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AT&T Quietly Removes Hard Throttling Limit on Unlimited Data Plan, Will Only Throttle in Congested Areas


AT&T’s grandfathered unlimited data plans haven’t really been unlimited for quite some time now. Those who still pay for one know that AT&T throttles the hell out of data speeds on 4G LTE unlimited plans after they reach 5GB of usage per month and doesn’t bother to bring those speeds back up until the next billing cycle. We are talking throttling any and everywhere once that 5GB limit is reached, not just if the phone is attached to a congested network. Pretty weak, right?

Today, or at least some time since mid-March, AT&T seems to have softened its stance on 4G LTE throttling. 

Previously, their policy or statement on smartphone customers with “legacy” unlimited data plans noted that 3G/4G smartphones on unlimited plans were throttled at the 3GB mark, but only in congested network situations. It was the 4G LTE unlimited plans that were seeing the hard limit at 5GB, where even on a super fast, un-congested network, they would be throttled until the next billing cycle.

This is the exact policy last seen around March 23:

As a result of the AT&T network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. Customers on a 4G LTE smartphone will experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle exceeds 5 gigabytes of data. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.

See how the statement separates the 3G/4G and 4G LTE plans?

This is what the statement looks like today:

As a result of AT&T’s network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone or on a 4G LTE smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes (3G/4G) or 5 gigabytes (4G LTE) of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.

See that? The 3G/4G and 4G LTE plans are now grouped together, with the hard limit on the 4G LTE plans seemingly removed. According to this newly tweaked statement, 4G LTE unlimited data plans are only throttled when in congested areas, but are then eligible to return back to full speeds. Yay.

AT&T hasn’t actually announced anything, and they probably won’t, but if you own a grandfathered or “legacy” unlimited data plan, it sounds like your plan just got better without you lifting a finger.

Update:  Here is the full statement for the record, since these things get sneakily changed without notice.

Do you have an unlimited data plan? If so, we have information to help you manage your account.

In line with common industry standards, we have implemented network management practices to assure that our network resources are used for the benefit of all our mobile broadband customers especially during periods when network demand exceeds available network resources (also known as “congestion”).

One such practice applies when a minority of smartphone customers on unlimited data plans using 3G, 4G, or 4G LTE smartphones exceed certain data usage thresholds in a billing period (3GB for 3G/4G smartphones and 5GB for 4G LTE smartphones). When affected by this practice, these customers may experience reduced data speeds and increased latency during periods of congestion as compared to other customers using the same cell site. All affected customers can still use unlimited data without being subject to overage charges, and we will notify customers during each billing cycle when they reach 75% of the applicable usage threshold so they can adjust their usage to avoid network management practices that may result in slower data speeds.

Reduced speeds and increased latency may cause websites to load more slowly or affect the performance of data-heavy activities such as high-definition video streaming or interactive gaming. The degree of reduced speeds and increased latency will vary depending on the amount of congestion. Congestion can start and stop over a very short time period (often measured in fractions of a second), further minimizing customer impact. Because the amount of congestion at a cell site can vary significantly, the performance impact for affected unlimited data plan customers may also vary significantly. Standard speeds and latency will resume once the cell cite is no longer congested, or the customer’s data session moves to an uncongested cell site. In addition, speeds and latency will return to normal at the start of the customer’s next billing cycle. Customers on tiered data or Mobile Share plans are not subject to these network management practices. Likewise, when customers are using Wi-Fi they are not subject to these network management practices. Wi-Fi usage does not count against the customer’s applicable usage threshold.

Learn more about unlimited data plans and reduced speeds
Managing your data usage is easy. Check your data usage anytime by dialing *data# from your smartphone.

If you have one of our Mobile Share® plans or our tiered data plans, this information does not affect you.

Learn more about our Mobile Share Value plans with Unlimited Talk and Text.

Via:  AT&T
Cheers Jerry!
  • Lynda Tilley

    I have the grandfathered unlimited plan enjoyed last month without any throttling now this month received the text about my usage. Att told me they have not heard about this smh. Att is two-faced

  • Jonathan Shell

    I went way over 5GB last month and noticed I didn’t get throttled. I just figured my billing cycle changed since I don’t pay the bill (work phone). Glad to know this will be the new standard.

