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Study: AT&T Throttling of Unlimited Makes No Practical Sense
Confirms Carrier is Simply Pushing Those Users to Tiered Plans
by Karl Bode 08:34AM Friday Feb 24 2012 Tipped by thegeek See Profile
Last week we noted that AT&T has been waging a quiet war on those "unlimited" users they grandfathered in 2010 when the company ditched unlimited data for new users. Not only is AT&T automatically putting those users on tiered data plans should they jailbreak their phones and tether unofficially (totally legal, for now), they've started throttling those users after 2 GB to quietly force them to tiered data plans. A new study by the folks at Validas studied 55,000 cell phone bills and confirmed what we already knew -- AT&T's decision to throttle the top 5% of unlimited users is simply a way to force those users onto tiered plans:
quote:
Click for full size
When we look at the Top 5% of data users, there is virtually no difference in data consumption between those on unlimited and those on tiered plans—and yet the unlimited consumers are the ones at risk of getting their service turned off. So it’s curious that anyone would think the throttling here represents a serious effort at alleviating network bandwidth issues. After all, Sprint gets by fine maintaining non-throttled unlimited data to its customers.
How hard users are throttled or how low caps are usually aren't tied in any way to real world economics or network performance -- they're tied to executive desire for improved quarterly earnings. By making wireless data ever-more precious and costly -- they can offset the expected SMS and voice revenue losses as everything becomes just data. Validas also found that on Verizon, unlimited users actually use less data than users on metered plans, something that runs in stark contrast to recent Cisco analysis. Verizon also throttles its heavy grandfathered unlimited users, but nowhere near as heavily as AT&T does.

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chgo_man99

join:2010-01-01
San Jose, CA

Here we go again

While I see why this is wrong for AT&T to throttle after just 2gb, the fact that they throttle traffic is not a bad idea. It helps the network. I myself noticed more consistent, improved speeds at night since they enforced it.

nothing00

join:2001-06-10
Centereach, NY

Re: Here we go again

I noticed significant degradations in connection quality and data speeds during the night and during the day since they started. Plus voice calls drop more often.

Strange.
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH
Exactly. They have the manage the network. What is wrong is how they aren't transparent. They should just blanket apply that everyone is throttled to 200kbps at 3,072MB. Simple. Transparent. Done.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3
Throttling at an arbitrary number is ridiculous on that number alone.. it's disingenuous and doesn't stand well with their product,.. now that they offer TIERED plans, that is.

If they want to start throttling users that go over a certain point that's one thing, so long as there is genuine traffic jams. But there is no need to throttle a customer that has gone over 2GB if it's 10pm at night and there is little traffic on the network.

BECAUSE of the tier plans, they've demonstrated that they clearly don't have a bottleneck.. it's just that they feel they need to be compensated for the extra data. What they are saying is that those who are on tier plans can exceed 2gb of data, at full speed, so long as they pay for it. They're clearly demonstrating with this alone that there is no need to throttle. However, if you're on an unlimited plan, they feel it's necessary to throttle you, you know, in the name of traffic management.

This is an example of having your cake and eating it too.

The fact that you're seeing improved speeds at night, I believe, is the placebo effect.. traffic tends to slow down at the end of the day when the business world turns their phones off at night and the network becomes less saturated.

I'm sorry, but if you, or anyone, is buying AT&T's version of explanation for why they are actually throttling users, then you're a fool for a client. AT&T has demonstrated over and over again that they lie.. one only has to look as far back as the Tmo merger crap. Go even further back to the days where AT&T helped bankrupt @home and also pushed comcast out of the way of the MediaOne buyout only to take all the HSI customers on the worldnet backbone and eventually dump MediaOne properties to Comcast..

AT&T has been an incredible parasite on America for as long as it's been in existence and that's never going to change.
chgo_man99

join:2010-01-01
San Jose, CA

1 edit

Re: Here we go again

Your partially right. They allow full speed after 2GB for tiered users because they KNOW they won't pay for overages. With unlimited customers that is a different story.

And I never said anywhere, they enforced throttling because of traffic management but I believe this helps network as a side effect.

