back to article AT&T grabs dictionary, turns to 'unlimited', scribbles it out, writes: '22GB a month'

AT&T has posted guidelines for users on how it will now be handling its "unlimited" data plans for smartphones. The US mobile giant now says it will give users on unlimited plans a 22GB soft cap, after which they will still be able to receive wireless data, but only at dramatically reduced speeds. "Unlimited Data Plan …

  1. Tromos

    Fine them again

    And keep fining them until they either come up with an unlimited plan or stop using the word 'unlimited'. Is it so difficult to offer, say, the 'Giga' plan which features 22Gb of downloads followed by rate limited downloads for the remaining duration of the month?

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Fine them again

      Ummm, your asking a corporation to run ads that require some thought by the consumer to process this correctly. Aren't you aware that conflicts with every single assumption in Marketing? For Shame!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Fine them again

      For them to do that would be to admit guilt and deception and no corporation ever would do that.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Fine them again

      The internet is finite, so no plan can be truly unlimited. They should simply ban that word, and fine every ISP/telco that continues to use it.

  2. Hud Dunlap
    Unhappy

    yes this is correct

    "in some cases alleged to be as low as 3–5GB"

    I have seen it on mine. The funny thing is I can't see how much I use. When I check my usage on their website it just says unlimited. When I check it on my phone I just see some outrageous number.

    I blame Clash of Clans.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. ISYS

    Dictionary attack

    ISPs SELL us 'unlimited' data. Either honour the meaning of the word 'unlimited' or SELL us something else.

    The situation reminds me of the rail companies in the UK who are liable for fines for running a late service. They now try to define the word 'late' as meaning a certain time after the timetabled arrival time.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Dictionary attack

      The situation reminds me of the rail companies in the UK who are liable for fines for running a late service.

      And what a stupid idea that is, too.

      Train services are usually delayed by problems with signalling, availability of the rail network, stock breakdowns or incidents like someone jumping in front of the train - none of which are the rail companies' fault, and none of which are within the rail companies' control, except perhaps stock breakdowns, but even then it could be leased stock, so not directly under their control.

      So what is the point of fining the rail company? Because it feels like punishment, and satisfies the baying hordes, that's all.

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Dictionary attack

        And curiously, the vast majority of trains now get in to their terminus ten to fifteen minutes earlier than the timetable suggested, and at intermediate stations tend to leave five minutes before they've officially arrived...

      2. Lysenko Silver badge

        Re: Dictionary attack

        The point is that if rubbish performance by your leasing (or outsourcing) company is costing you a fortune in fines (or contract penalty clauses) then you might sometimes reconsider your delivery model and bring the offending functions in house where you can control them properly.

      3. mbreckers

        Re: Dictionary attack

        Except that is not the case at all.

        For instance signalling problems are normally attributed to Network Rail, OHLE and the actual track are attributed to Network Rail as well. UNLESS the damage or problem was caused by a train, and then the TOC that runs the train in question is responsible.

        Leased stock is completely irrelevant, as the TOC that has leased the stock out is responsible for maintenance and running.

        Similarly if Passenger Trains A, B and C are delayed or cancelled because Freight Train Z has broken down, then the FOC is responsible for the delays and are held responsible for any fines levied.

        And in the case of "someone jumping in front of the train", no fines are levied in this case as no-one is at fault in that situation

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    unlimited plans a 22GB soft cap

    technically, the scumbags are correct, as they don't limit the amount of data, they just turn it into a trickle. Which just makes them double scumbags.

    1. Dave Evans 1

      Re: unlimited plans a 22GB soft cap

      If you limit the size of the pipe, you are limiting the amount of data that can be downloaded. Whilst it **may** be deemed acceptable to imply that unlimited is within the physical bounds of the infrastructure, applying an artificial throttle to that infrastructure most certainly cannot be defined unlimited

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: unlimited plans a 22GB soft cap

        while you think you're right, and I think you are right, and just about 100% of human beings would say you're right, THEIR LEGAL (...) will argue that within the broad definition of "unlimited", nowhere does it specify the TYPE of limits, and such, the exact meaning is open to interpretation. And this is exactly why their marketing (...) had used chosen this word. As other marketing all over the words (...) have been "interpreting" the meaning of a word "free".

  5. Slx

    They really have to stop the misuse of the term "unlimited"

    We've had one or two laughable attempts here in Ireland to call 5GB of mobile data (at LTE speeds) "unlimited*"

    Putting a little * beside a word doesn't change its meaning.

    They all now seem to refer to "unlimited*"

    Fair usage limits apply. I'd like to see how that would stand up in court though. One person's idea of "fair" could be very different to another and they always seem to leave it totally vague and fluffy.

    That being said, I've never heard of anyone hitting their cap. So, I assume it is only if you're causing the network to meltdown.

    Fixed line broadband here normally is genuinely unlimited but they still reserve the right to get annoyed if you're running servers on your domestic cable, VDSL or fibre connection.

    1. Aedile

      Technically Correct

      This is the first time I think that being technically correct is not the best kind of correct I've encountered.

      Technically they are correct as long as they don't say unlimited at the advertised rate. If I offer you 10GB at 1GB per second and infinite after 10GB but at 56KBps you can still download an infinite amount after those 10 seconds have elapsed just very very slowly.

