AT&T reportedly plans to begin throttling its heaviest users’ data, as the carrier attempts to free up bandwidth in time for the upcoming iPhone 5 debut.
The Dallas, Texas-based carrier is set to begin its new data throttling strategy the first week of October. Customers with unlimited plans who go over a certain amount of data will have their speeds decreased for the next billing cycle. Only 5 percent of customers are likely to be affected, according to 9to5 Mac.
Since the release of the original iPhone in 2007, AT&T has had an 8,000 percent increase in its data usage. The growing popularity of other smartphones and the release of apps that stream video like Netflix and YouTube have taken up even more of the company’s bandwidth.
AT&T’s plan seems to be trying to strike a balance, taking data from a few people to assure a better experience for the rest of its subscribers. The company is currently facing an industry-wide spectrum crunch, as more customers with data-hungry phones continue to clog the company’s networks.
But AT&T is not the only carrier that has resorted to throttling data of heavy users to better regulate data usage. Earlier this year, Verizon added a clause in its contracts that gave it the right to slow down the data of bandwidth hogs. Virgin Mobile also exercises data throttling on customers who use more than 2.5 gigabytes of data a month.
The timing of AT&T’s move to reduce the speed of heavy users’ data also coincides directly with the rumored release window of the iPhone 5. Throttling is a way the carrier can shore up its network and temporarily increase its infrastructure in preparation for the influx of customers it will likely see from the release of a new iPhone, in addition to coming holiday season.
But while throttling data may be the company’s plan for this year, it’s still only a quick fix. AT&T is banking on the approval of its $39 billion merger with T-Mobile to be the company’s long-term spectrum solution. The carrier has referred to the spectrum and bandwidth it would gain from T-Mobile as a main reason why the Federal Communications Commission should approve the deal.
AT&T won’t know if the merger with T-Mobile will go through until next year. Until then, the carrier will likely continue making minor moves like data throttling to keep its network moving.