Sprint MVNO Karma terminates Neverstop unlimited service: 'This time we went too big'

Sprint MVNO Karma said it will discontinue its Neverstop unlimited data service and will replace it with a tiered data offering called Pulse that ranges from 5 GB for $40 per month to 20 GB for $140 per month.

"We tried to make Neverstop work by regulating the number of devices you could connect, limiting speeds to 5Mbps, and most recently, capping usage at 15GB per month," the company said on its blog announcing the change. "None of these changes made Neverstop sustainable at $50 a month, and most importantly, they all degraded the experience for customers. The time isn't right for this service. We like to dream big, but this time we went too big. Karma is a young company, and we want to focus on what we can do well. No fine print. No contracts. Seamless access."

With its new Pulse tiered service, Karma said users can add data for $15 per GB and can upgrade or downgrade their data allotment at any time. "If you add extra data and don't use it all, you'll be refunded the difference," the company said.

The action brings to an end Karma's tumultuous effort to offer its Neverstop unlimited data service. The MVNO launched Neverstop -- a $50-a-month unlimited data service for users of its Go hotspot -- roughly three months ago. But the company quickly found that nearly 60 percent of its customers reported using Karma Go as their home Internet service, and some found ways to bypass a Neverstop system designed to prevent support for home video streaming and console gaming devices. As a result, in early January Karma capped data speeds at 1.5 Mbps to 2.5 Mbps, a marked decrease from the 5 Mbps supported at launch. Then, a few weeks later, Karma conceded the move was "a mistake," and said it would restore speeds of 5 Mbps up and down, slowing them to roughly 64 Kbps to 128 Kbps once users exceed a 15 GB monthly cap. The company also said it would begin awarding a $1 credit per GB to customers who don't use their monthly data allotments. Now the company has quit the Neverstop offering altogether.

"The whole point of Neverstop was that you should never have to worry about your data usage," the company said in announcing the cancelation of the unlimited service. "Since we announced changes to Neverstop, this hasn't been the case. Over the past month we've been listening to your frustrations in our support channels and on social media, and you're right to be upset."

Karma CEO Steven Van Wel told The Verge that, even with the throttling the company imposed in January, half of its Neverstop customers reached the company's 15 GB cap before the end of their billing cycle, and there was no way for them to add additional high-speed data. He said that the company's current Neverstop customers would remain on the unlimited service until the end of their billing cycle, and after that they will be transferred to the company's 5 GB Pulse plan.

The Verge noted Karma will continue to offer its pay-as-you-go data plans.

Karma's troubles again underscore the difficulty MVNOs face in separating themselves from the pricing structure established by the nation's cellular network owners. In recent months MVNOs including PTel and Solavei have ceased operations due to the cutthroat nature of the MVNO market.

For more:
- see this Verge article
- see this Karma post

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