Jeremy Johnson — Dallas Area UX & CX Leader
customer experience leader


I think AT&T is trying to break up with me

A good number of people I know have gotten "the text message". You know, the one that tells you - "Hey you, quit hogging all the bandwidth, why don't you use more Wi-Fi and stay out of my yard". Yes, I love to be told by a company that I'm using their services, which I pay for, so much I need to be punished. Here's my last 6 months of data usage:

Is this too much? I'm actually on the grandfathered iPhone plan ($30), which was unlimited at the time. But with the data usage growing 20,000% over the last five years (iPhone years), this is something they say they can't sustain:

But when the year-end numbers show a doubling of wireless data traffic from 2010 to 2011 – and you’ve seen at least a doubling every year since 2007 – the implications are profound.

Over the past five years, AT&T’s wireless data traffic has grown 20,000%.

The growth is now driven primarily by smartphones. Add to that new customer additions and the continuing trend of upgrades from feature phones to smartphones, and you have a wireless data tsunami.

And that's with throttling:

What’s more, AT&T’s efforts to restrict data usage among its customers seem to be working, reining in its hungriest data users. It introduced throttling on its grandfathered unlimited plans in the fall, which is now kicking in at usage levels as low as 2 GB a month.

But if they're truly trying to restrict data:

If AT&T is so network constrained, if 2 GB of monthly usage is too much for its networks, and if it doesn’t have the spectrum to meet future demands, then why is it opening up the data spigot, actually encouraging its customers to consume more for an extra $5 a month?

And now they actually have more data plans:

Reports say that there are 17 million people on the unlimited plan that's now being throttled:

AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans that can be subject to throttling, representing just under half of its smartphone users. It stopped signing up new customers for those plans in 2010, and warned last year that it would start slowing speeds for people who consume the most data.

That means there are 17 million customers that mid-month their service goes downhill. And I'm sure some of these unsuspecting customers have no idea what this means:

All they know is AT&T service is awful. Which gets them thinking about Sprint or Verizon. It has me thinking about Verizon.

Not that they're not trying to warn everyone - AT&T even put in their press release:

The amount of data usage of our top 5 percent of heaviest users varies from month to month, based on the usage of others and the ever-increasing demand for mobile broadband services. To rank among the top 5 percent, you have to use an extraordinary amount of data in a single billing period.

My service has started to CRAW recently. And it's not that it's just slower, but it won't even connect. iMessages are starting not to send, maps won't load, etc...

Speaking of iMessages - my text usage really dropped since the release:

Of course this just adds to my data, which even though I have a unlimited plan, I'm out of.

I don't understand how providing awful connectivity for potentially 17 million customers is a good idea.

So I have to decide, pay more? Switch companies? Carry around a backup wi-fi hotspot? I'm not sure yet, but this all has me thinking... What do you do when a company wants to get rid of you, but you have limited options?