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AT&T will let unlimited-data customers pay more to avoid the slow lane

AT&T will let unlimited-data customers pay more to avoid the slow lane

On Monday, AT&T announced the end of data slowdowns for smartphone users who buy “unlimited” data, but the benefit is only available to customers who purchase AT & T’s most expensive mobile plan. AT&T will continue to sell two other “unlimited” packages that can be put on a slow lane.

AT&T announces three “unlimited” plans, each with different limits. The advertised price of the Unlimited Elite plan is $ 85 per month for one line, while AT & T’s “Unlimited Extra” plan is $ 75 and the “Unlimited Starter” plan is $ 65.

Neither plan comes with unlimited data of the high-speed variety, but that will change this week. In a press release that says customers will soon be able to “stay on the fast lane with unlimited high-speed data,” AT&T said buyers of the more expensive plan “will now enjoy AT & T’s high-speed data, regardless or how much data they’ve used. “AT&T said it” will start rolling out this enhancement this week and Elite customers around the world will soon receive an SMS letting them know when the benefit has been added. ” While the change will be made at no additional cost to people who already purchase the more expensive package, others will have to pay more to access the only package with AT & T’s new “fast lane” benefit.

As the change has not yet taken effect, AT & T’s website still states that Unlimited Elite comes with “100 GB of premium data” and that “after 100 GB, AT&T may temporarily slow down the data speed. if the network is busy “. The Unlimited Extra plan includes 50 GB of premium data, while Unlimited Starter does not guarantee any amount of premium data. Unlimited Starter simply contains the caveat that “AT&T may temporarily slow down data speeds if the network is busy” regardless of how much data is used by a client. Essentially, Unlimited Starter users take priority behind everyone else when logging into congested network locations, even though they haven’t used any data this month.

With the upgrade recently announced yesterday, Unlimited Elite customers should never be given priority behind other AT&T users, even if they are well over the soon-to-be-lifted 100GB threshold. No changes have been announced for the other two plans, so Unlimited Extra users will continue to face potential slowdowns after 50 GB each month, while Unlimited Starter users will continue to face potential slowdowns at any time, regardless of their use.

All three carriers impose limits

AT&T is following in T-Mobile’s footsteps, which ended data slowdowns on its “Magenta Max” plan in February. T-Mobile still imposes thresholds of 50 GB and 100 GB before slowdowns on other plans. Verizon is announcing entry-level unlimited plans that can be slowed down at any time and three more expensive plans that include 50GB of “premium” data before potential slowdowns.

AT&T completely ending its data slowdowns when customers pay more demonstrates, if it wasn’t already obvious, that limits are not necessary for networking purposes. Imposing different levels of data slowdown is one of the methods AT&T and other carriers use to differentiate products between plans that all nominally offer “unlimited” data but cost different amounts.

Data service may still be fast enough to be usable when limits are in place, but AT&T doesn’t say what speeds customers should expect during downturns.

AT&T lifts video ceiling and increases hotspot data

AT&T is also lifting the video resolution cap on the Unlimited Elite plan, allowing 4K streaming instead of limiting videos to 480p (“DVD quality”) or normal HD. Currently, Unlimited Elite uses what AT&T calls “Stream Saver” to limit videos to 480p, but provides a toggle that allows customers to turn off Stream Saver and watch in high definition. Yesterday’s announcement stated that AT&T is “upping video resolution to 4K Ultra High Definition” on Unlimited Elite. Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Starter still limit video to standard definition 480p, according to this AT&T page. AT&T has not announced any video resolution changes for these shots.

AT&T is also increasing mobile hotspot data from 30 GB to 40 GB on Unlimited Elite. Unlimited Extra will continue to have 15 GB of hotspot data each month. Customers can technically continue to use access point data after reaching these limits, but they are limited to a maximum of 128 kbps. Unlimited Starter does not include any access point data.

AT&T also offers a subscription to HBO Max with its unlimited Elite plan and 5G access on all three unlimited plans.

Better than before

We’ve been writing about AT & T’s slowing speeds on unlimited data plans for a long time, and it was much worse before. Until 2015, “AT&T customers who used 5 GB of data in a single monthly billing period were limited for the rest of the month at any time, receiving barely usable service, despite paying for data. “Unlimited,” as we wrote when AT&T put the policy more lenient. The 2015 change ensured that “unlimited data” users exceeding 5 GB would only be slowed down when the network was congested, similar to current policies, but with a different threshold before potential slowdowns kicked in.

AT & T’s limiting practices were severe enough that the Federal Trade Commission sued the company for deceiving customers, saying AT&T made “unequivocal promises of unlimited data” while enforcing “speed reductions of 80 to 90% for affected users “. As the FTC noted in its October 2014 complaint, AT & T’s speed limits began at 128 kbps in 2011 and were increased to 256 kbps for 3G and HSPA + devices and to 512 kbps for LTE devices. in 2012. The FTC said the limitation affected 3.5 million customers.

Although AT&T has relaxed its slowdown policies, the phone company has claimed for years that the FTC has no jurisdiction over the company and has tried to use its arbitration requirements to block class action status. in a lawsuit brought by customers. AT&T agreed to a $ 60 million settlement with the FTC in 2019 and a $ 12 million class action settlement in 2021. Limited customers ended up not having much in return, as the settlement of the FTC typically provided $ 12 for each person and group. The lawsuit offered an additional $ 10 or $ 11, but only applied to residents of California.

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