AT&T has announced today that it is retooling the throttling policy on its unlimited smartphone data plan, a legacy offering still in use by many customers — largely because it was long the standard-issue package sold alongside the iPhone. The new cap will be 3GB for customers on HSPA+ plans and 5GB for those on LTE, up from roughly 2GB regardless of network type. Once the cap is hit, throttling will kick in until the end of the billing cycle, the same policy as before.
The carrier has taken a significant amount of heat in recent weeks for stepping up enforcement of the data throttling policy — many subscribers had been reporting text messages telling them they were in the top five percent of data consumers on the network, warning that they'd receive reduced speeds through to the start of their next data cycle. That wasn't necessarily a surprise considering that the carrier had been warning that it would start doing that for months, but users had a couple major complaints: one, the "throttled" speed was often all but unusable, and two, the cap of roughly 2GB was illogically less than the current DataPro bucket of 3GB for the same monthly price. With this change, that's been fixed.
As for speeds, we're hearing from multiple sources that throttled performance improved at some point in the past few days; it stands to reason that this might be related to AT&T's policy tweak. The company says that "even with reduced data speeds, these customers will still be able to email and surf the web, and continue to use an unlimited amount of data each month." Is it as good as a true unlimited plan at full speed? No — but barring a miracle of physics and technology, that's a product that isn't ever coming back.