Customers that are still on AT&T’s unlimited data plan may soon see some of their grandfathered privileges revoked, as AT&T will reportedly begin throttling data hogs on its network come October.

Verizon has already started throttling ‘unlimited’ data customers, and AT&T looks to be adopting the same practice— all in time for the iPhone 5’s launch in September. AT&T will be implementing this throttling to help speed up its slow 3G network that has plagued iPhone users for years.

9to5Mac has learned this news, and the site believes that this new AT&T policy could be put in place as early as the first week of October. Here’s how the throttling system will work:

“The heaviest users will see significant speed decreases for one billing cycle once they go over a threshold of data (we’re guessing 2-4GB?).  These heavy users will still be able to access the network, but at a much slower speed.  At the start of the next billing cycle, their speeds will return to normal.  We don’t have numbers for AT&T’s throttle speeds but Virgin takes you down to 256Kb/s once you’ve reached their 2.5GB limit (not too bad actually – sometimes we’re happy to get 256kbs).  Interestingly, Virgin’s throttle also will also be implemented in the first week of October which may indicate that they’ll be carrying a certain high profile mobile device as well.”

Since 2007, the iPhone has seen a staggering 8,000% increase in mobile data traffic. With Apple touting iCloud and plenty of 3G streaming services out there (Netflix, Pandora, Slingbox, etc.), carriers have the looming task of building up the infrastructure to support smartphones like the iPhone that relying heavily on a solid data connection.

Throttling, if done properly, could actually help improve speeds for the rest of us, while the data hogs would have to pay the price. Think about if there was a guy on your street that was torrenting gigabytes of media every night— you would want your ISP to be able to slow down his bandwidth speeds so you could have your fair share. The same rule applies here.

9to5Mac actually has some details on how AT&T will implement its throttling procedure:

“We’ve heard that, just like tiers before them, throttling of data will not effect 95% of the subscriber base. In fact, that top 5% of users using the most data account for approximately 30% of the bandwidth. There is no defined GB amount that is known yet that will put someone in the top 5%, but we’ve been told that 12,000 emails, 12,000 website views, 4 streaming movies and 5 hours of streaming music will start to put you close to that upper range of usage.”

4G data speeds are a whole other issue, and hopefully AT&T and other carriers will be able to effectively implement the LTE/HSPA+ technology needed to fuel the data for 4G smartphones that are starting to hit the market. Apple isn’t expected to release an iPhone with 4G speeds until at least 2012.

What do you think about this news that AT&T will start throttling unlimited data plans? Do you see it as a good thing, or something harmful?

  • boscotherock

    definitely a good idea. even though I still have an unlimited data plan, i think they should have some sort of control over it. maybe at some point ill be able to check my facebook without having to wait 6 years to see a notification.

    • Jeff

      If it takes that long to see a notification on fb you shouldn’t use AT&T where u live. But you’re right. It is a good idea,,,, for AT&T you dip shit. Wtf is wrong with you? Unlimited means unlimited! Not ummmmm, limited..

  • Unanimous

    “Think about if there was a guy on your street that was torrenting gigabytes of media every night— you would want your ISP to be able to slow down his bandwidth speeds so you could have your fair share. The same rule applies here.”
    I don’t agree with this statement…the guy torrenting is also a paying customer is using the same service as the rest of the street. Unless outlined in the user agreement, he has every right to be hogging up the bandwidth. So does the person complaining have the right to use the bandwidth…I hate companies like ATT who charge 30 dollars a month, then change the plan and still charge the same amount…it’s unethical

  • Rod

    I think its f’ken bullshyt unlimited should be unlimited they need to upgrade their network If I can get out of my contract I’m takin my iPhones talents to Big Red aka Verizon…

    • Chris

      Dumb ass Verizon has already started throttling with there unlimited plans.

  • God

    Lmfao, I don’t care, cut down my usage and I promise I’ll still tape 15gbs a month, TRY ME ATT!!!!

    • God

      Correction usage “bandwidth”

      • James

        By the time you get close to 15 gigs they will probably gave you throttled down to the speed of a 56k modem. It’ll take a couple of month to get to 15 gigs!

  • claysm

    I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, since you can find wifi about every 10 feet these days. Even the Krystal down the street from my house has wifi. Admittedly, I do live in Orlando.

    • soccerkrzy

      Yes, because I love connecting my secure device to a public wi-fi network where someone can sniff the packets and see my business.

      My phone has never connected to a wi-fi network and never will.

