AT&T Data Throttling : 7 Tips to Reduce Data Usage

Earlier today AT&T released an announcement that helps clarify their data throttling policy for unlimited data users.  We’re not here to debate whether or not the soft data caps via performance throttling is fair or not.  As an AT&T unlimited customer for years I have my own opinion but rather than digress we’ll stick to the topic at hand.  Our goal is to help reduce your data usage to avoid being throttled at the new 3 GB and 5 GB data limits.

First we’d like to briefly explain the new policy.  AT&T unlimited users can still use data all month long regardless of usage.  However, the new policy impacts the speed of your 3G or 4G connections.  It is also important to remember that Wi-Fi data usage doesn’t count toward the 3 GB and 5 GB data throttling limits.

Here are some more details from the AT&T data usage information page:

If you have a smartphone that works on our 3G or 4G network and still have an unlimited data plan,

  • You’ll receive a text message when your usage approaches 3GB in one billing cycle.
  • Each time you use 3GB or more in a billing cycle, your data speeds will be reduced for the rest of that billing cycle and then go back to normal.
  • The next time you exceed that usage level, your speeds will be reduced without another text message reminder.

If you have a 4G LTE smartphone and still have an unlimited data plan, the same process applies at 5GB of data usage, instead of 3GB.

Here are some tips to help track and reduce your AT&T 3G or 4G data usage:

1.  Check your data usage

AT&T has made it easy to check your data usage at any time during the month.  We’ll cover tracking from within your phone and some cool apps in a bit.  Right now though let’s look at an easy way AT&T has to stay current with how much you’ve used since the last bill.  Simply dial *data# and AT&T will send you a text message with your current usage stats.

2.  Connect to Wi-Fi networks (with VPN service)

The easiest way to save data usage is to use Wi-Fi networks whenever feasible.  Hopefully you can always connect at home.  When you’re at work or traveling watch for Wi-Fi hot spots.  Because using a Wi-Fi connection for heavy data usage like streaming video will save you a ton of bandwidth and help reduce your chance of getting throttled.  Also consider a personal VPN service to help secure public Wi-Fi connections.  Doing so will help reduce usage and secure your online privacy.

3.  For iPhones enable “Ask  To Join Networks”

iPhone users should consider enabling “Ask To Join Networks”.  When enabled your cell phone will let you know when a new Wi-Fi network is in range.  Otherwise you might miss some hot spots and in turn increase your 3G / 4G data usage.  To enable the feature go to Settings – Wi-Fi.  After turning on Wi-Fi enable “Ask to Join Networks”.  Don’t worry about accidentally joining any wireless networks.  You will be presented with networks but it won’t join without your confirmation.  Again we suggest a good  VPN service to secure your wifi connections.

4.  Track your data usage directly from your phone

Learn how to track data usage directly from your cell phone.  You can also use some cool apps apps which we’ll cover in tip #7.  iPhone users can check data usage anytime by going to Settings – General – Usage.  Your data usage is listed below call time.  The “Reset Statistics” button is located at the bottom of the screen.  Which is important since you’ll want to make sure and reset the counter to match your billing cycle dates each month.

5.  Take time to review and delete unused apps

Be honest, do you download apps all the time?  Are there tons of unused apps still on your phone?  If so you might be surprised how much data they can use up.  We’re guessing you could do without some of those games and other apps you used long ago.  There may even be a few cluttering up your screen right now.  Most users don’t think about background apps using data.  Consider apps like weather, news and stock that may sync on a regular basis to refresh data.  Removing unused apps will help save on data and might even speed up your phone’s performance.

6.  Wait for Wi-Fi access to stream movies

If you’re like me and enjoy services like Netflix, Pandora and YouTube then you may want to wait until you get home or to a Wi-Fi hot spot whenever possible.  As you can see from the screenshot above video usage eats bandwidth really fast.  According to the AT&T data usage chart watching 140 minutes of video in a month would put you at the 3 GB cap for throttling.  Music isn’t as bad but it would be very easy to listen to 35 hours of music in a month.  Watching movies and listening to music via Wi-Fi whenever possible will help reduce your data usage quite a bit.

7.  Consider Onavo’s app to help reduce data usage

We suggest that iPhone and Android users take a close look at Onavo.  The app will help you track data usage.  Onavo has an easy to follow user interface to analyze your data usage.  Helping you find out exactly which apps and sites use the most bandwidth.  In addition Onavo can be help you save on usage.  For example letting Onavo compress your data can save up to 80% of your usage.

We hope our tips will help reduce your data usage.  With the goal of staying under AT&T’s new 3 GB and 5 GB data limits for throttling.  If you have any other ideas or suggestions please share them with us – @VPNSP

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