For a long time the wireless carriers have been complaining about “data hogs” who suck up inordinate amounts of bandwidth by downloading movies and whatever to their mobile devices. As a result, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have instituted data throttling. AT&T and, I think, Verizon have eliminated their unlimited plans for new subscribers offering tiered pricing instead.
I’ve long suspected that a lot of this was self-serving on the part of the carriers. After all, who wants to watch a movie on an iPhone? Sure, maybe you’re stuck at the airport or the DMV or someplace and you while away the time with a movie or that episode of 24 that you missed but how often does that happen? Maybe it’s just me but I find squinting at that small screen to watch even a short YouTube video painful.
Now an article in yesterday’s New York Times suggest that those suspicions were justified. The times reports on a study by Validas that looked at 55,000 cellphone bills and found that the top 5% of data users (those that the carriers label data hogs) use essentially the same bandwidth as the tiered plan users. In other words, if you have an unlimited plan you get your data rate throttled for using the same amount of data as a tiered plan user.
The report speculates that the real reason for the throttling is to force customers onto the tiered plans. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that it’s not, as the carriers claim, to prevent a melt down of their networks.