updated 10:25 am EST, Wed December 9, 2009
ATT exec says 3G limits will be tempered
AT&T will be careful if and when it changes its mobile data services to curb heavy use, the company's wireless chief Ralph de la Vega said today at a UBS conference. The executive reiterated his company's hesitation to commit to a plan but stressed that the carrier would respect net neutrality if it scales back from its current 'unlimited' strategy.
How the carrier will react will depend on system upgrades that track real-time usage, but pricing will be affected not just by regulation but by pressure from outside competitors and how customers react to changes.
De la Vega nonetheless argued that some level of control would be necessary given the disproportionate level of data use. While many existing network upgrades like 850MHz 3G and improved infrastructure are meant to reduce the need for these controls, he insisted that the most demanding AT&T subscribers would have to modify their behavior. Education may play a part as many customers aren't always aware of what constitutes heavy use; many assume that e-mail consumes a lot of data when it's actually audio and video streaming that cause problems, the AT&T official says.
The statements allude to a possible backtracking on AT&T's part from its previous approach to data use on its 3G network. It has admitted that it has blocked specific iPhone apps solely because they use a large amount of data. Policies of the sort have spurred the FCC to consider regulating cellphone traffic as part of its preliminary net neutrality rules to ensure fair treatment for video, VoIP and similar tasks.