  • shelooga

    and it actually says their speeds will be restored after the next billing cycle still. so technically couldnt they keep you slow even after you get on an uncongested network?

  • Willie D

    It actually sounds that once you’re throttled for being in a congested area, your speeds won’t return to normal, even if you leave that area, till tour next bill cycle. Sounds if you never are in a congested area, hit 5GB and go over, the speed will always be faster.

    • flosserelli

      After I reading the updated statement again, I think you are right.

    • K Rad

      Only during congested times after 5 Gigs. Think about it this way. Around 11pm your area of congestion gets un-congested, and your speed would return to the speeds that fellow Mobileshare or limited data plans would experience. 8AM comes around and the network starts to get congested again, your speeds would be managed.

  • John Thurman

    I don’t understand the difference. Or house this is helping me on my battle to not being throttled. If you ask me… THIS MEANS THE EXACT SAME THING AS BEFORE. some please break it down to me, becuase I just don’t see the progess. Also I live in New York City.

    • flosserelli

      It won’t make any difference for people in NYC because that area is undoubtedly “congested” 24/7.

    • K Rad

      Your data would only be managed during congested times after 5gigs, as opposed to being managed 24/7 after 5 gigs. Capeesh?

    • JLV90

      Basically means if you are using your phone at non peak hours you are less likely to experience throttling.

      So if you use your phone at 3 AM you likely won’t be throttled.

  • TylerChappell

    Don’t get too excited. This statement actually makes things WORSE. Because now, AT&T can throttle both 3G/4G AND LTE users WHENEVER they want under the false pretense that their network is experiencing congestion when it may in fact not be. It’s AT&T. Their network sucks. And it is ALWAYS congested. This rewording allows them to throttle any and all of their unlimited users at anytime they want. Looks like an “unlimited” data plan on AT&T is now even more meaningless than before. And that’s the plan. To make unlimited data so uncompelling and crippling to the customer that they feel obligated to switch to tiered data so that they are more likely to go over and pay a fee for a “better” experience.

    • Willie D

      Maybe y’all shouldn’t have gone to the carrier with the most customers and used one that doesn’t have to worry about congestion as much. The fact of the matter is, AT&T has never really been one to upgrade their network in a timely fashion. Their move from TDMA to GSM aka Project Genesis, took way too long and left customers who switched from TDMA to GSM devices with little to no coverage for years. They deployed EDGE, but even smaller T-Mobile had completed 90% deployment over their own network, faster and better than AT&T/Cingular did. When upgrading to HSPA/HSPA+, AT&T was happy with 3mbps and 7mbps, but again, the smaller carrier took off with HSPA+14 and HSPA+21, AT&T followed, but stopped, where as the smaller carrier boasted their capability to provide more with HSPA+42. On top of this, they (TMobile) still have the capacity to ever expand and provide better experience all around over AT&T. So maybe being on the larger carrier is irrelevant now when you realize one network is fixing issues slowly, maximizing profits at your expense, and not providing the experience you pay for. All in the name of what? Coverage in Nebraska?

      • TylerChappell

        Oh, I don’t even use AT&T and probably never will. Got dat Verizon unlimited LTE for $30 ;D

    • K Rad

      All you have to do to disprove that is a speedtest. In March in a heavily congrested area, after 5 gigs for the last week and a half I was being throttled. You could tell. I didn’t go above 1mb download speed until my next billing cycle. In April I was streaming alot of Nextflix when I was out of town at a relatives. I blew through 12Gigs that billing cycle and only for 2 days did I sense something slowed when I returned back to where I live, which is a congested area. I’m retesting it again this cycle. Seems to make sense to me. I enjoyed the 30 down and 15 up past 5Gigs of use.

      • TylerCameron

        The one good thing I can say about AT&T throttling is they seem to be the only carrier that doesn’t throttle to a useless 128kbps “2G” speed.
        Throttling should never go below 512kbps.

  • Just Me

    I wondered after the lawsuit if that would change so I put my ATT unlimited plan to the test this month. With a week to go in my billing cycle I’m at 8GB and was throttled down to 0.5 Mbs download at almost exactly when I hit the 5GB threshold. Same as it ever was. Just big blue trying to use softer language to mask their same behavior.

