Users complain, AT&T blames data tsunami

February 14, 2012

AT&T took the opportunity to remind the world on Tuesday that is data traffic is doubling on its network every year, with all the growth adding up to 20,000 percent for  the past five years. John Donovan, a senior technology executive at AT&T,  said that the constant growth rate sounded like “a sign of stability”

“But when the year-end numbers show a doubling of wireless data traffic from 2010 to 2011 – and you’ve seen at least a doubling every year since 2007 – the implications are profound,” he said in a blog  where he likened growth rates to a “wireless data tsunami.”

Meanwhile an AP story about some of the measures the company is using to manage this tsunami — namely throttling back data speeds for heavy users on its unlimited plan– attracted much criticism on the on the Internet. 

One user gripe appears to be that AT&T sometimes slows down a user’s data speeds for the rest of the month if that customer is  among the top 5 percent of the company’s heaviest data users in that area even if that  person hasn’t used as much data as the upper limit for customers paying the same monthly fees.

AT&T has been throttling data speeds for these customers since it announced the policy in a letter last July. But clearly its still a sore topic since the story attracted more than 6,000 comments.

 AT&T”s Mark Siegel said that customers could always opt to move from an unlimited service to a plan with an official  data usage limit. Other than that he said.  “We’re happy to speak to any customer to talk about their individual concerns.”

Siegel also noted that only 0.5 percent of its customers were affected by this policy in January this year.  After AT&T started selling iPhones in 2007 it was slammed by customers because it couldn’t handle the extra data traffic for the popular device. It said that it has been working hard since then to keep up with data demand.  So is the latest public outcry driving it to consider changing its policies?  “The thing that’s managing how we drive our network is the exploding data use,” Siegel said.

If a report by Cisco is any indication, AT&T will need to try to find a solution sooner rather than later. Cisco, whose estimate was a just a tad conservative for this year, says there will be more mobile devices than people by 2016.

Photo: Reuters


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AT&T forces users of “smartphones” – whether they are under contract or not – to subscribe to a data plan if the device is on their network. I have two such devices & would gladly cancel my cellular data plan and use my WiFi network for data if AT&T would allow it.

Instead, I make sure I’m maxing out my data allowance each month even if it means muting the devices & streaming netflix movies while they sit on my desk.

If AT&T was really worried about data use on their network, they’d let users like me out of their forced charge cage.

Posted by SalPairodice | Report as abusive

Easy alternative – don’t buy a smartphone.

I have an AT&T “dumbphone” that requires no data plan.

Posted by redfive | Report as abusive

Here is the petition for the AT&T throttle issue. SIgn it, and tell everybody with AT&T wireless to sign it as well. Show AT&T your dislike! -throttle#

Posted by dynagix | Report as abusive