Heavy iPhone and iPad Users: Expect Slower 3G Download Speeds Soon

Bad news for heavy iPhone users on AT&T’s network: the telecom giant is about to roll out data speed throttling, in order to reduce the overall load on its 3G network. While this new policy should not affect users currently using capped data plans (250 MB or 2 GB, depending on your plan), it will directly impact the speed of the million of iPhone and iPad users who are still enjoying the now defunct unlimited data plan. Here is how throttling will work: once you reach a specific threshold of data usage within a billing cycle, your speed will be automatically lowered in order to dramatically reduce the amount of data you can consume until your next billing cycle. While at this stage, the amount of data necessary to trigger the slower speed is unknown, only users who use more than 2 GB per billing cycle are expected to be impacted. Late yesterday, AT&T issued a press release to explain its move:
[…] step to reduce the data throughput speed experienced by a very small minority of smartphone customers who are on unlimited plans – those whose extraordinary level of data usage puts them in the top 5 percent of our heaviest data users in a billing period.  In fact, these customers on average use 12 times more data than the average of all other smartphone data customers.  This step will not apply to our 15 million smartphone customers on a tiered data plan or the vast majority of smartphone customers who still have unlimited data plans. […] smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may 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.  These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.  Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period. […] This change will never impact the vast majority of our customers, and is designed to create a better service experience for all.
AT&T’s new data throttling policy is directly in line with T-Mobile’s own data throttling policy, which was rolled out several months ago – not exactly a surprise given that the two giants are about to merge their activities. Data throttling is currently being tested by AT&T, and will be rolled out nationwide on October 1st.