AT&T eliminated their unlimited data plans for new customers in 2010. A year later, AT&T told those customers with an unlimited data plan that they would have their plans throttled if they consumed enough data to put them in the top 5 percent of the heaviest data users in a billing period.
AT&T never bothered trying to show that the top 5 percent were actually slowing down the network. In reality, AT&T was telling those on unlimited data plans to switch to AT&T’s metered tiers where throttling did not occur.
Therefore, AT&T was telling customers that if they pay $30 for “unlimited” service, you were getting just 2 GB’s of data before your phone was heavily throttled to unusable speeds. However, you could pay the exact same price for an AT&T tiered data plan ($30 for 3 GB of data) which allowed a customer to get hit hard with overage fees.
It is 2014 and still 44% of AT&T customers are on grandfathered unlimited plans.
As GigaOM notes:
“The report uses data from a survey of 500 people to estimate what proportion of subscribers to the big four carriers are on unlimited data plans. CISP’s survey, however, contradicts AT&T’s own numbers which state that “81% of smartphones are on metered plans.” Aside from AT&T, of course, Sprint and T-Mobile, both of which highlight unlimited data in their marketing, have 78% of their customers on unlimited plans. Verizon has the smallest proportion of unlimited plans at 22% of its customers, partially due to a less forgiving grandfathering policy which requires subscribers to give up their unlimited data when upgrading their device.” - GigaOM
What makes this story even more remarkable is that AT&T has spent the last four years pulling out all tricks of the trade in getting unlimited data users off their plans.
- Jailbreak your phone? Off unlimited
- Tether unofficially? Off unlimited
- Use unsanctioned mobile hotspot apps? Off unlimited
- Seem to be a heavy user? Off unlimited
- Want to use data monitoring tools? Off unlimited
- Used AT&T’s phone insurance/warranty plans? Off unlimited
- Want to use Facetime? Off unlimited
- Are you breathing? AT&T will gladly kick you off unlimited without telling you!