Feb 07 AT 2:52 PM Edgar Cervantes 62 Comments

Is it no longer convenient to be an AT&T unlimited data user?


Before AT&T tiered data plans started coming into effect, users were happy to be unlimited data subscribers. Once the changes went into place they would be grandfathered, allowing them to keep their unlimited plan. This was before AT&T started throttling its top 5% of data consumers. Grandfathered customers are now suffering from an interesting effect in the system.

AT&T throttles the top 5% of data consumers in their network, but this is not just an estimate. They literally throttle the top 5%, regardless of where that limit happens to fall, that month. This would mean that if AT&T managed to keep convincing subscribers to use less and less data, the limit would go down, along with the users’ habits. If the top 5% miraculously managed to use only 200 MB a month (or 20 GB), that is where the limit would hit.

The situation is not as critical yet, but “unlimited” data users are certainly experiencing a lower throttling cap. And it seems like tiered data plan subscribers also come into the equation, even though only unlimited users are being throttled.

After going about his business as regular, AT&T user John Cozen was notified that he was being throttled for falling under the 5% top users window. He had only used 2.1 GB of data in that month. After a series of e-mails, AT&T confirmed that this was not a mistake, and the top 5% was being throttled after using just a bit over 2 GB of data.

AT&T’s new smartphone data plans include:

  • AT&T Data Plus 300MB: $20 for 300MB
  • AT&T Data Pro 3GB: $30 for 3GB
  • AT&T Data Pro 5GB: $50 for 5GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering

It might no longer be convenient to be grandfathered into those unlimited data plans (unless you don’t mind the slower speeds). Of course, tiered data plans are not affected. If one pays the equally priced $30 plan, you get 3 GB of data, which is about an extra GB compared to unlimited data subscribers (before being throttled).

The tables have turned around, and unlimited data plans might not be as great as we thought. At least with AT&T. It just might be time for power users to start saying goodbye to their grandfathered plans. They could be getting a better deal with the 3 GB tiered data plan.

Have any of our readers experienced a similar problem? Would you rather leave your grandfathered plan to get that tiered 3 GB plan?

Via: PocketNow

Source: John Cozen

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • socomdark

    I’m on an unlimited plan and haven’t experienced this but i have a retailer plan so that could be why. i use about 10gb a month since i don’t have internet at home and tether a lot

    • Edgar Cervantes

      Well, use it more and you just might raise the throttling cap a bit! lol Help them affected users!

    • LukeT32

      Sounds like it is time to leave At&t

      • GermanBrot

        Meh, just go with 4G… I am getting 54Mbs down and 26Mbs up in Dallas currently with @tt’s S2 SkyRocket. I cringe when I join wifi… lol

  • Nicholas

    I have not noticed any throttling but I am not using the 2Gb i used to use when I streamed tuneinradio daily. Now I use about 1 GB a month.

    • nmoline

      Forgot to login on this post! I need my points!

  • JayB95

    Man that’s bs. Verizon better not start pulling that.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Yup, totally agree! These service provides are supposed to be increasing the services they offer us, not decreasing the services while jacking up the prices. I get that tiered data plans are the future and that they’re here to stay but they need to have some acceptable prices. STARTING the tiered data plans at the former UNLIMITED rate is ridiculous!

      • Shadowlore

        Couldn’t agree more. Not everyone NEEDS Unlimited, so start the tiered plans off at a cheaper rate :)

    • Triplanetary

      Verizon’s already being bleeping ridiculous about the data plans. $30 a month with ATT gets you 3 GB. With Verizon, it gets you a whopping 250 MB. Which obviously doesn’t matter if you’re on a grandfathered unlimited plan, of course.

      I’m on Sprint, so I still have unlimited data anyway (and supposedly, Sprint doesn’t throttle anyone, either). But if Sprint ever does drop unlimited data (they say they won’t, but I remain skeptical), I hope they lean more toward ATT’s pricing scale than Verizon’s. I could live with 3 GB of data a month. (In fact, I’m paying $40 a month for data, so I’d even consider paying the extra $10 for 5 GB.) Nowadays I have really good wifi both at work and at home, which in turn means I don’t have to tether my home computer anymore, so my data usage is way down, ’cause my phone is connected to wifi literally all day except when I’m commuting to and from work.

