AT&T Details Unlimited Data Policy – Throttling Begins After 3GB’s On 3G/4G, 5GB On 4G LTE


Throttling is just one of those policies nobody likes, but everyone has to live with. Even those who were lucky enough to find themselves hanging onto an “unlimited” data plan from back in the day are subject to it. Today, AT&T has decided to clarify their “unlimited” policy, detailing how much data one would have to use before being hit with the dreaded, “You are now being throttled,” text message.

For customers currently grandfathered into an unlimited account and still using one of those old fashioned 3G or 4G (HSPA+) smartphones, you get to enjoy full data speeds up until 3GB of usage. Customers currently using a more recent device with that other 4G (LTE) can download, stream and update statuses until they hit 5GB of data. Once you hit your allotment of data, AT&T will lower your download speeds to a crawl until the start of your next billing date.

There was a bit of a backlash after some grandfathered AT&T unlimited customers were reporting being throttled after only 2GB of data. One man even successfully won a small claims case, in which he was awarded $850 after finding his unlimited account throttled. AT&T issued the following statement:

With mobile data usage continuing to skyrocket and the availability of spectrum scarce, AT&T, like other wireless companies, manages its network in the most fair way possible so that we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience for all our customers.How we’re managing the network only affects a small minority of the heaviest smartphone data users still on unlimited plans. Put another way, this does not impact more than 95 percent of our smartphone customers.

Our unlimited plan customers have told us they want more clarity around how the program works and what they can expect. Here’s what customers need to know:

  • Customers with a 3G or 4G smartphone – who also still have our unlimited data plan – will see speeds reduced if they use 3GB (gigabytes) of data or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle. For context, less than 5 percent of smartphone customers use more than 3GB per month.
  • For customers with a 4G LTE smartphone – who also still have our unlimited data plan – data speeds will be reduced if usage is 5GB (gigabytes) or more in a billing cycle. Speeds will return to normal at the start of the next billing cycle.

Customers will get a text message from us before experiencing a change in speed.

That’s because data activity over Wi-Fi does not count against the threshold for unlimited customers that triggers reduced data speeds or against customers’ tiered data plans. Customers can find out more at


Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. heheh.  Where are the folks that bitch about the price Verizon charges for a more robust network infrastructure now?  

    1. No kidding. At least VZW is fair about throttling. I regularly hit 10+GB in a month and I don’t hear a damn thing no notice any throttling.

      1. Yeah, I do 3+gigs and never have been throttled.

      2. I just hit 3.1 gb writing this comment

  2. Sounds like tmobile and why i left them.

  3. So are they going to notify currently unlimited users and allow them out of the contracts for a limited amount of time in order to get around future suits?

  4. lol I bet Verizon is looking really good for a lot of customers right now, I mean common at&t s coverage isn’t so great and now their trying to screw customers over .

  5. Ok either you are unlimited, or limited with throttling. It can’t be both.

    1. At&t customers should start a petition

  6. I understand the need to manage use of limited resources.  My problem with this is that these resources didn’t suddenly become limited; they’ve always been limited, yet carriers continued to offer UNLIMITED data plans – something they couldn’t possibly have the resources to provide.

    A more reasonable approach would be to constantly throttle “top users” based on their usage patterns.  With a throttling threshold of 3GB, and a predicted monthly usage of 6GB, a user should be throttled to 50% speed – not 100% for 15 days and then 1% for 15 days.

    That said, I can’t imagine what people are doing with their phones that they’re using that much data, so maybe 50% speed would make the service as unusable as 1% does.

    1. I can answer that last question, if you look at the chart above you will see that streaming videos eats up data like crazy so with that said I think you can fill in the blanks to where my reasoning is heading

    2. How about you try doing everything on your phone without using wifi then you will know.

  7. If SPRINT could accelerate their 4G LTE rollout,this would be an excellent opportunity for them to gain market share, & watch current AT&T customers bail out of the their current contracts like rats on a burning ship.

    1. okay… anyone on sprint needs to go find the data throttling, cap game they have made lol it was sent to my evo 3d this morning, basically you have to protect your friends that have throttling and data caps… sprint is really riding this unlimited wagon haha

  8. thank god I still have unlimited on VZW.   I can look at unlimited amounts of tittie pictures without going over my limit!!  VZW, the boob-friendly network.

    1. Actually we get throttled too, but you need to go over 9 gb or something

      1. Verizon cannot throttle their 4G per the block C of the FCC rules.

        1. correct, they agreed to this.

        2. Yea I know I was referring to their 3g

  9. Like tmobil its really not unlimited..

  10. So does this mean I have to switch from the 2gig to the 3gig plan?  Do you just get throttled now instead of being hit with an overage fee?  This article is missing a lot of info.