      • Hi

        Pus-E

      • claysm

        Well if you’re that paranoid about it, keep using slow 3G and never connect to a network.

    • Jeff

      You don’t think it’s a big deal? Say you called up AT&T and said “yo bitches, I need to cut down on my cost. I’m paying half my bill from now on and I don’t care what you think.” I’m pretty sure AT&T would think that was a big deal and tell you to get fucked. Why would you let them butt fuck you? Or do you like getting fucked?

  • ic0edx

    T-Mobile has a similar system in place. Evan dog they offer unlimited data when you go over a certain limit they slow down your data speed.

  • soccerkrzy

    Fuck AT&T, I knew I should’ve switched to Verizon while I could’ve had an unlimited data plan.

    They better post their limited speeds and be open about it. This is more bullshit than them hunting out those who tether on their unlimited plans.

  • Anonymous

    It’s pretty easy using a VPN on the iPhone which will get you past site restrictions form public wifi which is faster than 3G anyway.

  • Coach

    This is some bullshit. How in the hell can they do that. Ive been with AT&T since the first iPhone. Straight bs.

  • tomjones

    you idiots talking about going to verizon clearly failed at reading comprehension. Verizon has openly admitted to throttling bandwith from day 1 of the iphone launch, its in the contract, the contract also states they can shut off your data for an entire billing cycle if you use to much. Oh yeah all while not being able to use all the features of the phone, aka talking and data at the same time. please go to verizon and make ATT’s network better for the rest of the people that dont stomp there feet and pout everytime something doesnt go the way they want

    • Dracossaint

      Truth ^^^

    • soccerkrzy

      I assume you’re referring to me as an idiot. Well dipshit, I meant get locked into Verizon’s unlimited data because a throttled Verizon LTE speed will still be faster than a fullspeed 3G+ of AT&T (let alone a throttle AT&T speed).

      Are you that stupid that you believe Verizon cannot just shut off the data portion of your phone but has to shut down your entire phone? I suppose you are; regardless, Verizon wouldn’t turn off your data for the billing cycle unless if you were doing something to violate their ToS (not just using a lot of bandwidth). FYI, AT&T’s contract also states they can turn off your data at any point without authorization, it’s in every provider’s contract.

      Oh, and Verizon’s LTE allows you to talk and use data at the same time…I feel you have failed at reading comprehension.

      • tomjones

        it was a cumulative case of idiocracy. if you wanna take it personally you still fail. I am sure that you are gonna give up your iphone for this as well because we all know how awesome iphones work on verizon LTE. Jesus people are dumb.

  • Takean

    Well, I for one agree with most here. It won’t bother me yoo much since 3G sucks anyway. But to change the contract seems dirty. I mean, why can’t I change the contract to something I personally want without their say-so. It’s all bs. But it also means that soon something will evolve from this. This is similar to how long distance on land lines were done. Things got a little crazy before it was super cheap/free.

    • Dane

      Who cares 3G sucks. I can get wifi at my house, my gf’s, my parents, most of my friends, at work and at school. 3G is ancient tech w slow ass data speeds. idk why you would handicap your device by using it

      • takean

        I agree..however, i use 3g only when on the go. The point is though that it doesn’t seem right to change the rules for customers signed up already…when it cannot work the other way around. Thats the problem. I’m fine if they want to change the rules…but we should have a say so in the matter and not just, “if you don’t like it then leave”. If they are going to change the contract, then as customers we should be allowed to leave the contract without any penalty. Because basically they are voiding the contract.

        In all fairness though instead of penalizing the customer, why not step up and build up your infrastructure. They have seen the usage data now for years and how it is increasing…smartphones are becoming more popular…nothing new there….so why not plan ahead a little, instead of cutting back. Its common sense. What we are seeing is really a lack of planning and so they want to shift the burden off to customers.

  • Drummerlinn

    Somebody needs a diaper change

  • The Wizard’s Baker

    Fuck

  • Deathstar
  • Deathstar

    If you have an unlimited smartphone data plan you are screwed. You will get throttled unless you get tiered plan of $15 200mb, $25 2GB or $45 4GB and agree to pay the over costs

  • Jay

    Top 5% is LESS than 2GB, as AT&T has already said that 98% of is customers use less than 2GB (65% use less than 200 MB) so my bet is on ~1GB as a cap… We’re screwed.

    • Skewed Is Right!

      Thanks for those guestimate figures. Stupid ATTs endless FAQs at their site dance around the issue, not giving a specific guestimate answer.

