Friday, July 25, 2014

Verizon Wireless Confirms They Will Throttle Unlimited LTE Service

We’ve had this question posed by a lot of our customers - mainly those still fortunate enough to be grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan with 4G service. It wasn’t until now however, that we have a definite answer. Verizon Wireless admitted back in 2011 that they were going to be throttling 3G unlimited data plans, but they were clever and called it ‘Network Optimization’ instead. Not just a fancy term for throttling, Network Optimization more specifically means that if you’re using too much data and are connected to a congested cell site, your speeds will be much slower in comparison to someone using a 4G device on a limited data plan.

Quoting from Verizon’s official statement...

"Starting in October 2014, Verizon Wireless will extend its network optimization policy to the data users who: fall within the top 5 percent of data users on our network, have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment, and are on unlimited plans using a 4G LTE device. They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand."

According to a Verizon FAQ, people who use 4.7GB or more per month fall in the top 5%.

Verizon claims this isn't "throttling" because it doesn't happen 100 percent of the time. Another excerpt from the FAQ explains this more...

"No, this is not throttling. The difference between our Network Optimization practices and throttling is network intelligence. With throttling, your wireless data speed is reduced for your entire cycle, 100 percent of the time, no matter where you are. Network Optimization is based on the theory that all customers should have the best network possible, and if you’re not causing congestion for others, even if you are using a high amount of data, your connection speed should be as good as possible. So, if you’re in the top 5 percent of data users, your speed is reduced only when you are connected to a cell site experiencing high demand. Once you are no longer connected to a site experiencing high demand, your speed will return to normal. This could mean a matter of seconds or hours, depending on your location and time of day."

This may very well pose a new question - If customers are throttled on congested sites, does Verizon make up for it somehow when NOT connected to a congested site? My assumption is no. If Verizon only needs to limit data speeds on the most congested sites, why impose limits on data use when users connect to the sites that aren't congested, or at all?

Some longtime Verizon customers still have unlimited data plans and have even been offered 4G service from a 3G only plan - something that never seemed to happen until more recently. Most customers of course are being pushed to limited packages and for new customers an unlimited package is never even offered. A recent survey found that "A little less than 22 percent of Verizon customers have an unlimited data plan, compared with 44 percent for AT&T and 78 percent for both Sprint and T-Mobile," according to Re/code. Verizon has monetized its data caps successfully, charging users the highest bills of any major carrier in the country.