      • Butt Head

        Huh? With $30 on Verizon you get 2 GB, not 250 MB.

        • http://www.brokemanstech.com Juan Almanzar

          Yeah, not only do you get 2GB a month for $30 but starting this Friday (again) $30 will get you 4gb for the same $30 thanks to the double data deal coming back.

    • Triplanetary

      Wait, I just double-checked Verizon’s site, and it turns out $30 gets you 2 GB. I don’t know why I thought it was 250 MB (which would definitely be pretty ridiculous). Either they’ve changed it or I’m dumb. :P

      • YNWA

        It was never $30 for 250 MB. It has always been at least 2 GB for $30/mo and they have the double bandwidth promo too sometimes, so it could be as high as 4 GB for $30/mo.

      • Butt Head

        Hehe. Missed this one!

    • t

      They are looking into this now

  • spazby


  • greeny42

    I wouldn’t be surprised if verizon already throttles it’s highest users.

    • Tony

      It does. My Bionic was being throttled, and I’m usually a 3-5GB monthly kinda guy.

      I used a dethrottle script and it was blazing fast on 3G again. I’ve noticed slower speeds again though, me thinks they’re throttling at a network level too :(

    • Peter

      Vzw doesn’t throttle, I use 10gbs every month on my data plan and it’s not any type of special account

  • amgala

    I’d rather have unlimited data at a slower speed than unlimited data. With more and more use of the cloud, and bigger and bigger file sizes, unlimited data is a life (and wallet) saver.

    • Johnathan Prochaska

      Yes but people who are saying that they are throttled on AT&T’s unlimited plans state that they have to continue to refresh pages to get a webpage to load and that their phone is effectively a brick because of the throttled speeds.

  • Trinhbo

    I have a grandfathered plan with unlimited data and I have not had any problems with throttling. As long as the throttling only happens to the (ab)users of their service like illegally tethering which slows down the network for everyone else, this is a non-issue for me.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      1. Tethering is not illegal. There is absolutely no law against tethering. Tethering might be against the EULA but that is not law. For something to be illegal, there must be a law (or ordinance or something like that) passed making it illegal. Violation of a contract is a civil offense and that is not illegal. Many people make this mistake just like RIAA is making the mistake that “pirating MP3s” is theft. It is NOT theft. Theft has a very legal definition that does NOT apply here. In this case, it’s “copyright infringement” and not “theft”. Again, very easy to confuse but it takes conversations in different directions when people understand the proper use of the words but not the full context.

      2. Tethering has nothing to do with slowing down the network. The amount of data, and the rate at which you consume it, has to do with slowing down the network. In fact, I could probably have my phone consume data at a higher rate by itself than I can by tethering a laptop to my phone. The point you should have made here was that the throttling should happen to the abusers of the system that consume 25x’s the data that most people in the top 5% consume. This is probably the to 0.05%. Throttle them and you should be good since they pull ~200GB/month (and some do this with absolutely NO tethering).

      3. People who consume 2.15GB data are certainly NOT abusing the system yet they are being throttled. This is wrong and your “as long as” point is already being violated (assuming you made the correct point there) by the service provider.

  • ScottB

    I have a grandfathered unlimited plan as well and I got throttled at 2.06GB.

  • CommanderAstig

    I would never give up my unlimited data plan. They’re doing this so people that have unlimited data would switch to the new plans. I not bowing to att.

  • Dxtra

    I’ve been throttle 3 times right around 2gb-3gb mark after that data is unusable. I might be switching to Verizon when contract is up March. What’s the point of a smart phone? The point of having wireless data is to have data available at all time you telling me I have to wait to get home to connect to Wi-Fi to even watch a couple of YouTube videos. It’s pretty easy to consume 2gb of data on LTE.

    • msgnyc

      It’s pretty easy to consume 2gb of data period. Especially with everything moving to the cloud.

  • Johnathan Prochaska

    I am grandfathered into the plan and have had it for over three years now and I habitually use my phone’s data for applications and etc.