Isn't today at&t, SBC or to be more specific Southwestern Bell? There is no at&t anymore, just shell and its name.

Who bought cable, At&t corp? Yeah I know there existed for a while at&t broadband (cable system) before they sold it to comcast?

btw u probably don't know how comcast is good if u don't know mediacom. Those latter guys are really awful with service.

I had to move to Iowa to work for a tech company and I noticed one odd thing about this state, is that all cable systems in the whole state are managed by this parasite. I wonder if they built this cable system there or purchased from some company(ies). They run on at&t ip backbone network.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Here we go again

I"m very well verse in most all communications operators, minus Verizon. I've worked in many of the various cable systems before the mega mergers, on various capacities. I've worked in the AT&T organization as well in various areas as well.

Of the order of my disgust, the telephone company still holds reign. I'm old enough to know better other than many of the younglings (and I'm not that old) that can be won over by a shiny smart phone and to be in the height of the cable price increases.

Telephone has always deployed anti-consumer tactics that border mafia behavior.

I don't care who you call them today, be it SBC, AT&T.. etc.. the "it's just a name and a shell" applies only when talking about the older/former company. However, no matter how much one tries to separate old from new, it can't be done. Much of the heritage and ways of a former company continue to follow through to the new.

Comcast up in this area, for the longest time, still followed the ways of former AT&T Broadband and MediaOne. It took YEARS of Comcast corporate to flush out the old and bring int he new. This is true for the likes of SBC, AT&T, Pacific/Nevada Bell, etc. especially when many of the players are the same.

And yes, the former AT&T had purchased up a lot of cable systems in hope to get all those customer on the att net backbone only to wind up with them under their network and shed the physical system. I can't believe they'd go through that much trouble to get a customer base... and that the regulators didn't see that. In the end it backfired on them as AT&T was on it's way to the grave.

But, for all purposes, SBC is gone.. it's now AT&T.. if one tried to keep up with who is who these days and where AT&T remains, you'd go ma'ad.. have you not seen the AT&T Humpty Dumpty map before? .. where AT&T started.. fell and split up, and came back together again? ... while it only shows the path of telephone, it needs to also show it's hand in the cable business because it's all over there too.

SBC and all that it is made up is so diluted these days that it doesn't matter who they call themselves.. as today it's called AT&T.. so that's who we're talking about. I won't call them SBC because SBC doesn't exist.. the only time I'll refer to a company by it's former name is when I'm referring to something that happened in the past. SBC no longer exists.. AT&T does. Now ask yourself, is it AT&T? AT&T Corporation? or AT&T Incorporated.. they are all different companies dba AT&T.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3
said by chgo_man99:

Your partially right. They allow full speed after 2GB for tiered users because they KNOW they won't pay for overages. With unlimited customers that is a different story.

That's not true.. you can't say what AT&T is thinking.. nor what they are seeing.. I'm sure there are in fact people paying overages.. I used to pay $49 a month for 5gb of data.. with their tier plans, it's about the same price.

Hint: not everyone buys or thinks on the cheap.. there are still some that see things differently. I'd be a guessing man to think that most of the casual users will not want to pay overages, so in THAT case, again as a betting man, I'd say you're correct.. but it won't stop everyone.

And I never said anywhere, they enforced throttling because of traffic management but I believe this helps network as a side effect.

Same thing.

btw u probably don't know how comcast is good if u don't know mediacom. Those latter guys are really awful with service.

I have interests in Iowa and they're connected to MediaCrap... believe me, I tend to utilize other providers when at all possible.

I had to move to Iowa to work for a tech company and I noticed one odd thing about this state, is that all cable systems in the whole state are managed by this parasite. I wonder if they built this cable system there or purchased from some company(ies). They run on at&t ip backbone network.

That's interesting because I've found that there is more telephone coverage (at least on the northern side) than there is cable when it comes to internet.. that is with the co-ops going on the north side of DSM.. But I agree with you that MC tends dominates the state.
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH
The point is that charging overages incents most users to not go over, and thus, manages the aggregate network traffic. However, neither system is fair, so what they should do is offer everyone $30/Unlimited* with a specified throttle point and throttle speed, and then offer the option to enable full-speed overage charges through OLAM, or by texting the user when they hit the cap.

fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

Jailbreaking is legal, but...

