Verizon is preparing for an expected onslaught of mobile data usage from new iPhone customers by throttling data for the top 5 percent of users — the so-called “data hogs.” It’s also compressing data files transmitted over its wireless network, according to a Verizon memo (PDF) revealed by the mobile site Boy Genius Report.
Clearly, Verizon is trying its best to avoid appearing like AT&T, which saw its network take significant hits in performance after the introduction of the iPhone. Verizon is also home to powerful Android phones like the Droid series, and it’s preparing 4G devices to launch in a few months, so the new policies should help the carrier manage data hogs across all platforms.
According to the memo:
If you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5% 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.
Penalizing data hogs for two months seems excessive, especially since it’s unclear what the dividing line is between the top 5 percent of data users and everyone else.
As for the file optimization, Verizon’s memo reads:
We are implementing optimization and transcoding technologies in our network to transmit data files in a more efficient manner to allow available network capacity to benefit the greatest number of users. These techniques include caching less data, using less capacity, and sizing the video more appropriately for the device. The optimization process is agnostic to the content itself and to the website that provides it.
The memo goes on to say that the company will do its best to make sure the optimization doesn’t impact the appearance of content on your mobile device, it may end up having a minimal quality hit.
Assuming Verizon doesn’t go overboard with its compression settings, optimizing files could actually be a great method for dealing with wireless network strain. Most users aren’t aware of the sizes of files that they’re playing, which leads them to access files that aren’t really optimized for mobile devices. By re-encoding those files into something more efficient for its network, Verizon can surreptitiously make its service appear faster and more reliable without the need for costly upgrades. It’s a technique I suspect other mobile carriers will soon adopt as well.