Verizon Encourages Jump to 4G by Throttling Top Data Users

Verizon’s decision to throttle the top five per cent of heavy 3G users on unlimited plans tightens the reins on data consumption and may encourage customers to jump to 4G devices.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier notified heavy users still on unlimited plans that they will have their network speed throttled, or slowed, if they exceed certain limits. These users may have initially thought their plans were grandfathered in when Verizon switched to tiered plans this summer.

Customers on 4G phones will not be affected, so heavy data users on 3G devices will be hardest hit by the change.

Since Apple doesn’t offer a 4G phone yet, heavy data users who want to remain with Verizon may decide to pass on the iPhone in favour of current 4G offerings. In addition, the move may lure customers to Verizon’s tiered data plans or to find ways to use Wi-Fi options to limit their data use.

The change may also solidify Verizon’s 4G network customer base at a time when rival AT&T last week announced the first launch of its burgeoning network. Customers interested in 4G devices and networks may have another reason to flock to Verizon’s faster network, giving the company an edge in the 4G race.

So far, Sprint is the only carrier to still offer unlimited data plans, but that may change, too, if the company’s possible addition of the iPhone to its smartphone lineup taxes its network.

Verizon is calling the move “network optimization” and distinguishes it from throttling, saying, “With throttling, your wireless data speed is reduced for your entire cycle, 100 per cent of the time, no matter where you are.

Network optimization is based on the theory that all customers should have the best network possible, and if you’re not causing congestion for others, even if you are using a high amount of data, your connection speed should be as good as possible.”

The top five per cent of data users will have speeds reduced only when connected to a congested cell site, and the speed will return to normal when that is no longer the case. Verizon said the duration of network optimization may mean a matter of seconds or hours, depending on location and time of day.

Verizon states 3G customers exceeding data usage by 2-gigabytes or more a month can expect to be affected by the change.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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