      My last bill said 4.05 gig approx. & I’m no nerd geek teenager but an “old lady” w/a disability who was thrilled to discover iphone in 2009 when I couldn’t sit up with the laptop on top of me anymore (so since 2009 I’m leaning on left elbow holding iphone w/left hand & do all blogging, surfing, researching, email, typing w/right hand). No big uploads, no constant streaming, etc. Just websites/blogs/ RSS Feeds & all emails are set to Manual, no Fetch nor Push, yet I still rack up 3-6gig per month!)

      I guess it’s time to switch to a netbook & plug back in to landline internet. :-/

      Skew ATT! This bait & switch should be illegal!

  • Jacob Nørgaard

    Man, you americans are getting screwed over. Here in Denmark I pay $34 per month for unlimited SMS and MMS, 10 hours of talk time and 10GB data. 3G speeds are usually between 2 and 6Mbit/s, and coverage is good. For as little as $20 you can get 5 hours talk time, 5GB data and unlimited SMS+MMS. Heck for $12 you get 2 hours talk time, unlimited SMS and MMS + 1GB data. Same download speeds.

    • Jeff

      Haha, I might move. America is all fucked up anyways.

    • RedWhiteBlue

      You pay almost twice what we do for gas!!!! I’ll take the cell phone plan we have……

  • Jusjammin

    Yeah they’re screwing us harder everyday here in the USA! It’s because most people here happily bend over and take it. So brainwashed are some that they actually think it’s arrogant and unfair to voice any dissatisfaction with the poor struggling corporation. ‘Unlimited’ customers aren’t really impacting network speeds. There is no justifiable reason for AT&T to alter previous “agreements”. It’s just that they interfere with corporate plans to unfairly milk us for every penny they can get away with! Have u guys not seen the huge profits they report every quarter? They do not need to charge as much or limit usage as they do. The claim that “normal or average” users are getting cheated by the others is propaganda. Greedy sloths!

  • Jeff

    Let me get this strait, I’m paying $130 a month for an unlimited plan that I use to it’s fullest because thats what I signed up for. and because they sold 9million iPhones and their shitty network can’t keep up I’M going to be punished? I believe this is a breach of contract and I will cancel my service with out a cancelation fee and unlock it. AT&T can suck my DICK

  • Tyler

    I’m upgrading in a week. I’ve got the iPhone 3G, not the 3GS, but the 3G. I’m getting a iPhone 4. I’m also grandfathered in to the Unlimited data plan. This is bullspit. I’m paying for the unlimited, don’t screw with it. If they try to tell me I have to get a limited data plan, yeah… Someone will be hearing from my lawyer.

  • Rcc

    Awww! Does AT&T have to spend some of their Billions to improve their network? Gee! What will wall street say? What will their shareholders think? Seems they have a bad business plan that didn’t account for us users; as do the other telecoms. They know how to sell, they just don’t know how to provide. Now we must pay for their ignorance.

  • I think it’s. Bullshit! I pay for unlimeted data
    And that’s what it should be.I’ve really just bout had enough of these att BS story’s while they fill there pockets with our hard earned cash. You suck Att and you know you do so think about it folks.

  • Anonymous

    AT&T could suk it. They’re slowing data for unlimited user because they want people who grandfather into the unlimited to say screw then and cancel cuz they don’t want us to get unlimited LTE thats their criminal marketing stragedy. I spoke to one of their Rep. and the BS they gave me is cuz they don’t have spectrum. Resolution then why the F@#$… Me the customer have to pay for your greediness and slow my Data from now on I will rape your Data plan til the end of this month I will leave Pandora playing 24/7 all nite long and whoever had their data slow.. They should do the same let see if you like been F@#$ with..Im hitting 13Gb take that.. WE NEED TO PUT A STOP TO AT&T..
    RIDING MY UNLIMITED PLAN TILL THE END OF TIME!

  • Anonymous

    I agree we should get a price reduction. Also, there is no actual number of data usage when AT&T starts to slow your data. AT&T customer service told me it happens when you reach the top 5% in your area. The top 5% could be 2GB, 4GB or 8GB.

  • Mrox Superhero

    AT&T cut me to 56 kbs/min. I’m suing them. Unlimited plan charges the same but does not provide the service.

  • This has Nothing to do with can’t handle the data and everything to do with money!! I know people on the limited plan and there speeds are wide open!!
    Its plain bullsyt!! Liars