AT&T has explained and clarified how "unlimited" its unlimited mobile data plans are.
The company said that HSPA+ users who use more than 3GB per month, and 4G LTE users who rack up more than 5GB per month, will find that their speeds will be throttled after the limit is reached, and a text message warning is issued.
The mobile giant, currently the second largest in the United States, manages to advertise and get away with "unlimited" plans in its marketing material because it does in fact offer no limits on how much data you can consume. It does, on the other hand, limit data speeds after a user reaches a certain point.
Arguably, that is.
Speeds will return to normal after the billing cycle is over, which is often the next calendar month.
But the courts didn't agree. AT&T recently lost a case in a California small claims court after the mobile giant was forced to pay a subscriber $850 in costs. AT&T was found to be "improperly" limiting the user's mobile download speeds when they were paying for an unlimited tariff.
It makes sense for AT&T, like other networks, to limit the data speeds of its users when they reach a certain amount. The very most will never reach the limits, as the network highlights that 95 percent of its customers will not be affected.
As AT&T has well over 100 million subscribers, and 17 million customers on "unlimited" data plans. This means at least 850,000 users will be affected. It's a lot of people, but still in the minority.
The heaviest smartphone data users are within the typical Generation Y bracket of aged 25--34, and use on average 580MB of data per month, according to analytics firm Neilsen.
Still, at least on the bright side, we have a major company buckling under pressure from its customers. It's not often you see a well-established, non-startup company actively respond to requests from its user base.
Whether or not you think it's fair, AT&T has at least --- at last --- been transparent about its opaque and hazy data caps. It's far from an "unlimited" service to what the public would expect, but it's a lot of space to manoeuvre. And that's coming from someone who just spent $215 in seven days on data costs while roaming abroad.
Image source: Josh Lowensohn/CNET.
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