tablet is aND will be a ipad

20. toiletcleaner

Posts: 224; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

Wrong article

24. nnjerzy

Posts: 126; Member since: Jun 19, 2013

If you have the truly unlimited plan with T-Mobile you aren't throttled.. Don't tell me I know and have 4 family lines and the whole overall account uses about 100gb a month.. That's not throttled slow speeds... If you aren't on a truly unlimited plan after your allowance you are throttled but have no overages.

26. DnB925Art

Posts: 1168; Member since: May 23, 2013

I have Sprint (yes I live and work in an awesome Spark/LTE area) and glad they don't throttle my grandfathered SERO-P line, or my wife's line on the old Everything data 450 plan. I use about 60GB or more a month. Lots of video streaming. I watch watch a ton of sports on my phone and YouTube videos. Even Spark speeds are better than WiFi speeds in most places I go to. Ever try WiFi at a Starbucks with AT&T WiFi? Spark is much faster almost all the time.

28. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

I have grandfathered att data plan use 4 gigs a month. I have wifi at my house and work so 4 gigs is enough for me when im out in the streets were theres no wifi those 4 gigs is more than enough for me to get driving directions or look up restaurants .

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