Sprint to start throttling unlimited plan customers if they use more than 23 GB of data in a month

Sprint (NYSE: S) said it will start throttling the speeds of customers on its unlimited smartphone data plans who use more than 23 GB of data in a billing cycle for the remainder of their billing cycle, but only at times and locations where the network is constrained.

Sprint CTO John Saw said in a company blog post that "one way we aim to make the customer experience better is to protect against the possibility that a small minority of customers might occupy an unreasonable share of network resources."

"With that in mind, we are introducing a new Quality of Service (QoS) practice that applies to customers who choose an unlimited data handset plan launched Oct. 16, 2015, or after, or customers who choose to upgrade their handset on or after Oct. 16 and remain on an existing unlimited data plan," he said. "For these customers, if they use more than 23 GB of data during a billing cycle, they will be prioritized on the network below other customers for the remainder of their billing cycle, only in times and locations where the network is constrained. (These customers will still be able to use unlimited amounts of data without the worry of overage charges.)"

Saw said that today only around 3 percent of its postpaid subscribers "are using overwhelmingly disproportionate network resources. Our goal with QoS is to prevent some portion of that 3 percent going forward from negatively impacting the other 97 percent of customers."

As Saw noted, other carriers have adopted similar policies for unlimited plan customers. In June, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) updated its disclosures about when customers on unlimited plans might see slower speeds. "Unlimited 4G LTE customers who use more than 21 GB of data in a bill cycle will have their data usage de-prioritized compared to other customers for that bill cycle at locations and times when competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speeds," T-Mobile said.

"This isn't a change in our policy, but we have updated our disclosures so that consumers can see the specific amount of data usage that would put them into the top 3% of users," T-Mobile said at the time. "While the threshold changes every quarter, the management of our network in times and places of congestion has been our policy since launching Simple Choice Unlimited 4G LTE." 

In September, AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) quietly increased the amount of data customers on its legacy unlimited data plans can burn through before they see their speeds throttled. Previously, the upper limit was 5 GB but the carrier increased the threshold to 22 GB.

AT&T notes that "speed reductions will occur only when the customer is using his or her device at times and in areas where there is network congestion and only for the remainder of the current billing cycle after the customer has exceeded the 22 GB data usage threshold."

For more:
- see this Sprint blog post

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