    1. This only effects the customers grandfathered into the unlimited data plan, if you go over 3gb and you have the unlimited data plan you’re going to get throttled

      1. Wow I fail at reading.  I took it as they were doing what t-mo does and throttle everyone but still call it “unlimited”.

        1. Well unlimited data means you can use up as much data as you want which you still can but these wireles providers never said anything about the data speed

  11. And this folks is one of the MAIN reasons I have not fully embraced cloud computing. Faster networks, data caps, and devices with no SD slots and low onboard storage (ie: we’d rather you use the cloud) is amounting to nothing more than a carrier ponzi scheme. Glad I’m on Verizon and had my Unlimited grandfathered over (for now).

  12. Sometimes I think it would be nice living in USA, so I could avoid getting geo-blocked from stuff like movies, ebooks music in the android market, but then I remember I would have to use carrier that put crap on the phone, and sell “unlimited data plan”, which is lower than what you get in a small data pack where I live (sigh). Why is it that you guys find it acceptable, that the carrier binds you to one provider for 2 fricking years? Why are you guys not demanding more from your carriers? I don’t really care, but why is it relevant on phandroid that Americans gets screwed over by their providers?

  13. Their video thing makes very little sense. How does adding 2GB more, or ~66%, only give 20 more minutes of streaming video? Shouldn’t it be more like an extra 90 minutes?

    Doesn’t match up with an hour of video clips only being 120mb, yet just over 2 hours is a full 3GB.

  14. Sounds like a great way to get out of your contract with AT&T if you want to. Changing the terms after you sign up and agree, hey that has a material affect on me.

  15. i dont get how using data is a limited resource? what resource are we using? 

    1. It runs on a network server, the more people on it the slower it starts to send and receive data, so their trying to limit how much people use it or it would get overloaded, that’s why Verizon got rid of unlimited cause they gained a lot of new customers, t- mobile will prob get rid of their unlimited package soon also if they get more smartphone customers

  16. Verizon is actually the most fucked up out of all the carriers. If you are on a grandfathered unlimited plan, they start throttling after 2gb of data usage on your current billing cycle, the throttling will continue all the way through your next months billing cycle. If you don’t go over 2gb in that second billing cycle, your acct will be re-evaluated to go back to full speeds. If you call Verizon and stand tall, and don’t back down, they have to let you out of your contract without any cancellation fees. They can not change terms and than have it affect you contract from yester year. They had to let me and the three other lines out of contract because you can file a lawsuit against them. So now I’m month to month with 4 rooted phones using the UNTHROTTLED HACK grabbing 2.5mbps on the devils 3g network. Verizon can blow me, especially when all those phones are also tethering for free. A special thanks to all the DEV’S out there making it possibly to use our phones the way they were developed to work.

  17. Bottom line is that this is the new era of cellphones. Soon even sprint will have to do the same as att, verizon, and t-mobile. If they don’t there is no way possible they will be able to stay in business while pushing out lte.
    Sprint customers better get ready for because it’s coming, like it or not this is what our cell system has come down to. I personally don’t have an issue with using wifi when at home or whenever it’s available when I’m out, It’s not hard to do. I have the 2gb att plan and never go over. I guess when your limited you learn to adjust.

  18. Guys correct me if I am wrong but don’t these companies get bandwidth for cheap? If so why do they pretend like bandwidth is running out.

    1. Same reason they charge you for text messages when it doesnt cost them a thing lol

  19. why doesnt at&t use those billions of dollars to upgrade their damn network

  20. Does anyone know what the throttled speed is, I think I heard 2G. I got the text warning for the first time this month, but I don’t think they ever actually throttled me. I use a lot of data (6-7 Gb/mo) but the majority is Pandora, Iheartradio and Nobex. All seem to work pretty well when my phone is set to 2G, so if that’s the case it really wouldn’t bother me much,

  21. Ya’ll must don’t have Wifi? I never go over on my 2 gig data plan. *shrugs*

  22. I’d like to know how in legal terms unlimited means to limit or restrict maybe we should throttle our payments to them change carriers and send ATT $1 a month for the rest of our lives or till the bill is paid off see how they would like it

  23. I hate at&t worse then a pimple on my ass!!!

  24. VZW unlim 4g + unlim MHS…streaming away

  25. I already lost my unlimited data plan. AND I’M NOT GOING TO LOOSE MY 2GB. I don’t use that much data

  26. Can somebody please explain to me what the hell is SPECTRUM?
    is it the amount of cell towers or something?

  27. And now I’m even more glad I chose the Skyrocket vs the IIs.  My unlimited = 5gig without throttling not 3gig.  I’d prefer NO throttling. But at least I have little to no chance of hitting 5gig

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