Users of Verizon’s 3G network with unlimited data and who consume an excessive amount of data downloads and uploads each month are now subjected to throttling. The move by Verizon Wireless follows the steps of its rival AT&T and the carrier, like AT&T, claims that this latest change will only affect about 5% of its users. Unlike AT&T, however, Verizon’s latest efforts do not affect 4G LTE network subscribers, and will only target those with 3G data on an unlimited data plan, which is no longer offered by the carrier. Customers on tiered 3G data plans are also not affected.
Throttling is nothing new in the wireless industry. T-Mobile was among the first to begin throttling data on its network, though the carrier still markets its plans as offering unlimited data. For T-Mobile, customers subscribe to a 2, 5, or 10 GB plan per month for data, for example. That premium will be for fast 3G or 4G data. Anything in excess of the fast premium data you pay for will be throttled, though customers would not be charged overages, and the throttling would last for the remainder of the month. In Verizon’s case, the carrier will throttle down data hogs’ data speeds not just for that current billing cycle, but for one additional billing cycle after that:
Verizon Wireless is always looking for ways to give customers the superior experience they expect from our network – an amazing resource that – shared by tens of millions of customers. To achieve this, customers within the top 5% of Verizon Wireless data users, may have their data speeds periodically reduced. This reduction will last for the remainder of the current billing cycle as well as the one immediately following. This is to make sure all users enjoy high quality network performance even when on a congested cell site.
However, Verizon’s ‘Network Optimization’ is said to be superior to throttling on rivals like AT&T and T-Mobile. According to the carrier, its rivals will throttle users and that’s that. Network optimization requires more management, and Verizon says that it will only throttle users who are connected to a congested cell site and if users are on a non-congested tower, then their throttling will be turned off:
The difference between our network optimization practice and throttling is about network intelligence. With throttling, your wireless connection is slowed down for your entire cycle, 100% of the time, no matter where you are. Network Optimization balances the best possible experience on the network and for the customer. Network Optimization Practices is more precise and requires more management than throttling, however it provides the greatest balance for everyone. So, if you’re in the top 5% of data users, your connection is slowed only when you are in a congested cell site.
As more users adopt smartphones and consume more data, bandwidth will be an ongoing and growing issue in the future. While carriers will need to manage the available bandwidth available for their networks in the future, the potential downside to this is that throttling and data caps may serve to stagnate innovation. Apps, streaming music and videos, and Internet-connected programs and games these days all consume data, and users may be afraid to take advantage of the true potential of their phones and devices if the cost of data is always on the back of their minds.
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