      1. Ancient One

        Re: Technically Correct

        Saying "... you can still download an infinite amount after those 10 seconds have elapsed..." is a poor choice of words, since downloading an "infinite" amount would take an infinite length of time, regardless of whether the ISP had throttled or had given fiber optic trunk cable speed.

        The better word than "infinite" would be "unlimited," technically correct in that the ISP is not directly and specifically limiting the data volume, but by providing data at a finite rate over a fixed period of time, those finite limits, in particular the ISP's finite provided data rate, do impose a limit, thus contradicting the term "unlimited," or at least qualifying it. But hey, this is advertising and marketing, so what flies under the radar...

  6. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Telcos are in a war for subscribers. To get the numbers up, each will try and outdo the others in gig per dollar. One day, not that long ago, one came up with the idea for "unlimited" and width consumption and, though the others tried to find affordable alternatives they eventually had to do the same to stem the flood of people desperate to join the Smartphone Set.

    Fast forward a few years, and the system has reached saturation, with too many customers for the available infrastructure and too many hogs snouting at the trough for the available cash flow to be deemed acceptable (public companies, shareholder value etc).

    It will be interesting to see how closely everyone's throttling levels are set. I suspect massive collision between Telcos a-la Enron et al in California during the 90s.

    The irony here is that some of those whining are shareholders and therefore caught in a noiseless face fiasco.

    Absolutely make the term "unlimited" off-limits. Replace it with an estimate of the number of hours of video each plan can provide at acceptable levels of buffering stutter. That's what people seem to do with smartphones when they are not playing free games.

  7. Tikimon Silver badge
    FAIL

    Don't sell what you can't deliver! Increase capacity, DUUUH!

    If they have to slow down everyone so the network doesn't collapse under the load, they've sold more than they can support. It's their fault, and they should be punitively fined and sued until they stop selling what they cannot deliver.

    I saw this every January when I was with AOL in the dial-up days. Christmas saw many new computers going online with AOL preinstalled, which boosted their subscriber rolls (as planned). The network would crawl for MONTHS while we endured mealy-mouthed apologies and promises to upgrade capacity. It's part of why I left them finally.

    THEY NEVER LEARN, so let's sue them and jog their memory!

    1. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Don't sell what you can't deliver! Increase capacity, DUUUH!

      They can't expand the network... The wired side of the network has enough bandwidth, the congestion is on the wireless side. There is only so much data that can be passed over the spectrum set aside for the 4G technologies. The only way to actually increase bandwidth using modern technology would be to turn down the power on the towers and start building a lot more of them closer together.

      1. James 100

        Re: Don't sell what you can't deliver! Increase capacity, DUUUH!

        Are they really at or even near those limits in most places though?

        Here in Scotland, I picked up EE's 200 Gb for GBP10 offer out of curiosity. My handset has cycled (while stationary, in a city) through the full range of options: 4G, 3G, EDGE and plain old GPRS, as well as periods of "no signal". If I'd bought it for any better reason than "I'm off sick and out of my head on pain pills, so what geek toys can I play with without moving very much?" I'd be fairly pissed off at them. As it is, so far I've managed to use up 2 Gb.

        As for "unlimited", I've had TalkTalk tell me 40 Gb in a month is too much for an unlimited business-grade ADSL service to cope with, and that's why we were seeing massive latency spikes and packet loss all day. Which is strange, when we replaced it with a non-unlimited business grade service whose next tier of service was "up to 200Gb per month" (with a 500Gb option above that)...

  8. FredBloggs61

    http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/215142

    /

  9. Munchausen's proxy
    Coat

    Any word on the chocolate ration?

  10. Triboolean
    Devil

    Do not fine them for it

    Though they may spin it as good as any good scammer would, its fraud to say 'unlimited' then choke you off.

    The best way to get them to comply with the law is not to fine the company since that does not really hurt the decision makers. Esp. CxOs who if shoved out the door would get big exit payouts anyway.

    The best way is a few months of jail time for board members and/or CxOs. No luxury cells either.

  11. Ancient One

    In one respect, using the term 'unlimited' is patently false, as data rates are finite, and the length of billing periods is also finite, and the combination of the two imposes a limit on total data. They might be trying to say that they don't impose a limit on data quantity, per se, but by throttling after a certain volume, they are doing exactly that. The way to get around these semantic tricks is to reword the contract to say 'unlimited time and volume at xxx rate.' Actually, some smart lawyers (I'm certainly not one, not a lawyer) could probably write a more binding, no-loophole contract that would deliver what the customer expects: a fixed and certain data rate for the entire billing period, with no data volume limitations. (Yeah, try running that past an Internet provider's billing and legal departments. Or go tilt at windmills... it's more productive.)

  12. Ancient One

    When 'limits' aren't really limits

    In one respect, using the term 'unlimited' is patently false, as data rates are finite, and the length of billing periods is also finite, and the combination of the two imposes a limit on total data. They might be trying to say that they don't impose a limit on data quantity, per se, but by throttling after a certain volume, they are doing exactly that.

    The way to get around these semantic tricks is to reword the contract to say 'unlimited time and volume at xxx rate.' Actually, some smart lawyers (I'm certainly not one, not a lawyer) could probably write a more binding, no-loophole contract that would deliver what the customer expects: a fixed and certain data rate for the entire billing period, with no data volume limitations. (Yeah, try running that past an Internet provider's billing and legal departments. Or go tilt at windmills... it's more productive.)

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