Tuesday, July 29, 2014

4G Throttling - It's Not Just Verizon!

Since Verizon Wireless announced they would be throttling 4G service, a lot of customers have become so outraged that they’ve decided to switch carriers. However, you still risk the chance of being throttled with T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint.

For example, T-Mobile’s statement on throttling is this:
“Customers who use more data than 95% of customers on the same rate plan typically use in a month may, during times and places of congestion, have their data usage prioritized below other customers.” 

Of course, T-Mobile has always been quite straight forward about this - at least in my experience, having been a customer for about 7 years now. In fact, they even go as far as to alert you of how much high speed data you have left for the month.
Taken from my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - shown on the drop down shade
For new customers they offer 1GB, 3GB, 5GB or unlimited data plans. While my data plan is technically unlimited (and no longer offered to new customers it seems), I only receive up to 2GB of high speed data before they will start throttling me to 2G speeds. So, if you’re on the 1/3/5GB plans you’ll be throttled once you go over that respective limit. 

Although, even with T-Mobile’s truly unlimited data plan ($80/mo), several customers have posted comments and questions [on forums] wondering why they are still being throttled. One user said it seemed to occur after using about 5-7GB of data. Other users these same plans have commented that they have NOT seen this. No surprise based on T-Mobile’s statement though (i.e. throttling “during times and places of congestion”)! 

Here’s what AT&T has said on throttling: 
“Customers with a 3G or 4G smartphone who have an unlimited data plan may see speeds reduced as a result of AT&T network management practices if they exceed 3GB of data in a billing cycle. For customers with a 4G LTE smartphone who have an unlimited data plan, speeds will be reduced if usage exceeds 5GB in a billing cycle.” 

And Sprint’s statement: 
“Sprint currently employs prioritization to improve data experience for the vast majority of users on Sprint’s CDMA and LTE networks. The heaviest data users consume a disproportionate share of network resources and cause a negative user experience for the rest. To more fairly allocate network resources in times of congestion, customers falling within the top 5% of data users may be prioritized below other customers attempting to access network resources, resulting in a reduction of throughput or speed as compared to performance on non-congested sites. Though the exact amount of data used before a customer falls within the top 5% of data users will vary from month to month, currently customers who typically use 5 GB or more in a given month are likely to fall within the top 5% of data users.” 

It seems that Verizon is leading the pack again as throttling is becoming more of a standard. AT&T has even stated that “Reducing data speed (data throughput) and network management are common practices in the wireless industry.” Of course this sucks, but remember, they’re merely trying to help users have a generally better experience on their network. We can see that Verizon is making it look like they’re doing something else about the network congestion by releasing their XLTE network. 

However, let’s not forget they’ve also stated that the throttling ONLY affects users who "have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment." It also doesn’t help that some customers with grandfathered unlimited plans have been able to upgrade from 3G to 4G without loosing their unlimited data! Other unlucky customers with old 3G unlimited plans who wanted 4G service were pushed into a limited data plan. In comparison though, Verizon has been the most successful at moving these customers to limited plans and throttling out-of-contract users is just one more tactic to convert the remaining holdouts.