TracFone's Straight Talk service provided a few more details on its newly launched Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone service. The company said that it does not limit subscribers' data usage at a specific threshold; instead, it evaluates customers' data intake on a case-by-case basis and will throttle the speeds of those users who the company deems to be consuming too much data.
On its website, Straight Talk claims its iPhone plans can save users up to $950 a year in service fees.
A Straight Talk spokesperson told FierceWireless that "continuous video streaming" and other data-heavy services could cause a user to consume too much data, in which case the company would contact the user and warn them of a possible slowdown in their data speeds. The spokesperson, who declined to be named due to company policy, wasn't immediately available to provide details, including Straight Talk's terms of service.
The news is notable considering Straight Talk was rumored to throttle iPhone users' data speeds after a 2 GB per month limit. However, the company's spokesperson said Straight Talk does not have a specific usage cap, and instead will throttle the speeds of "excessive" data users in order to provide quality service to its entire customer base. The spokesperson repeatedly pointed out that the vast majority of Straight Talk's users are pleased with the service and that most wouldn't run afoul of the company's data monitoring.
Straight Talk isn't the only wireless company to employ this kind of case-by-case approach to throttling. Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) in 2010 announced a network management system that allows the company to selectively throttle the data speeds of heavy data users.
The Straight Talk spokesperson also confirmed to FierceWireless that Straight Talk does not support the iPhone's "Personal Hotspot" function. The service allows iPhone users to broadcast a Wi-Fi connection from their phone, thereby connecting other devices like laptops and tablets to their iPhone's cellular Internet connection. Such scenarios can chew through a significant amount of data, and most MVNOs do not support personal hotspots.
However, there remain questions about Straight Talk's iPhone service. The company's spokesperson could not immediately say whether the company's iPhone 5 is able to connect to LTE networks. Support for LTE was a major feature Apple trumpeted in announcing the iPhone 5 last year.
América Móvil's U.S. MVNO TracFone Wireless announced earlier this month that its Straight Talk brand would sell Apple's iPhone, including the LTE-capable iPhone 5, coupled with unlimited talking, texting and data starting at $45 per month--significantly cheaper than what other carriers charge. Although neither company would confirm the relationship, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) likely provides service to Straight Talk's iPhones. Last week, Straight Talk announced it would also support existing GSM iPhones that users port to the service.
The Straight Talk spokesperson also confirmed that the company's iPhone financing plans, supplied by Straight Talk retail partner Walmart, are only available on the 16 GB iPhone 5 and the 8 GB iPhone 4. The financing plans allow Walmart shoppers to pay for the devices in monthly installments of $25.
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