Verizon has been trying to coax users away from unlimited data plans for quite some time. As users upgrade, Verizon has prodded them onto capped and shared data plans, trying to divorce them from unlimited data. The latest method the nation’s largest carrier is using might be their boldest yet, as Verizon has started throttling heavy data users on unlimited plans.
Starting in October, the top five percent of data consumers on unlimited data plans will have LTE data throttled. Currently, the top five percent use just under 5GB of data monthly, but that number will fluctuate, maybe monthly.
It’s a strange methodology for Verizon to use. As GigaOm points out, they did something similar in 2011 to wean 3G users onto LTE, but this has a different connotation. Verizon just started expanding their LTE into XLTE in anticipation for VoLTE and 5G service. Offering double the bandwidth in some areas does not mesh with throttling heavy users.
On the bright side, Verizon says this will affect bogged-down areas more than their coverage as a whole. When a cell gets congested, Verizon will prioritize customers who have blocks of data on their plan rather than unlimited users.
The problem with Verizon’s “ranking” is how you might fare on the cell as an unlimited data user. It’s possible you could get downgraded so much your data plan becomes more or less unusable, in theory. It’s like forced attrition.
Verizon isn’t telling users they have to get away from unlimited data, but they’re not making those customers welcome, either. This won’t affect a massive number of users, but it sets a precedent we should all hope doesn’t spread.