warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Data Throttling: What It Means For The Future Of Cloud

Ankit Tyagi |
August 8, 2011 | 2:18 p.m. PDT

Associate Tech Editor

AT&T Logo (credit Creative Commons)
AT&T Logo (credit Creative Commons)
AT&T recently became one of the last major U.S. carrier to announce they will be throttling data to their customers. Data throttling is effectively reducing the speed that data is pushed to phones via cell towers in order to alleviate data speeds for the rest of the carriers customers. This in it of itself is no reason for alarm, however, as AT&T says it applies only to the top 5 percent of heaviest data users, particularly for those with unlimited data plans. But what may be concerning to consumers is growing number of cloud services in the midst of data throttling and data caps. 

Starting Oct. 1, unlimited data customers who send and receive large data files over the cellular network--video streameres and Pandora user beware--will be warned about their data being throttled. AT&T has stated that if customers switch to a tiered data plan, then they will not be throttled, but will have to pay for all overage charges.

Interestingly enough, this move could have a potential impact on cloud computing. Many analysts believe cloud computing is the future of mobile technology because it can reduce storage requirements, allowing for longer battery life and a better user experience.

Apple is one of such company investing in the cloud with their upcoming iCloud service. However, what about the paradox between the high data usage of cloud computing and data throttling? If cell providers are utilizing data throttling to help keep data usage under control, adding more data requirements to phones would only stress the networks further.

Professor Ted S. Rappaport of The University of Texas at Austin says that "new rules and guidelines are needed to enable the finite resource of bandwidth available to all users." Rappaport says bandwidth is a finite resource, even though it is growing rapidly due to semiconductor and technology innovations. And, even though this overall bandwidth increase can allow for cloud services to be more easily handled by networks, the fact that there only is a certain amount of bandwidth overall still warrants a need for some rules to be in place, such as throttling. 

Even with the planned data throttling, AT&T stated the following in their press release:

"Even as we pursue this additional measure, it will not solve our spectrum shortage and network capacity issues. Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges."

Although data throttling can help with the bandwidth issue AT&T is facing, they state the updated infrastructure from the proposed merger will be the greatest benefit for them.


Reach Ankit Tyagi here.

Follow him on Twitter @ankittya.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.