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.