    And by the way, why isn’t this BS 5GB limit on LTE ever discussed? They (supposedly) put this in place as it represented the data use of the top 5% of their customer base. But that was years ago – average data use has climbed considerably since then with no adjustment. Complete crap….

    • Marc Possoff

      I tested one of our sons devices and his line was throttled. Then I rebooted his device now he’s not throttled. Maybe try rebooted your device

      • Just Me

        Worked here too – thanks for the tip!

  • JBMTechTycoon

    Maybe I missed something, but it seemed like the new policy still suggests that they’re still going to throttle… yeah, they mention the congested areas, but the last sentence says that “All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring
    overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the
    next billing cycle.” NEXT billing cycle… it doesn’t say once the customer moves away from a congested cell site that normal speeds will be restored… It says next billing cycle… I know my eyes may be playing tricks on me since I didn’t get much sleep last night, so what am I missing?

    • Alex Frank

      That is exactly how I read it. I see no difference between the two statements.

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    “Congested” areas can literally mean anything coming from a company like At&t. That’s a massive loophole.

    • michael arazan

      Every tower in a populous is always congested, just like verizon. God forbid these companies use any of their $120 Billion of Tax Free profits to reinforce networks with more towers.

      • Nunyur_Biznezz

        and letting unlimited data people consume data like no tomorrow helps that how?

        • Willie D

          Welcome to the internet age. The people are demanding more data, its a given that if you provide a service, you need to keep up with it as population grows, or sell it off and get out of the business. AT&T touts speed, quality and pushes these devices at its customers, and expects them NOT to use them? Expects that since everything is data centric, including our cars, that we should be limited further than before, when networks weren’t able to handle this traffic? They have increased their capacity 4x over using LTE rather than keeping HSPA only. So I have a really hard time believing the few million out of 100+ million customers left on unlimited data plans are going to cause harm. In fact, MOST unlimited data users are only using between 2-8GB data anyway, they don’t want tiered plans for the sake of costing more for the same data usage, abd if they occasionally go over, the $10-15 overage per GB is steep. There are very few that use 20-100GB but even if they did, AT&T sells those plan amounts to, signifying, data usage that high IS NOT a burden on the network, so an unlimited user should technically and logically and ethically be allowed and okay with using that amount anyway.

        • jlsushman

          Verizon wireless speeds and connectivity. Go do your homework.

        • TC Infantino

          Here again people are buying into the PR bull that the carriers are pushing about unlimited users degrading the performance of the network for everyone else. The only thing that degrades the performance (speed) of users accessing the network is how many devices are connected to the tower and accessing data at the same time. This is the congestion that the carriers are talking about. The network, and tower do not care how much data you have used in the past month, or since the start of your billing cycle. The tower equipment only considers the number of devices accessing data at that specific instant, and breaks up the data into properly sized packets to equally share the bandwidth among those users. This is the Only thing that affects the network, not how much data each user has used per month. The reason that the carriers demonize unlimited data customers is to try to get them to switch to tiered data, entirely for profit, Not for the benefit of the other customers. You might want to learn about data switching and system sharing technology before “spouting off” Just sayin.

        • TylerCameron

          Data caps don’t solve the problem of congestion either. The true solution is speed tiers instead of caps, just like ISP’s.
          Like, say that a customer can get tiers like “up to” 3mbps, 5mbps, 10mbps, 15mbps, 25mbps, and 50mbps. Again, emphasis on the “up to” part of that. The idea is that if most customers are opting for less than 25mbps, then the customers who choose the higher speeds can more often than not reach those speeds.

          Definitely a better solution than giving everyone hard caps, but still giving all customers the same amount of bandwidth. Every customer having access to the “up to” 150mbps that a tower can provide will SERIOUSLY bog it down, even if it has like 25mhz of spectrum.

      • CarolynJGonzalez

        ♋♪♪♪♪♋Set Profit From your Home with Google [email protected]:::


  • Tyler Durden

    or don’t throttle at all.

  • Guest
  • You guys still hanging on to the teat huh… Is unlimited really that important?

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Is that a trick question?

    • Tony G.

      Yes it is.

