Verizon to Throttle Data Speeds of Heaviest Users
Suddenly that vaunted unlimited data plan doesn't look so good. Verizon revealed that the company plans to "throttle," or slow down, data speeds for people that exceed a certain amount of data on its network.
Throttling involves drastically reducing the data throughput speeds of some users in order to keep the entire network from slowing down. The problem is that Verizon is already known to have network speeds significantly slower than some other networks.
The news comes from a PDF memo on the Verizon Wireless site:
Verizon Wireless strives to provide customers the best experience when using our network, a shared resource among tens of millions of customers. To help achieve this, if you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5 percent of Verizon Wireless data users, we may reduce your data throughput speeds periodically for the remainder of your then-current and immediately following billing cycle to ensure high quality network performance for other users at locations and times of peak demand. Our proactive management of the Verizon Wireless network is designed to ensure that the remaining 95 percent of data customers aren’t negatively affected by the inordinate data consumption of just a few users.
Even though it sounds reasonable at first, this move could end up affecting nearly 5 million people (assuming 5 percent of Verizon's 94 million customers). It's even more vexing when you consider that Verizon has identified the top 5 percent of users in the past as those that use more than 2GB of data per month. Suddenly, the advantage of Verizon's unlimited data plan over the 2GB data cap of AT&T doesn't seem so big.
The same document also revealed Verizon will "optimize" data by compressing and transcoding data files as they are transmitted across the network, in order to increase efficiency and lower the data load.
These techniques include caching less data, using less capacity, and sizing the video more appropriately for the device.
Unfortunately, Verizon also admits that these techniques could cause some problems.
While we invest much effort to avoid changing text, image, and video files in the compression process and while any change to the file is likely to be indiscernible, the optimization process may minimally impact the appearance of the file as displayed on your device.
In other words, the Verizon network could distort files and Web pages in transit.
All of this seems to be in preparation for the Verizon iPhone, which is expected to dramatically increase the amount of data being transmitted on the network. The coming batch of 4G Android smartphones is also expected to increase data usage.