Even with restrictive data caps on “unlimited” plans in place, AT&T is struggling to keep 3G/4G traffic at manageable levels. The wireless provider’s even instituted a generally conservative series of data plan tiers to help alleviate the congestion, but it doesn’t seem to be working. However, according to GigaOM, it’s not the network’s newest wireless customers (some 5.5 million added in Q1 2012) doing the most damage. Instead, its the network’s median users, the ones who’ve been around long enough to get used to their quotas but not long enough to have been grandfathered in to the aforesaid unlimited plans (emphasis added):

AT&T’s first quarter earnings numbers show that new smartphone customers aren’t the ones straining its data networks. Rather AT&T’s chickens have come home to roost. Customers are finally starting to consume the big buckets of data AT&T is selling them, taking their fair share of network capacity while not paying more for the privilege. Consequently AT&T is seeing a massive increase in data traffic without seeing a corresponding jump in data revenues.

I’d call that a decided win for the little guy!

Of course, if the current trend proves untenable on AT&T’s end, that big win could turn into a bigger loss in no time flat. Until then, though, we’ll just chalk this one up to poetic justice.