AT&T Will Start to Throttle the Speed Data for the Heaviest Users

Posted by at 2:57 pm on July 29, 2011

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.

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