    I haven’t been throttled yet but I checked my past usage:
    November 2011: 228.8 MB
    December 2011: 164.6 MB
    January 2012: 305.1 MB

    That being said I have Wi-fi networks everywhere I go mostly (school, work locations and home). As more people switch to tiered plans the top 5% will continue to decrease so I am interested in the long term effects of this decision.

    My highest spikes were in June of last year at 5 GB and in August of last year at 2.5 GB. Hmm…

    Maybe I should switch to a lower plan.

    • Triplanetary

      Hopefully, if the usage of the top 5% decreases to a much lower level, ATT will do the right thing and stop throttling. I mean, if people’s average 3G/4G data usage is decreasing (presumably due to both tiered plans and the proliferation of wifi hotspots), then theoretically, ATT should stop having the kinds of network traffic problems they’ve been plagued with in the past. Theoretically.

  • Shawn Clark

    ….At this point, all i can say is AT&T straight robbin the shit outta people

    • Shawn Clark

      Thanks for the pointer. Happy to see i’m not the only one who sees this.

  • YesMan

    That makes no sense at all. They determine the data cap by looking at the top 5% of all their data consumers, then throttle only those on the grandfathered plan (or went over their tier limit).

    If they throttled only the top 5% of the grandfathered unlimited data users, then at least the unlimited users wouldn’t be affected by the usage of tiered users (which essentially just brings that 5% cap WAY down). I imagine that if the throttle cap were corrected this way, unlimited users would probably enjoy 2 or 3 times as much data.

  • msgnyc

    I use on average about 10gb/ month and never have been throttled until this past month.
    After using 2.1gb of data noloess.
    Then I see my brother, unthrottled on his unlimited plan in excess of over 20gb…
    How am I in the top 5% at 2.1gb while he isn’t at 20+gb???
    I don’t believe AT&T is actually throttling the top 5%. I think they are throttling whoever they want………

  • Bdigital

    Whats the point of a fast phone and unlimited plans if they limit you?

  • Rodd

    this has less to do with relieving traffic on their network & more to do with them nickle and dime’in their customers to help re-coop the billions they lost in the failed T-Mobile merger
    First the new data plans that actually make you pay more for less.
    and now they are trying to get rid of the last remaining unlimited plans without breaking the contract themselves.
    AT&T doesn’t seem to care that they are considered the worst of the big 4 mobile phone companies & their customer base is jumping ship to Verizon & Sprint because of it

  • BigCiX

    I used 2.1 gb’s and already received the email about being a top 5% user. Between the hours of 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm my internet speed struggles to load pages.

  • yankeesusa

    Its never been convinient to use att. Its only been necessary for those that require an international phone service. But now both verizon and sprint have international phones so it doesn’t matter. I will never in my life go with att. Unless they give me free service.

  • fsd717

    I too have unlimited data plan grandfathered and got throttled once and received text messenger from at&t when I went over just 2gb of data use.
    Thank goodness I have a 50% discount on my unlimited data plan or else I would consider dropping this throttled unlimited plan like a pan cake.

  • fsd717

    I totally feel everyone’s pain here…what’s the use of unlimited plan if you can’t even use it after 2gb….it’s not like everybody’s doing illegal tethering.

  • Lane Chapman

    I have used 2559 MB this month and I am not being throttled yet, or i haven’t received a text saying that I am. I only have 3G and occasionally EDGE and I tether a LOT on my computer when we are traveling. In case I am mistaken the message that I got to check said that I have used 2558.9 MB of Unlimited.

  • BigCiX

    I don’t care anymore. I will f*ck at&t over like they are f*cking me. I’ve logged on to Power 106 radio app and will continue to stream radio until their towers blow the hell up. If in getting throttled then I’m going to use as much data as possible!

    3 – 5 mins to load a webpage(if it even loads) is freaking insane!!! That’s what I’m experiencing right now!

  • d1292b

    AT&T is a shitty company overpriced. I went back to T-Mobile

    • mclarensr

      Dont they all have something or the other shitty in their own way.

  • chris

    AT&*T is not only going after the top 5% , its also going after ALL Netflix and HULU users on the unlimited plan. Netflix I can understand (isn’t Verizon going to buy it?) but why go after streaming users.

    Also, they are now permanently throttling users where history shows lots of data usage. No 5% warning, no reset at the end of the month.