The carrier is 100% free to make it against your terms of service.

The carrier can shut off or change your service or brick your phone for it but what Apple can't do is prosecute you or sue you.

ptrowski
Got Helix?
Premium
join:2005-03-14
Putnam, CT
kudos:4

Re: Jailbreaking is legal, but...

I highly doubt they can brick my phone.

grydlok

join:2004-01-06
Richmond, VA
They can't brick your phone. Do you even know what that means?

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Evanston, IL
said by fifty nine:

The carrier can ... brick your phone for it ...

exactly how can AT&T do this?

Rambo76098

join:2003-02-21
Columbus, OH
It's not against the TOS unless you tether.

It does however void the device warranty.

djdanska
Rudie32
Premium,MVM
join:2001-04-21
San Diego, CA
kudos:4

Re: Jailbreaking is legal, but...

I was under the assumption AT&T automatically changed your data plan to a tiered plan when you jailbreak tether.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

How representative is Validas data?

The question that needs to be asked is how representative of typical users is the Validas data. They get their info by examining the cell phone bills of their clients - BUSINESSES that hire them to examine the bills and look for billing errors by the cellphone companies. So their analysis of unlimited vs tiered plans would be debatable since video viewing abuse would be much less in the sample studied as these users would be using business supplied cellphones.

»blog.validas.com/about/
--
The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
»www.politico.com/2012-election/


pnh102
Reptiles Are Cuddly And Pretty
Premium
join:2002-05-02
Mount Airy, MD

Of Course It Makes No Practical Sense

But when government allowed for rampant consolidation in the cell phone industry to reduce the number of major national carriers to 2, this is what happens.

I'm glad the T-Mobile merger did not go through, but given how T-Mobile took a major financial hit, we might feel the negative effects of the merger anyway.
--
"Net Neutrality" zealots - the people you can thank for your capped Internet service.

pjcamp

@datafoundry.com

If you have to go to a tiered plan anyway

you might as well choose a less evil company.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

Re: If you have to go to a tiered plan anyway

which one would that be?
en103

join:2011-05-02

Re: If you have to go to a tiered plan anyway

Probably T-Mobile.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

I was with AT&T since the release of the iPhone 1

and I left them the minute they sent me the garbage "Top 5%" text.

The idea that I was using "Top 5%" at or near 2.5gb is a joke and even if I was, why I am being threatened at just 2.5gb is....well, is laughable, especially with higher plans available for tiered customers.

I mean, the insanity of this is how we got unlimited plans...which clearly states what the plans offer data wise...and yet now the big phone companies have someone made "unlimited" into "limited" which...defies the basic premise behind what each word means.

Just insane to me

SysOp

join:2001-04-18
Douglasville, GA
Reviews:
·MetroPCS

So your 2 year agreement is up?

I figure once your 2 year agreement is up, both parties can change their terms, definitions and condititions. You may cancel at any time.

Cue the carrier defined definition of unlimited vs your defined definition of unlimited argument in 5..4..3..2..1

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

Some throttling ok.

2 GB is joke though. I can see where someone is trying to tether their phone to thier PC and use that as a internet connection they can't have millions of customers potentially using hundreds of GB each per month. Maybe throttle after 20 GB not 2 GB.

Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:1

Re: Some throttling ok.

I would even be ok with throttling at 3Gb. (or whatever the highest level limited tier happens to be at the time) Users on limited plans pay more to continue using full speed beyond that, users on unlimited plans can be throttled after that.

But at 2Gb, it is just evil.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Some throttling ok.

I have no problem throttling any user so long as the towers are currently reporting congestion.. If there is no congestion and the towers can handle the user, I could care less if 10gb has been transferred in that month, so long as if you're on an unlimited plan.

They shape traffic for one of two reasons...

1) To manipulate revenue.
2) To manage network efficiency.

