AT&T has confirmed that it is throttling subscribers under its unlimited data plans, no matter how congested the network is.
As reported by Ars Technica, subscribers who are using non-LTE 3G/HSPA+ handsets and are under unlimited data plans only get throttled when network congestion becomes heavy, and when the users exceed 3 gigabytes of data within a single billing period. But apparently, these same conditions do not apply to customers on LTE.
If a subscriber is under, say, a legacy AT&T unlimited plan and uses up more than 5 gigabytes of data on an LTE-compatible handset in a span of a month, the subscriber's data speeds will automatically be reduced for the remainder of the billing period, even if the network remains free of congestion.
Ars Technica further reported that data speeds slowed down from 23.5 mbps on average to just 0.1 mbps. When the subscriber's billing period is reset, only then are the data speeds returned to their normal levels. However, once the subscriber reaches 5 gigabytes, data speeds are automatically reduced again.
For its part, AT&T issued a statement defending its network management practices as legitimate. The carrier claims that the throttling was put in place in order to provide optimum network service for its subscribers.
AT&T further added that it is planning to address the data throttling concerns between its LTE and non-LTE unlimited subscribers sometime next year. The carrier says that it will be reducing data speeds for LTE users in congested networks as soon as that option is made available.
AT&T may be claiming that it is throttling data speeds for the benefit of all customers using its networks. But others see the throttling as a ploy to lead on long-term customers to more lucrative limited data plans. This tactic has been employed before, namely by Sprint for its Unlimited My Way and My All-In plans. Even Verizon Wireless thought of doing the same thing, but then the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped in and pressured Big Red to reverse its decision.
Right now, fewer than 20 percent of all AT&T customers are under unlimited data plans. Those that are signed up for the plans because they were thinking they could stream and download without having to worry about high overage fees if they exceed their data allotments. But it appears that they are getting throttled anyway, rendering their data privileges useless.
As for the network congestion claims, some may find it hard to believe, especially when the subscribers who are under more expensive data plans (up to 100 gigabytes each month) never get to experience throttled data speeds.
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