    The permanently throttling might be legal, but the going after Netflix/hulu might not. Im not a lawyer but im sure the FCC would be concerned if AT&T is filtering customers and punishing them based on internet habits.

    • BigCiX

      I agree. I have slow speeds throughout the whole month. Even when my billing cycle restarts. Yet my wife who rarely uses data has blazing speeds on her iphony 4.

      • Kbear

        Not only did effing ATT throttle me. They turned off my data! I have been on the phone with customer service twice now. Asked me to check my settings. Go to tethering and portable hotspots. Is it turned on? Twice told me to reboot my phone. No joy. Still cant send MMS or go online. Browser says data is turned off. Ugh. A-holes.

    • ET

      Data is data. Netflix, email, streaming audio, checking stocks.

      All 0′s and 1′s. Targeting a specific app should interest the FCC.

  • dustin

    Well it finally happened! I’ve been throttled! Got the notice this morning and my bandwidth has gone from 1.5-3 Mbs. to 0.08Mbs.! How’s that for throttled? My usage reached 2GB. and the 3GB plan is the same $30 cost. Explain the advantage of being on the unlimited plan? Furthermore, if they continue to throttle the top 5%, the top tier will continue to lower in usage since it becomes useless for data after being throttled.

    I’ve been a customer since it was Pacific Bell Mobile, 15 years ago. My family bill has been $200.00+ a month for the last 4-5 years. I have had unlimited data on my phone for the last 3-4 years and have had data plans on two other phones on my plan for the last two years. I upgrade most of my devices from AT&T every year instead of every two years and this is my reward!

    I think I’m finally done with AT&T!

    • BigCiX

      Can anything be done. Literally takes forever to load a webpage.

  • Shawn

    We also have 5 smart phones with AT&T and our bill is just under $300 a month! 2 of the people have unlimited data and the rest of us 2 gb. Those of us without unlimited switch over to wifi when we get home and guess what, that is with At&T. We apparently fall under a high user for our $40 a month home Internet and they now are charging us $10 more this month for additional data. We can’t win with them. What stinks is we are all on different contact dates on this family plan. I so want to walk away from them for all of it but the amount of money invested in their equipment is ridiculous at this point. Really feel stuck. Time to at leastlook for new home Internet .

  • ericl5112

    Unlimited data is my sole tie to AT&T at this point. They kill it, and HELLO Verizon/Sprint.

  • WlfHart

    Pretty underhanded of AT&T… I hope T-Mobile doesn’t get any ideas.

  • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

    I hope this does not become a fad with the other carriers.

  • Amanda

    I used 1670.33 mb 16 days into my billing cycle and got the top 5% user text. This is bull s**t my friend has the same text but only after 5GB. and 6 days in. If he’s at 5gb before he gets throttled and I’m way behind him how am I top 5%?

  • Nathan D.

    This is why at&t is dead last in everything they do and is everything they are involved in.

  • aranea

    Ohh ATT so evil. I’ll be happy when I can leave you!

  • JB

    AT&T has declared war on its best customers. 1st month I got throttled at about 16GB. 2nd month happened at 7.8GB This month at about 5.2GB. Thottleing destroys battery life since it now takes all day to download what use to take seconds, since the throttle speed seems to be about 150 kbs (down from about 3 mbs in my case). Anybody who is thottled needs to fight this by turning off WIFI and downloading as much as possible to get the numbers back up. Oterwise it will only be a short time until everyone is throttled at under 2GB.

    • BigCiX

      Ive already used 2331 mb’s and ill be adding another 150+ at the gym tommorrow. Ill be streaming Power 106!

  • rey capetillo

    I think I’m getting throttled! Lol That sounded funny! Anyhoo I think I am getting throttled around the seven or eight gb, and I do about 10 or 11 gb per month. Im on Verizon unlimited data!!!!! Itt just slows down to the point where it just stays there loading the web page!

  • Kbear

    Not only did effing ATT throttle me. They turned off my data! I have been on the phone with customer service twice now. Asked me to check my settings. Go to tethering and portable hotspots. Is it turned on? Twice told me to reboot my phone. No joy. Still cant send MMS or go online. Browser says data is turned off. Ugh. A-holes.