In the case of the unlimited people getting throttled at 2gb, they're throttling in order to manipulate revenue. You can't throttle a user at 3am when there is no congestion because they've used more than 2gb in a billing period in the name of network management/efficiency.. there simply is no need.

I believe that even comcast ultimately wound up with a throttling model of only when there was a need..

What's horrible about this is that there are people that are buying into AT&T's B.S....(and the rest's)

Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:1
»apnews.myway.com//article/201202···H00.html

Well this certainly sounds promising.

IPPlanMan
Holy Cable Modem Batman

join:2000-09-20
Washington, DC
kudos:1

1 recommendation

No kidding...

In other news, the earth is round.

Here's a more useful study....

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMO8Pyi3UpY

djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO

I'd be fine with a tiered plan...

*IF* they allow me to use the gigs I've purchased however I want (read: free tethering). I absolutely refuse to pay for a fixed sum of data twice. It'd be like your DSL/cable provider trying to charge more if you attached a router. I recall Comcast trying to ban routers back in the day, and it failing spectacularly.

-- Rob
--
AT&T U-Hearse - RIP Unlimited Internet 1995-2011
Rethink Billable.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

Re: I'd be fine with a tiered plan...

said by djrobx:

*IF* they allow me to use the gigs I've purchased however I want (read: free tethering). I absolutely refuse to pay for a fixed sum of data twice. It'd be like your DSL/cable provider trying to charge more if you attached a router. I recall Comcast trying to ban routers back in the day, and it failing spectacularly.

-- Rob

Tiered plans aren't selling you a fixed sum of data. They're selling you a ceiling, which they can offer based on statistical averages for consumption, which do not including tethering.

I don't want to pay MORE for a fixed sum of data if I'm only using a "smart" phone, just because you want to be able to tether.
desarollo

join:2011-10-01
Monroe, MI

Re: I'd be fine with a tiered plan...

A ceiling, as in a limit approaching 2 gigabytes of data? Sure sounds like a fixed sum of data to me.

The concept that you should pay more because someone tethers is ridiculous. It costs no more to transfer data to a smart phone as it does to transfer it to a smart phone that then passes it to a computer. They charge more because they can, not because it costs them more.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

Re: I'd be fine with a tiered plan...

said by desarollo:

A ceiling, as in a limit approaching 2 gigabytes of data? Sure sounds like a fixed sum of data to me.

The concept that you should pay more because someone tethers is ridiculous. It costs no more to transfer data to a smart phone as it does to transfer it to a smart phone that then passes it to a computer. They charge more because they can, not because it costs them more.

Correct. It doesn't cost them more, for the same amount of data transferred.
But the tethering user consumes significantly more than the smart phone user.

I do agree that it seems in poor taste to surcharge tethering on a tiered plan, and carriers would be wise to cease the behavior - but there IS justification for it.

Plan limits and network management policies have to work across a broad range of towers, users, and those who pay the bill (Mom), and they have to be easily understood.

Any carrier that tries to err on the side of generosity, will quickly learn the adage "No good deed goes unpunished", as previously-unrestricted users find their service slows, whether due to throttling or congestion.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3
When you say "2GB included".. that's a bucket o data.. and to make this more clear, that's what they're all talking about anyway.

I'm sorry but I'm all for private business having the right to set their own plans, but they have to be honest and transparent when doing so.

If I'm on a tiered plan and it says "2gb of data use" then it shouldn't matter to them if I'm using it on my phone, or if I connect an iPad to it or my laptop even. When I hit 2gb, I know that I'm going to start a running meter.

This is no different than when you buy the 500 minute long distance calling plans or 450 minute anytime minute plans. The data that you don't use under your plan tier only makes the data you use more expensive since it's a use it or lose it plan. This method has always been popular among telephone companies over the years.

They'd rather you buy a plan for your phone, for your tablet, and for your laptop.. each one gives them a base rate and they hope you will shy under your cap so they can bill for 2gb when you're likely to use 1gb. If you connected multiple devices to your smart phone and used 4gb of data (2gb of overage billing) over 3 devices, it's less profitable than to have 3 devices on 2gb plans with base rates.

The day is going to come where they have to admit and fess up to the fact that they are in fact selling you an amount of data, period.

