Wireless carrier AT&T has been taking a lot of heat lately over its decision to reduce wireless speeds for the top 5% of data users on its unlimited data plans after consuming as little data as 2GB. Notably, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith indulged himself an on-air rant after getting a throttling notice, accusing the company of giving the public "all-you-can-eat crack" until hooked, then changing the rules and raising prices.
AT&T says it must cut the unlimited data plans to maintain the integrity of its network. But are those top data users really eating up that much bandwidth? A new study says "no."
Analytics firm Validas looked at the consumption of the most gluttonous 5% of Verizon and AT&T's data customers. The results showed that the top 5% don't really use as much data as you think, and that customers with an unlimited data plan use almost the same amount of bandwidth as those stuck with a monthly limit. The average AT&T unlimited data user who finds himself in that throttled "top 5%" only consumes 3.97GB a month. The average top 5% Verizon unlimited data customer uses 3.57GB.
Still, even though these top customers are not using more data overall, they're seeing their download speeds slowed to a crawl.
AT&T axed its unlimited plan in 2010 following the introduction of the iPhone 4, but allowed old unlimited data customers to grandfather their plans. Verizon ditched its unlimited data plan in 2011, and long-time unlimited data holdout Sprint killed its unlimited 4G hotspot service, introduced a new pricing scheme that could cost heavy users nearly $1,000 a month for wireless service.
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