    • Xavier_NYC

      Are you serious lol. Let me see, Unlimited data is $30 and I can use as much as I want. On a 2GB tiered plan I get charged an extra $30-$50 if I go over

    • Francisco Peña

      yes… I’m on Verizon, but at the cost of what UDP costs for most of us (especially if you have corporate discounts), then its definitely worth it. My UDP along is what VZW likes to charge JUST to put my phone on their network, not including the rediculous prices.

      I have a family share, 700 minutes, 250msg (wife’s line is 1000msg), and I have UDP for $25. So our bill is $108. I just checked and am a shade above 9GB for the month, with a week to go.

      Looking at a new plan for 2, with just 10GB (I’d have to do more wifi and hope she doesn’t use much), its $160 not including the phones nor tax.

      $108 (she really doesn’t want a smartphone), or the priviledge of paying more for less? What do you take?

    • Duffman

      Heck yeah it is! I don’t ever have to worry about what I’m watching or how long I’m listening to something. And I have a consistent bill. Now if only my battery lasted longer…

    • GTIguy

      Is that a serious question? I get UDP for $22/mo with my discount. I can’t even get 2GB for that price on a new contract. It’s total BS. Verizon seriously asked me to let go of unlimited and pay more for 2GB of data. I average about 2-3GB/mo so it’s not like I’m a super heavy user (I use Wi-Fi as much as I can because Verizon’s data speeds are the f’n worst) but will never willingly give up my unlimited plan. Data consumption is on the rise. The carriers have you right where they want you, with 2GB plans, that will be worthless in no time as people are using more and more data. You’ll be forced to change plans again and pay more to add more data or pay overages while constantly monitoring your data usage.

    • guest

      You are not so bright, are you?

    • guest


      • Guest

        pot meet kettle

      • It’s fun, gives me a little laugh while I’m out in the real world being serious.

  • Vasaline

    I noticed this last month when I went over 5 GBs. I thought AT&T just forgot about me 🙂 Does this have to do with the class action lawsuit thats out there right now?

  • ughh

  • People love to bash Verizon, and say what you will, but they haven’t throttled any unlimited data users. Ever. People have used hundreds of GB’s and still received full speed. They also never kicked anyone off for tethering on unlimited data.

    • I’m happy to hear that you can speak for everyone on the network, you must be a very popular guy.

      • I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but Verizon doesn’t throttle any unlimited data users or kick people off for tethering. I’d love for you to show me proof otherwise (and I’m not talking about low speeds just due to tower congestion)

        • Adrynalyne

          He was getting at silence does not imply that action has not been taken towards abusers.

    • antinorm

      They threatened to start doing it last fall, but backed down when the FCC told them they couldn’t.

      • Willie D

        They CAN, but legally can’t do it on their 700Mhz C-Block spectrum, (due to Open Network Policies) but if a customer used AWS, which ironically is rolled out fast after the FCC made that decision they couldn’t manage their network with throttling, then yes, they can throttle all year long if they cared to.

    • Xavier_NYC

      Uhh they were going to not only stop unlimited data/start throttling but they were also going to force people off of unlimited data plans if they 1) Signed a new two year contract 2) Tried to activate any new phone. Only reason they didn’t is because the FCC threatened to sue them. Lets not fool ourselves here, companies will do anything to make money off customers and AT&T, Verizon are just the same as any other company trying to maximize profit.

      • Tyler Durden

        that still happens, if you sign a new contract with a new phone, goodbye unlimited, unless you do the tricks

        • Xavier_NYC

          Oh yeah, forgot about that. I’m on AT&T so don’t know their tactics that well

      • They threatened to do it, but it never happened.

        • Xavier_NYC

          uhhh being threatened to get sued will stop a lot of people from doing certain things. Doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to get bashed… They are all the same

    • Francisco Peña

      I can say it seems I get throttled in various area, especially around work. Its a university in a major city in Florida and you can’t tell me that under 1mb download speed at 8am is normal.

      There are times I was barely pulling 2mb speeds and frequently under 1mb around town.

      • That’s the case with many areas, but it happens to people on tiered data as well, it’s just tower congestion. When you have low speeds regardless of the tower, or when your friend on tiered data gets higher speeds, that’s when you’re being throttled.