On Smart phones, they realize that users use less data traditionally. Smart phones always priced out less for data over that of a laptop card which priced out higher AND included more data. If this still holds true, which it doesn't really, then smart phones should be priced out less because, you know, cellular data should consume less. The fact is that smart phones can consume as much as true mobile use of a laptop. Therefore, it should be priced the same and it shouldn't matter if I use a laptop, tablet, or the phone itself.. I'm buying 2gb of data.. period.. right? I don't think they've specifically stated "smart phone data" on the plan.. they say "data"...

They can't create policy in advertising alone.. they need to be more clear about what it is they are selling.
en103

join:2011-05-02
Yeah - its a slippery slope.

nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
Reviews:
·Charter
·voip.ms
·surpasshosting
You bring up an interesting point. AT&T lost a similar case for wireline (see Carterphone).
I see their treatment of data use / tethering to be a similar violation of the law.
They also lost on the 1984 divestiture ruling. That removed customer equipment from the rate base.
Although the 1984 divestiture was essentially a huge waste of time and money, it did liberate CPE.
I also see their wireless speed / data limits as an effort to stave off competition from VoIP and other services which use the data connection to directly compete with AT&T's vertical service offerings (a violation of the Sherman Act).
Since all of the wireless companies behave in this manner, to some extent, it's difficult to believe that collusion isn't involved either.
--
...because I care.
en103

join:2011-05-02
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

When your phone becomes an iPod with the option of dialing

There's no sense in having an iPhone

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Re: When your phone becomes an iPod with the option of dialing

Hmm.. Might as well have a pocket server since you can upload faster than you can download.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Class Action Time!

Oh wait! They have forced arbitration. DAMN!
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Class Action Time!

You don't need class action.. you need to put pressure on your congress critters to enact better laws in which providers must live by...

Morac
Cat god

join:2001-08-30
Riverside, NJ
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

You might want to look up the definition of "contrast"

quote:
Validas also found that on Verizon, unlimited users actually use less data than users on metered plans, something that runs in stark contrast to recent Cisco analysis.
Both Validas and Cisco found that metered users use more data that unlimited users. As such rather than there being a "stark contrast" between the two studies, they actually agree.
--
The Comcast Disney Avatar has been retired.

JohnInSJ
Premium
join:2003-09-22
San Jose, CA

but does it make... business sense?

You know, for profit companies, and their endless attempts to make profits. They suck.

Personally, I think the easy way to end the whining - just sunset the damn unlimited plans, and get it over with.
--
My place : »www.schettino.us

•••

mmay149q
Premium
join:2009-03-05
Dallas, TX
kudos:48

Verizon throttling?

"Verizon also throttles its heavy grandfathered unlimited users, but nowhere near as heavily as AT&T does."

I thought one of the perks of being a 4G LTE consumer with Verizon (grandfathered on unlimited) is that you don't get throttled period for going to 4G, since when did they change this?

Will I be affected by Network Optimization?
Only a small percent of customers will be affected. To be affected, you must be:

A data customer on an unlimited data plan;
Have a 3G Verizon Wireless device (if you have a 4G LTE device you will not be impacted); and
Among the top 5% of data users in a given month.

Source pulled from Verizon's own website here.
»support.verizonwireless.com/info···ure.html

Matt
--
I am no longer an AT&T Employee. Check out my kudos! »/profile/1626573
Have U-verse questions? Please email uversecare@att.com and they will assist you!!
slckusr
Premium
join:2003-03-17
Greenville, SC
kudos:1

Re: Verizon throttling?

I use 3-5gb on my verizon phone with grandfathered unlimited data monthly and have yet to be throttled

mmay149q
Premium
join:2009-03-05
Dallas, TX
kudos:48

Re: Verizon throttling?

Yeah I used between 10 - 30GB and have yet to be throttled as well, so idk.

Matt

dvd536
as Mr. Pink as they come
Premium
join:2001-04-27
Phoenix, AZ
kudos:4

Ya think

pretty much makes your phone unusable[except to make voice calls(assuming you don't drop calls on a regular basis)]