Everybody's least favorite wireless carrier isn't afraid of anyone. It does whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Now AT&T it's telling existing unlimited data plan users to kiss its orbicular butt as it introduces new rules that'll effectively slow down data usage.
The writing was on the wall. After switching to tiered data plans, it was only a matter of time before grandfathered unlimited data plans would become limited too. Well, sort of.
AT&T's laying down the line and it goes like this: 3GB for HSPA+ and 5GB for 4G LTE. Unlimited data plan users who use more than those allotted data caps will then be throttled.
Make sure you know the difference between throttled and capped. If you're capped, extra data used over your plan is charged per megabyte. If you're throttled, you'll still get to use as much data as you want, but once you pass those new data ceilings, your speed will become slower and slower until your monthly billing cycle ends.
Here's the full breakdown as stated on AT&T's website:
You'll receive a text message when your usage approaches 3GB in one billing cycle.
Each time you use 3GB or more in a billing cycle, your data speeds will be reduced for the rest of that billing cycle and then go back to normal.
The next time you exceed that usage level, your speeds will be reduced without another text message reminder.
If you have a 4G LTE smartphone and still have an unlimited data plan, the same process applies at 5GB of data usage, instead of 3GB.
You'll still be able to use as much data as you want. That won't change. Only your data throughput speed will change if you use 3GB or more in one billing cycle on a 3G or 4G smartphone or 5GB or more on a 4G LTE smartphone.
The new rules come days after Matt Spaccarelli, an AT&T iPhone customer noticed his unlimited data plan was being throttled (slowed down to the point of near unresponsiveness) sued AT&T and won. Likely to prevent mass lawsuits, AT&T's gone and clarified its so called "unlimited data plans."
If you're grandfathered into an unlimited data plan, you won't be happy to hear this. If you're on T-Mobile or Verizon and have "unlimited data plans" this won't surprise you as both carriers have their own data caps and throttling terms too.
My advice to prevent data throttling is to switch to Wi-Fi whenever possible — when you're streaming video, when you're at home, when you're at Starbucks — wherever you can.
This is just the latest in AT&T craziness. Don't expect things to get any better as the demand for data grows.
Currently, Sprint is the only network to have "true unlimited data." Better enjoy it while it lasts, because it's not likely to last very long the way we're headed.