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Virgin Mobile postpones smartphone data throttling until 2012

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Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) prepaid brand Virgin Mobile will postpone its decision to throttle the download speeds of heavy smartphone data customers from October until sometime in 2012.

HTC Wildfire S Virgin mobile

HTC Wildfire S

The company made the move in conjunction with an announcement of two new Android smartphones, the LG Optimus Slider and HTC Wildfire S, Virgin's first HTC smartphone. Virgin Mobile spokeswoman Beth Evegan told FierceWireless that the company didn't have a specific timeframe for when it will institute the policy next year.

"We have decided to delay the reduction of data speeds until 2012 to ensure we have all of  the necessary systems in place so that our customer experience will remain positive," Evegan said. "We will provide further information on timing beforehand so our customers have advance notification."

Virgin announced in July that starting in October customers on its Beyond Talk smartphone plans who use more than 2.5 GB of data per month would have their throughput speeds throttled. The company said at the time that less than 3 percent of its customers currently use that much data monthly. Interestingly, Sprint does not throttle its own smartphone data customers and offers its unlimited plans as a key differentiator in the market.

Other companies are instituting throttling and network management policies of their own. Starting Saturday, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has said it will throttle the data speeds of smartphone users with unlimited data plans who are among the heaviest top 5 percent of data users in a given billing period. The policy does not apply to customers on usage-based smartphone plans.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) too recently began a "network optimization" policy that applies to its top 5 percent of heaviest smartphone data customers on its unlimited plans. The carrier has said if customers are in the top 5 percent of Verizon's data users--which as of August is 2 GB of data or more--they "may experience managed data speeds when connected to a congested 3G cell site after reaching certain data-usage levels in a bill cycle." Verizon argues that this is not throttling because it will only apply when customers are connected to a congested cell site, and otherwise their data speeds will be normal.

T-Mobile USA announced in May it would not charge customers for data overage fees but would instead throttle users down to 2G EDGE speeds if they went over their data allotments.

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