Sprint's Boost Mobile to start smartphone throttling in January

Starting in January, Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Boost Mobile prepaid brand will begin throttling customers' data speeds if they use more than 2.5 GB per month. The change mirrors one that Sprint put in place this year for its Virgin Mobile prepaid unit.

"Starting on or about 1/20/13, Monthly Unlimited plans will offer 2.5 GB/month of full speed network data but will slow to 3G speeds of 256 Kbps for continued data use after 2.5GB," Boost wrote on its official Facebook page. "Customers that go over the 2.5 GB threshold may experience slower page loads, file downloads and streaming media. Data speeds will restore to full 3G/4G speeds when a customer's new monthly plan begins."

"This is not a new change. Boost Mobile announced last May when we launched the HTC Evo Design 4G that throttling would be in place later in the year," noted Sprint spokeswoman Danielle Babbington. "Since the announcement in May, reduced data speed references have been in all news releases and in all T&Cs."

The changes could be timed to coincide with the introduction of the first LTE smartphones on Boost and Virgin, a move rumored for some time in the first quarter of next year. Both prepaid brands started offering smartphones earlier this spring running on Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network, and they currently sell the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Evo Design.

Boost tried to reassure customers that its throttling policy won't cause too much trouble. "First, keep in mind that 2.5 GB per month is a lot of wireless network data and we anticipate that only a small percentage of Boost subscribers will actually reach that," the company wrote. "To give you an idea, it's about 400,000 Mobile Internet page views, about 90,000 emails (without attachments), 91 hours of streaming music or 20 hours of video clips, in a month."

Virgin started throttling customers' data speeds in March. Like Virgin, Boost said it will notify customers via text message when they reach 85 percent of the 2.5 GB threshold and again when they reach the 2.5 GB limit.

Interestingly, Sprint does not throttle the speeds of its Sprint-branded CDMA and LTE data service, which is available to its postpaid customers. T-Mobile USA too recently re-introduced an unlimited, unthrottled data service after offering a throttled service for several years. AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless both cap usage, but do not throttle speeds. 

For more:
- see this Boost page
- see this Boost Facebook posting
- see this PhoneNews post

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