        • Francisco Peña

          While we are in a major city, we are in the outskirts. 8am and earlier, the students aren’t quite alive yet (as evidenced by the quasi-empty sidewalks, shuttles and parking lots).

          • It’s not always as easy to assume how congested a tower may be, I work at a college campus and when I come in at 7:30AM sometimes speeds are worse than in the middle of the day.

          • Willie D

            The towers I connect to on TMo are located in two areas. One near a major freeway into San Francisco, also next to a huge trauma center hospital for the region. The other in the middle of dense residential housing. In the day, my speed can be 5-10mbps. We’ll within usable speed, but at 2AM, when everyone is not using devices, the freeway is barren and hospital staff and families leave for the day, I see 25-45mbps.

          • That’s network congestion, not throttling.

    • Duffman

      As a long term AT&T Unlimited subscriber, I can agree with you on that. However, I have been able to upgrade my lines, pay the contract price and keep my unlimited data, which is something a lot o VZW haven’t been able to do (as in they’ve had to pay full phone price to keep their plan). I’m just happy to have stuck it out as it looks like they’re finally changing their stance.

    • Willie D

      Cmon Geoff, unless you work for Verizon, in their network management team area, you really can’t say they never have throttled anyone. I mean, statistically, 110+ million customers, ONE or more could be experiencing issues, and either not be vocal, or if they are, haven’t heard their story yet. Case in point with me and Sprint, I kept saying YEARS ago I was having problems, but since I was the only one, no one else experienced the same thing, no one listened or pointed it out. Now everyone has issues and its reported all over. Verizon is like that, one voice isn’t heard yet, but watch, thousands will come out claiming throttled speeds in a few weeks to months. Just saying, you can’t say it doesn’t happen cause it hasn’t happened to you or if you dont work for them.

      • What I’m talking about, is Verizon doesn’t have a policy in place to throttle users at say 5GB+, top 5%, or any combination. The worst users face is network congestion which isn’t specific to just unlimited data users, but everyone on that tower. It’s very obvious to see throttling on Sprint or AT&T, but not Verizon as it doesn’t exist.

        • jlsushman

          Totally agree. I’ve used 160gb in certain months and speeds stay consistently at 40mbps. I would say no phone, no line, no story is ever the same. No such thing as identical.

    • Me

      That’s not right. They will throttle you if you are in the top 5% of data users. I have a one 4 on unlimited data. My gf has a note 4 with share everything. My speeds to download get so slow until I connect to her WiFi. Example I was downloading a album which it took 15 mins to get 10% as soon as I connected to her WiFi it finished it finished in less than a min. Verizon won’t say they are throttling but they are.

      • No, that was their threat to unlimited data users, which was actually never put into place. Again, that could easily just be network congestion, the only way to tell is compare it to others on tiered data, or if you are on a brand new billing cycle.

        • Me

          I have compared side by side. We both have the exact same phone. I’m on unlimited she is on share everything. Her data is always faster than mine, substantially faster. Verizon threatened last year I agree but they were throttling long before that secretly. How else can one be that much faster with the same phone at the same time downloading the same item.

          • You said she has a Note 4, what phone do you have? It could be that she is on band 4 while you are on band 13. Again, there are lots of possibilities that could cause it short of throttling.

          • Me

            We both have the exact same phone. Verizon note 4. The only difference is I have unlimited data vs she has share everything. Both downloading the exact same things at the exact same time. Every time her note 4 is much faster.

          • Use LTE Discovery and make sure you’re both on the same band. Have you actually ran a speed test at the same time to compare? What sort of differences are you seeing?

          • Marc Possoff

            I compared my UDP speeds to tiered data speeds and yes data is faster on tiered data plans BUT not significantly faster.

    • Ajmobileguru

      They say they dont throttle, but i am sure as hell they do. Running speedtest on a UDP versus tiered plan phone clearly shows that. The tiered data plan is comfortably faster than UDP.

      • Marc Possoff

        That’s ok for speeds to be lower than a tiered data plan. It’s called network management. But the speeds aren’t like when there was hard throttling.

    • TylerCameron

      Verizon is obligated by law to not throttle LTE traffic, just like they’re obligated by law to provide factory-unlocked LTE devices.

  • Xavier_NYC

    Looks like I’ll be streaming por.. I mean Netflix more now 🙂