Study Shows Throttling Unlimited Data Plans Doesn't Reduce Usage Compared To Tiered Plans

As pointed to over at TechDirt, a study of 55,000 phone bills from 2011, when looking at the top 5% of users and comparing unlimited versus tiered plans, shows little difference in data usage between the throttled unlimited plans and unthrottled but tiered plans; most strikingly, Verizon's results showed effectively no difference whatsoever.

2011-data-consumption_medium

via blog.validas.com

As the authors of the study point out, "three of the Big Four wireless carriers are engaging in Unlimited Data Plan throttling, ostensibly as an effort to free up network bandwidth . . . [but] it’s curious that anyone would think the throttling here represents a serious effort at alleviating network bandwidth issues". The suspicion, of course, is that these efforts are really just in the pursuit of making Unlimited Data plan holders feel pressure to switch to a tiered plan. In at least the case of Verizon, the complete lack of any practical difference between these "data hogs" on Unlimited and Tiered plans betrays any claim that this throttling is for alleviating a current bandwidth crunch.

As someone who pays about $35 a month for a plan which includes unlimited data (living up here in Canada at the moment; speeds generally vary from ~200KB/s to ~1000KB/s, depending on where I am), I have to say that I find the move to tiered data interesting, a bit worrying, and honestly with a bit of a smirk of smug superiority that will likely be wiped off my face at some point. More importantly, with the American market increasingly (if only sporadically) consolidating, I worry that even as LTE rollouts and future technologies increase bandwidth speeds, the big telecoms will simply milk that for larger and larger profit margins rather than allowing the limits to keep pace with the capabilities.