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AT&T On Data Throttling: Blame Yourselves 406

zacharye writes in with a story about Senior EVP of AT&T technology and network operations John Donovan's blog post detailing why customers with unlimited smartphone plans are getting throttled. "In an effort to justify its policies surrounding data service throttling for subscribers with unlimited smartphone data plans, AT&T on Tuesday issued a brief report regarding data usage on its nationwide wireless network. Senior EVP of AT&T technology and network operations John Donovan wrote on a company blog that data traffic on AT&T's network has grown a staggering 20,000% over the past five years. Usage has doubled between 2010 and 2011 according to the executive, due in large part to the proliferation of smartphones. AT&T sold more smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in any other quarter in its history. And because its smartphone subscribers use so much data, AT&T seems to suggest it has no choice but to put measures such as data throttling in place."
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AT&T On Data Throttling: Blame Yourselves

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  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:02PM (#39047979)

    Virgin Mobile (my provider) recently announced your speed will be throttled to 350kbps once you've downloaded 2.5GB for that billing month. Once the end of the month comes, or if you pay your next bill early, the cap is lifted. I still consider this to be "Unlimited" because I associate the word with how much you're allowed to download - that is, there's no extra charge for going over the "cap". I like Virgin Mobile, although their coverage could be better - but none of the carriers have good coverage in New York.

    Sure, you can argue there's technically a cap because you can only download X gigabytes over the course of Y hours when limited to Z speeds, but this is the case on any sort of infrastructure, including roads and pipelines.

  • Sprint.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by JDAustin ( 468180 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:03PM (#39048003)

    And this is one of the reasons why I stay with Sprint. Yea, they have a a more limited coverage and WiMax is slower then LTE but their unlimited data plans are truly unlimited.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:06PM (#39048039)
    It does happen, it just happens exceptionally rarely. The airlines have elaborate models they can use to minimise the chance, but they can't eliminate it entirely.
  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:09PM (#39048089) Homepage Journal
    As somebody that had an unlimited data plan for a couple years.. AT&T already has this down. My unlimited data plan on my iPad, with a solid 3G connection, struggled to pull down data fast enough to pull down a simple web page or email. So when are they going to refund money to people with unlimited plans that didn't get what they paid for?
  • by gorzek ( 647352 ) <> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#39048239) Homepage Journal

    SMS doesn't technically take any additional airtime at all: the messages are sent via the control channel required to keep your phone "alive" to nearby cells in the first place--the marginal cost of a text message is zero, since the data is going to be used regardless. Charging extra for SMS is nothing but a naked money grab.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:22PM (#39048313)

    Astronomical margins, barely takes any airtime.

    Takes NO airtime. SMS are sent over the control channel which your cell phone is talking to every now and then anyway to know which towers to use. And because the messages are so short, there really is no overhead.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:32PM (#39048463)

    AT&T has the second-best thing: SMS.

    The funny thing is - they used to.

    With iOS5, any iPhone owner who sends an SMS to another iPhone owner actually sends it through Apple, not over SMS! So suddenly the vast numbers of iPhones they are selling mean a dramatic drop in SMS revenue.

    It makes you wonder if that's why the sudden squeeze in other areas, as they need to adjust for making less money from the same customer base.

  • Re:Throttle sales (Score:4, Informative)

    by TemporalBeing ( 803363 ) <> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:21PM (#39049441) Homepage Journal

    So let them have the cheaper plans if they want.

    You mean give the customer what they want? Seriously, I would love to have a Wifi-only Smartphone that can't access a 3G Data network. Though, FFS, $30/month for a data plan ought to be enough for them to beef up their goddamned network. Where is all that money going?

    Hint: Join the Android Developer Community ( and then buy a Developer Phone at full price.

    I have a Nexus One that I got a full price, outside of AT&T, without a contract, and simply moved my SIM card over from my previous 2G phone. I even went into AT&T and got them to replace the 2G SIM card with a 3G SIM card. I have no data plan, and have disabled the (Celluar) Data Network access on the phone, so I only get data via WiFi.

    Disclaimer: I've heard some here on /. do the same only to have AT&T force them into a data plan. However, I don't know if they did everything I did - e.g. turning off the Data Network access, etc; which I did pretty much immediately after getting the phone. Still, it can be done.

  • Re:Throttle sales (Score:5, Informative)

    by puto ( 533470 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:29PM (#39049661) Homepage
    I work for ATT and none of us are happy with the decision. As to your phone. What is going to happen is once every couple of months our systems match imeis on file, to the imei actually in your phone, and when it does a data plan will be added automagically to your account.
  • by EvilBudMan ( 588716 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:46PM (#39050079) Journal

    Damn I have mod points but I want to reply. I have the 2 gig plan and AT&T throttles this app called "Wireless Tether". So basically you are paying extra to AT&T for that privilege. I think data should be data. I don't care to pay for it but I don't want to be raped either. I normally don't even get close to 2GB and get throttled but hey they wont kick me off because they are getting money.

  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @07:35PM (#39053147)

    Why not:

    Because when I book a flight I do so, in some part, based on the current seating availability. That's if I have flexibility in deciding when to fly. I'll take a later flight if it is currently emptier, and I've absolutely refused to book a flight where there are no aisle or window seats left. Your system keeps me from knowing any of that until after I've paid for the ticket.

    People booking later pay more.

    That already happens.

    If there are any open seats, sell them 12 hours before the flight. No cancellation policy, prices drop and drop until all the seats are filled.

    There is a price point where the airlines will lose money by doing this. Your weight uses fuel, which costs money. In addition, you'll simply create confusion and problems for those who wait until the last minute specifically to get good deals, and then wind up with no seat at all because they were too late. That is, of course, their problem, but it does impact the business of the airline.

    With all the time saved from not having to do the "We are now looking for volunteers to not get on the plane" dance,

    Which is essentially zero. I've never been on an airplane that was delayed by overbooking. The airline knows well before the departure that they're in an overbooked state and can (and do) ask well in advance of departure for the volunteers. Sometimes they ask for volunteers and then it turns out they aren't overbooked, so they tell the volunteers to get on the plane as normal. Any volunteers that are used are dealt with after the doors close, not causing any delay of the plane. At least that's how United does it. If other airlines do it by delaying departure, they are creating the problem for themselves and they're stupid.

BLISS is ignorance.