Wireless carrier AT&T announced that starting Oct. 1, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans would experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users, a move which brings the company closer in line with its competitors selection of data consumption plans. The company noted these customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle, and before those customers are affected, AT&T will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.
Regarding the top 5 percent of data download users, the company noted these customers on average use 12 times more data than the average of all other smartphone data customers, and noted this step would not apply to the company s 15 million smartphone customers on a tiered data plan or the vast majority of smartphone customers who still have unlimited data plans.
"Like other wireless companies, we're taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data. Many experts agree the country is facing a serious wireless spectrum crunch," a company press release stated. "We're responding on many levels, including investing billions in our wireless network this year and working to acquire additional network capacity. We're also taking additional, more immediate measures to help address network congestion."
The release said what typically puts someone in the top 5 percent is streaming very large amounts of video and music daily over the wireless network, not WiFi. Streaming video apps, remote Web camera apps, sending large data files (like video) and some online gaming are examples of applications that can use data quickly. Using WiFi doesn't create wireless network congestion or count toward wireless data usage, the company said. AT&T smartphone customers have unlimited access to their entire WiFi network, with more than 26,000 hotspots, at no additional cost and can also use WiFi at home and in the office.