Sprint begins throttling users in congested areas

By Derek Kessler on 8 May 2014 10:48 am EDT

Despite what the "unlimited" plan might make you think, Sprint is exercising their right to throttle back on users they've deemed as using too much data. Heavy use contract customers on Sprint, as well as prepaid customers on Sprint-based MVNOs Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, have been hit with warnings that starting next month Sprint will be engaging in "prioritization management" in congested areas.

FierceWireless has an example of the message being sent to customers:

"Beginning 6/1/14, to provide more customers with a high quality data experience during heavy usage times, Virgin Mobile USA may manage prioritization of access to network resources in congested areas for customers within the top 5 percent of data users."

Sprint has for the past several years been beating the drum of their unlimited data plans, touting their status as truly unlimited in the face of tiered plans from AT&T and Verizon, as well as an 'unlimited' data plan on T-Mobile that throttles user speed back if they blow past a soft cap on the service.

The prioritization management that Sprint will be engaging in will be throttling, but they've promised that it will only be in congested areas during congested times. If the Sprint customer that's in that top 5% either leaves the congested area or the congestion eases, their "speeds will return to normal."

As for where that 5% threshold lands, that's hard to say, though Sprint says that a user who uses over 5GB in a month is likely to be in that zone. Again, crossing into the top 5% doesn't mean you're automatically throttled — it's only during peak traffic in high traffic areas, and the prioritization scheme isn't applied to the account until the following month.

Now that Sprint's unlimited plan now has an asterisk on it, does that change your perception of the carrier?

Source: FierceWireless

Topics: Sprint Carriers

Derek Kessler Derek Kessler "Managing Editor of Mobile Nations" 89 (articles) 5 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Sprint begins throttling users in congested areas


You never get to their throttle cap with that repulsive 3G-EVDO network, anyway.

Motorola V3xx -> Nokia E63 -> Nokia N900 -> Nokia N9 -> BlackBerry Z10

It's 4G here in Chicago also, but man is it still atrocious at times. Even with their "Chicago's new Sprint" campaign. I swear sometimes I still think 3G on Verizon was quicker. But when it works, it's a thing of beauty. I can also be considered more a more than 5GB user. Lol

Verizon doesn't have unlimited data... unless you have been with them a long time. So they don't have to throttle you, as your are most likely watching you usage pretty closely yourself.

I'd wouldn't mind being throttle after 5GB......

5gb is a lot of data on mobile, or at least for an average user. The people this will impact the most will be those who stream. Throttling is nothing new and this announcement doesn't surprise me or concern me.

Throttling is one thing, charging for overages is another.

emPowered by 

I used over 20 gigs once with PennyTel, then I went to Optus unlimited. Now I might have had occasions using 5GB in a day, no problem!

"No Q10?" -> "Buy from Chen... "

They have successfully throttled us in the Columbus area by having crap service while they are "performing upgrades" for the past year.

I never minded Sprint all I ever hear is is horror stories from other networks; oh well it was bound to happen :)

Posted via CB10

Deep packet inspection throttling totally screws up a lot of MMOs (online games), as the traffic is throttled. Try playing a game with 10,000+ ping and an ISP that doesn't give a flying monkey.

I had to deal with for many years with Xplornet, as it was the only "high-speed" Internet available. They don't care if you are paying $15/month to play a game that only uses about 30mb an hour. Net neutrality means nothing to them and an ever increasing number of ISPs.

I like what Rogers did by removing throttling and simply charging people for the data they use. At least that way the online services actually work properly. I can tether with my 9900 or Z10 and get an awesome Internet experience, for a price.

Posted via CB10 on my BlackBerry Z10!

+1000 on this. Ping times basically make it impossible for MMOs and experience is ruined. Had to buy a land service just for my mmo nights

Z30 Vivo Brazil

Charging by usage is the only rational approach.

But the marketing people don't like it, because their infantile user base still believes in the tooth fairy and endlessly seeks out providers that pander to that mentality.

The problem now becomes how to monitor it? Would Sprint save a little money if they throttle the top 8% "just to be safe" or extend the times to "ensure reliability for our customers".. Who will know? Only when customers complain will they know they may have pushed too far. I hope my carrier doesn't/won't do this.

This makes good business sense. If the level is somewhere near 5 GB, it'll be a non issue for most users.

Cheers. :)

Posted via CB10

You have no problems if you don't use you mobile as a home Internet connection.

Posted via CB10

It's amazing how sheepish people have become. They will put up with anything!

Sprint is loosing customers at a record pace so they become more punitive and restricting then ever.


Using a BlackBerry Z10!

Once again, there is a catch to everything...if you don't want people using too much data, don’t call it unlimited then.

Unlimited means just that. So if they want to put out false advertising, I guess it's time the consumer does something about using their network then huh?

My two cents.

Posted via CB10

They're already falsely advertising with a completely false coverage map. which is why I cancelled.

I really don't get these carriers...the signal is sent anyway, so what's the big deal? Ya, Ya, congestion, blah, blah.

Posted via CB10

This is the prequel to giving faster access to customers who are willing to pay more. Signs of things to come with new neutrality?

Posted via CB10

I'd rather have those kind of "premium plans" than being forced into slower speeds.
Not to forget, getting over 5GB is easy. I was usually hovering around 8-16 with BB7.

