AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s Math Behind Throttling Unlimited Data Plan Subscribers

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s has strict policies to keep check on its ‘Unlimited Data’ package subscribers, whether they are 3G, 4G or LTE users. However, the company recently told Ars that it will be changing its policy sometime in 2015.

AT&T regulates the data usage for 3G customers for the remainder of the billing cycle, once they exceed 3GB data limit in a month. However, the company says that it does so only in areas where there is network congestion. 4G LTE unlimited data plan subscribers enjoy 5GB of data per month, before AT&T restricts their data speeds. However, their speeds are regulated throughout the remainder of cycle regardless of whether the network is congested.

With such a policy in place, it seems obvious that AT&T is trying to push customers to leave their unlimited plans. The company might want these customers to switch to data plans that enable it to charge overage fees once the users exceed their data limits. And surprising, AT&T has knocked success with more than 80% of its postpaid smartphone customers using limited plans.

To an extent, AT&T didn’t notify customers once they hit the threshold or 3GB or 5GB per month. An AT&T spokesperson also recently admitted that the LTE plans are slowed once the threshold is reached, regardless of any network congestion. However, the company is working toward changing this practice for unlimited LTE plans so as to keep regulations only in congested areas, once the threshold is hit.

Tom Wheeler, Chairman of Federal Communications Commission, has already warned carriers over such ‘throttling’ policies. The regulatory agency argued that customers who opt for unlimited plans should not be throttled unless there are legitimate network congestion issues. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) has already give away such throttling practices at least for 4G users, thanks to its LTE spectrum with open access requirements.