AT&T is rumored to be implementing a data throttling program set to begin in the first week of October. The change would apply only to its top users, and would in that way be similar to the program already in place at Verizon Wireless (.PDF)
That could point to potential timing for an iPhone 5 launch: last year, AT&T
implemented data tiers just prior to the iPhone 4 launch. AT&T will also be releasing its first LTE
devices later this year.
In addition to AT&T and Verizon, Virgin Mobile
has already said it will have a throttling program, beginning the first week in October, as well. The "numbers" for AT&T's service aren't known, but Virgin Mobile's will kick in when a user tops 2.5GB, and will throttle them down to 256kbps.
Since AT&T has capped data tiers, the network will probably implement the throttling as the user neared his or her cap limit. Verizon's throttling is implemented for its top 5 percent of users, a more open-ended limit.
T-Mobile advertises unlimited data, but once a user reaches 5GB, their data speed is severely throttled.
Once again, it's another example of how content providers want customers to use more bandwidth, but the ISPs and carriers want them to use less (or pay more for the same ... or even less). The heavy users of today are known as outliers, but these outliers will be the typical user of tomorrow.