In what could be an opportunity for competing wireless carriers, Verizon has announced plans to throttle data speeds on unlimited 4G plans. The company is blaming the move on ever-increasing consumer demand for high-speed data networks.
Tom Pica, Executive Director of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wirelesss, posted a story in the company’s news center suggesting the goal is to ensure the “optimal wireless experience” at a time when more consumers than ever before are turning to smartphones and tablets to drive productivity and improve quality of life.
“Three years ago, Verizon Wireless introduced a network optimization policy to ensure that all data customers would have the best network experience,” he explained. “To accomplish this, Verizon Wireless’ Network Optimization policy limits the data speeds of the heaviest 3G data users -- only select subscribers with unlimited data plans whose data usage is in the top 5 percent of all data users -- when those users are connected to cell sites experiencing heavy demand so that all data users will enjoy a quality wireless data experience.”
Most of Verizon’s users have transitioned to tiered data plans that cap their data usage. However, the customers whose unlimited data plans were grandfathered in when Verizon announced its network optimization policy may decide to take their business to rival wireless carriers.
How Will This Impact You?
While all major wireless carriers employ tools to manage the traffic on their networks, Pica said Verizon Wireless uses network intelligence to slow the speeds of “only some” of its heaviest users on unlimited data plans -- and only when those users are connected to a cell site that is seeing peak usage at any given time.
“Once the heavy usage eases, or the user moves to a different cell site, the user’s speeds return to normal,” he said. “Verizon Wireless’ practice of Network Optimization ensures that all customers have the best wireless data experience possible.”
Then the hammer dropped on bandwidth hogs. Starting in October, Pica said, Verizon Wireless will apply its network optimization policy to those who fall within the top 5 percent of data users on the network, have fulfilled minimum contractual commitments, and are on unlimited plans using 4G LTE devices.
“They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand,” Pica said, stressing that most will not feel any impacts.
Is There a Better Way?
We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, to get his reaction to Verizon’s throttling moves. He’s been warning over the last few years about problems that would arise in the face of wireless spectrum shortages and told us what no one wants to hear: As networks run tight on spectrum they have to start limiting extra heavy users.
“Verizon Wireless is obviously running tight on their spectrum. That means extra heavy users can have a negative impact on the typical user experience. That's why they are limiting heavy usage,” Kagan said. “A better solution would be to have enough spectrum and capacity so they can offer all users unlimited data -- period.
However, that would mean there would be no spectrum shortage. That's just a dream today.”
Even though many heavy Verizon users will find this “a pain in the neck,” Kagan said it has to be done. And even though heavy users will hate it, he continued, light users should appreciate it. Ultimately, this is the price consumers have to pay for the lack of spectrum.
“A solution I have offered is obviously not interesting to networks. I think that pooling of spectrum and letting all networks have access to all spectrum would solve the problem, for now anyway,” Kagan said. “The real solution has to come from more efficient use of spectrum and more spectrum.”
Posted: 2014-07-29 @ 3:14am PT
I have paid for "unlimited" data for years and that is what I expect. If throttled I will be moving from Verizon after more than a decade as a loyal customer. This isn't a government entity. If there is no fair side on the corporations part there shouldn't be from the consumer either.
Posted: 2014-07-29 @ 12:24am PT
Verizon should be banned from advertising 'unlimited' plans until they can actually deliver what they promise. Anything less is false advertising.