AT&T Mobility limits ‘unlimited’ data plans

“AT&T Inc. is effectively ending unlimited data plans, saying that it will no longer let customers use more than a set amount of data per month without penalty,” Greg Bensinger reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Under a new policy, AT&T will slow download speeds for unlimited 3G and 4G smartphone customers who exceed 3 gigabytes and 4G LTE users who exceed 5 gigabytes of data in a given month,” Bensinger reports. “AT&T had previously been slowing speeds, or throttling, customers who were in the top 5% of data users in their respective market. AT&T has been trying to manage capacity on its network in the face of heavy data consumption by Apple Inc. iPhone users and a limited supply of wireless airwaves, or spectrum.”

Bensinger reports, “A spokesman said the new guidelines were necessary because of confusion among unlimited customers over when their download speeds would be slowed. He declined to say by how much the speeds would be decreased… AT&T, and other carriers, has been pushing Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to release more licenses for wireless airwaves, or spectrum, to help stave off a capacity crunch as more customers download video, music and photos to their smartphones.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: 3 GB is the new “unlimited.”

AT&T is banking that those with “unlimited” data plans won’t take them to the only court our contracts allow (small claims court) where, as the related article below indicates, you have a reasonable chance of winning. According to The Associated Press, AT&T has about 17 million “unlimited” smartphone subscribers, most of whom use iPhones. $850 times 17 million equals $14.45 billion.

Make ’em pay.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Jack F.” and “ruben” for the heads up.]

Related article:
AT&T customer wins $850 in iPhone ‘throttling’ case – February 24, 2012


  1. When I tried to cancel my ATT contract after I had no more any obligations for it, the customer service guy was a complete asshole. He kept me on hold for about 30 minutes without doing or saying anything. Just left telling me to stay on hold. After about 40 minutes I gave up, which was exactly what he had intended. I was so furious, I called several times the next day until I found someone who was willing to cancel my account, after he tried to sell me all kind of crap plans that I was not interested in.

  2. Hello! I am American but live in Tokyo,Japan.
    AT&T and other mobile carriers are trying to stay relevant in a fast changing game.
    Emobile Japan is introducing its LTE pocket wifi/data stick service in Japan this month nationwide. All you can eat for $48 a month. No caps.

    They are the 4th largest mobile operator in Japan. I regularly use 8~12 GB a month and am happy with the 3G HSPA+ service.

    I have a simple feature phone for voice and email. And no data plan.
    I love my Apple ipad 2 and ipod touch!! But I refuse to spend even a dime on mobile carriers that just try to rip me off and waste my time. Unless they add real value that real people value, I think they may go the way of the B/W television and Zenith.

  3. So after they got all millions of new customers from the iPhone, how much of that additional revenue did they invest not additional infrastructure, cell towers, bandwidth etc…??

    I bet may be 15%

    Let’s just throttle all our stupid customers and pocket all that extra income.

  4. I would like to see AT&T prove that those top 5% users are in fact causing a problem with the network. Bring the pie charts and whatever they want but prove those that have unlimited data are causing bandwidth problems.

  5. I am no lawyer but the unlimited access is not being denied. You still have unlimited but after 3GB, your access is slowed down. I need to read the my contract but if the contract just says you can still have access to the data but speed is not mentioned on the contract then I think the lawsuit will not work. About the case of the guy in California who won $850, one needs to read the transcripts and see the actual lawsuit of what made the guy win the judgement. Now if everyone did start suing, just the lawyer fees of having to defend every lawsuit let alone the judgements, then AT&T would cry uncle. Overall I think AT&T should be paying their infrastructure to keep of with the demand instead of paying bonuses and other perks for shoddy cell and data service. Only one silver lining is their customer service is great and the are in the USA and not in India.

  6. Harry Turtle has it right.

    Nowhere in that contract does AT&T specifically promise speed. What it does promise is unlimited ACCESS to the mobile data networks. It also vaguely promises 3G speeds, but has plenty of contingency clauses (service quality depends on network congestion, etc). Even without the throttling, the service speed and availability are NOT guaranteed (keep in mind, AT&T is no worse than any other mobile carrier).

    Whoever was the person who convinced a small claims court judge (or perhaps even just an arbiter) that he was right was likely just extremely fortunate. Legally, there is very little in the contract to use against AT&T here.

    T-Mobile has this best with their pre-paid monthly plans. They offer unlimited everything (talk-text-data), at three tiers: $50, $60 and $70. Only the top plan gives you no throttling; the other two have different throttling limits. It is al clearly spelt out, no ambiguous “5% of top users in given network area”.

    Now that AT&T has clearly specified this, people at least know what they are dealing with.

    Between the ever-so-popular “not in my back yard” mentality when it comes to building of cell towers and the skyrocketing demand of people for more bandwidth, there is very little carriers can do to build out the needed coverage.

    Good luck suing AT&T, though.

  7. Rumor is that the Yellow pages is about to be sold, so they can put that cash into U-Verse & Mobile. It’s sad that there killing Internet radio & video etc., then blaming it on not having the bandwidth, because of the failed T-Moble deal. Well as a protest, I’ll be changing my $20 a month text message plan & using one of those many free services thats out there.

  8. This what I think.. The new iPhone will be a LTE phone. This is why AT&T allows more data on LTE, than the 3G. If you’re not happy with 3GB of data, then upgrade, so you can have your 5GB. And by the way, we just doubled our upgrade fee to $36. Happy now?

  9. I got the BS text today. Saying I used 3088 MB’s last billing cycle. The next time I go over 3 gigs. They will throttle me. I’m sorry but 4 yrs ago when I chose the $30 unlimited, instead of the $15 plan. I did it so I wouldn’t have to babysit my data usage. Now they are forcing us to worry bout our data. That itself is unfair practice. F AT&T. My contract is up in June. I understand they may need to throttle. But dial up speed. Really.

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