A new study released by company called Validas claims that data throttling on wireless data plans does nothing to alleviate data congestion on the wireless network. AT&T and others have long claimed that throttling is done on the top users of bandwidth on its network to ensure bandwidth is available for everyone. However, after extracting data from 55,000 cell phone bills that belonged to AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers in 2011 the result show throttling isn’t doing anything.
According to the study, subscribers on unlimited plans for Verizon Wireless use less data on average than those who are on tiered plans. Unlimited and tiered users on AT&T saw unlimited users consume slightly more than half a gigabyte more than tiered users on average versus median use. Considering the slight differences between tiered and unlimited plan users’ data consumption, why is it that the unlimited users are the ones at risk of being throttled?
The crux of the study seems to be that claims by carriers that throttling is needed to keep the network operating smoothly don’t appear to have any merit. It seems that throttling is merely an attempt to push users away from the unlimited plans to new tiered plans.
“When we look at the top 5% of data users, there is virtually no difference in data consumption between those on unlimited and those on tiered plans—and yet the unlimited consumers are the ones at risk of getting their service turned off,” Validas wrote in its report. “So it’s curious that anyone would think the throttling here represents a serious effort at alleviating network bandwidth issues. After all, Sprint does seemingly fine maintaining non-throttled unlimited data for its customers.”