AT&T to implement data throttling in early October, just in time for iPhone 5

Update: AT&T has officially verified this information.

A new change for AT&T Wireless’ Unlimited Data subscribers will soon be taking place. Rumored to be starting in the first week of October, we’ve heard that AT&T will start throttling the data speeds of the network’s top data hogs.  As Verizon (PDF) and Virgin have recently done, AT&T will be adopting a similar plan to try to curb the problem of data congestion and overall network issues that have hurt its 3G network’s performance since the onset of the iPhone.

AT&T will also be releasing its first LTE devices later this year.

We’ve heard that AT&T will rejigger its insurance structure that week as well, which makes us think a certain high profile device may be launching on or around that time.

The throttling plan will work like the others’. 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.

Frankly, throttling isn’t so bad if done fairly.  It is a good way to penalize heavy users but without them having to worry about overage charges.  For high end users, however, it wold make sense for AT&T to add the ability to buy more regular speed data like they do now… Read more

Virgin hikes plans and introduces throttling, just in time for an iPhone?

We’ve discussed the next generation ‘value-tier’ iPhone.  But we weren’t the first.  Apple COO Tim Cook was.

While Tim stopped short of explicitly stating that Apple would pursue a lower price iPhone, he did state that Apple was working hard to “figure out” the prepaid market and that Apple didn’t want its products to be “just for the rich,” but “for everyone”; he also stated that Apple “understood price is big factor in the prepaid market” and that the company was “not ceding any market.” ….He further noted that the handset distribution model was poorly constructed and that Apple would look to “innovate” and do “clever” things in addressing that market.

That was the WSJ tapping the line (har) of  Bernstein Research’s Toni Sacconaghi in February.

Today, Virgin announced that it was hiking its data plans to $35/month for unlimited data which coincides with the launch of a big Android phone. But more interesting, to me anyway, was that Virgin is changing its ‘unlimited’ to ‘unlimited with throttling at 2.5GB’ in…October.

Beginning in October 2011, Virgin Mobile will also move to reduce data speeds when a customer’s data usage exceeds 2.5GB in a month but still provide unlimited 3G access without a contract, usage cap, overage or activation fees. Based on current usage patterns, fewer than 3 percent of Virgin Mobile USA customers use more than 2.5GB of data usage per month. After reaching this level, this minority of customers may experience slower page loads, file downloads and streaming media. When a customer’s next month begins, the data usage meter starts back at zero with unlimited 3G speeds.

If Apple was going to do a pre-paid carrier in the US, it would certainly be Virgin (vs. Cricket, US Cellular, Boost).  If Virgin did do iPhone, they’d certainly want to put measures in place to prevent the iPhone from killing its network.


image via

We got word yesterday that AT&T was changing its iPhone insurance plans on October 4th, perhaps signaling some new models.  With what we had, we’d have given the info about a 25% shot of being legitimate.  However, since then, we’ve heard that a big commotion was made about that information being made public.  Based on that and today’s Virgin announcement, we’re thinking the probability of that date being right has increased significantly. Read more