Posted via Q10 

I recently switched from a Bold 9930 to a Q10 on Sprint. I was using around 4GB/month on the 9930, so I imagine I will exceed 5GB/month on the Q10, we’ll see what happens.

If anyone wants to get out of a Sprint contract, just make your phone roam on Verizon. Download and upload an entire Dropbox library or something. They'll kick you out without an ETF. This is for those who don't want to go to TMO which has the "we pay your ETF" thing going on.

I have unlimited data plan grandfathered with AT&T. However some time ago they sent me a letter that when i get to "x" data usage they will slow down the connection. So far i have not noticed it but what do you do.

Posted via CB10

"to provide more customers with a high quality data experience during heavy usage times"


We say unlimited, but then that would mean we can't throttle the hell out of you which means you won't be purchasing the data add-on packs we kindly suggested to you.

If it is not unlimited in totality, meaning both in data transferred and the speed at which it is transferred, then don't call it unlimited.

Data caps, "fast lane" connections with purposely degraded "slow lanes", 0 competition. Yup, welcome to the world of big data in North America!

Honestly, why some people defend these corporations is beyond me.

Tmo USA throttles data as well once u exceed your limit. This doesn't irk me. If u want a higher data ceiling, pay for it. Nothing is for free.

Posted via CB10

You must have a capped HS data plan. I have not heard of any throttling being done on any of the unlimited Simple Choice plans yet.

I just signed up for CellBreaker 6 days ago. A friend saw an article that mentioned CellBreaker and sent it to me. I read it and decided to give Cellbreaker a shot but didn't really expect much. But wow, talk about prompt turnaround time. Awesome service, got me out of my Sprint contract in a week, but the customer service was the most impressive thing--that and, of course, that it worked! If you're interested, here's the article that talked about CellBreaker: http://time.com/money/2974170/4-things-you-must-do-before-you-dump-your-...

Well, I could see this getting worse, but if they keep it just that way then I'm fine with it.

Posted from my CB via the power of "Q"

This improves my perception of the carrier. I don't think the other 95% should be indirectly subsidizing the top 5%.

Some people don't understand the concepts of "false advertising" and "bait and switch."

I currently have T-Mobile, which is far from perfect. But I want TMo to have nothing to do with any merger/etc. with Sprint, which would be a huge albatross around TMo's neck.

5 GB is a lot or data for most mobile users ! Sprint's practice seems fair. With that being said, their 4G left a lot to be desired here in DFW.

Posted via CB10

Sprint's newer plans have had this little caveat in there, at least I'm pretty sure they have. The older plans may not have. I'm also almost positive that this happens on their MVNO's already.

As a matter of fact I'm almost positive that the newer "Framily" plans mention they will throttle your data if your doing something like video streaming.

Sprint was so slow around Long Island that you could hardly do anything on your phone. Got tired of waiting for them to upgrade the network and switched to tmobile on a unlimited data plan, no throttle.

They finally got their 4g lte spark going after I left but it is slower than tmobile's at least were I live.

I have never been happier.

I go way OVER 5gb every month with no issues.
I'm planning on upgrading my playbook tablet soon and countinue using the free hot spot just like I do now.

I have to agree with them as written. Sharing is sharing and if you are hogging it all someone needs to slow you down so I can have some too.

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us. Run while you still can

It doesn't matter to me we dumped them 2 years ago because of bad service and went to at&t,sprints unlimited data does me no good when I have no signal.

Posted via CB10

It always kills me to see how many people actually believe that there is "unlimited" anything.

This is a marketing fiction, folks, designed to sucker people without critical thinking skills into believing some fantasy not unlike fairies, unicorns, and flying spaghetti monsters.

It has ALWAYS been the case that when some so-called "unlimited" internet service ACTUALLY STARTED ATTRACTING A SIGNIFICANT USER BASE, that it has been throttled back down and limited in some way.

The first ISP that became infamous for this in this country - and one of the first to claim "unlimited" data at the time - was one of the first cable ISPs, "@Home", which was founded in 1996.


Thankfully I live in the middle of nowhere, but it doesn't say what it deems as a congested area either.

Posted via CB10

My sprint service is so bad - I probably wouldn't even notice a difference. I probably have 4G 20% of the day, and San Antonio isn't exactly a small town in the middle of nowhere.

I would have to try reeeeaally hard to even use 5GB of data because my 3G would probably take a week to download/upload something that big.

Posted via CB10

Ugh, how come it's not always like that? There's only so much capacity per base station and it should prioritize more clients connected than peak throughput for 1. That is a difference between wifi and LTE.

Posted via CB10

It's like going into a buffet restaurant eat as much as you like then after eating 2 plates being told you've got to wait 2 hours before the next plate. Don't these mobile networks make enough money?

Posted via CB10

Rogers charges for overage and throttles. They might deny that; but that has been my experience.

Posted via CB10

All US carriers are garbage and liers. I try to stay away from anything with heavy US influence.

Posted via CB10

It always had an asterisk!!!! Nobody every read the fine print at the bottom. It always said "no throttling, but at the bottom it says in small writing, priority will be given to customers on other plans". When I asked the Sprint rep what that meant, he didn't know what to say!!!

I think that, this is just a matter of choice go with the carrier who can provide all the features/services that u need, who has the best coverage in your area, and the monthly fee that you can afford and willing to pay..

Posted via CB10