Sprint begins throttling users in congested areas

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

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, occasional web designer, Army musician, armchair pundit, news addict, all-around nerd, professional ranter, and user of many phones.

More Posts



← Previously

The Belkin Qode Thin Type keyboard for iPad is less than 4mm thick

Next up →

Andrew Vyrros, former iMessage lead at Apple, now at messaging startup Layer

Reader comments

Sprint begins throttling users in congested areas


Their network sucks anyway. Sure, why not make it slower? Good business Sprint. How about you build a better network? It's not even like you have half the user of Verizon and AT&T, and that's too much traffic on your network?? Can't wait to break ties with you in a month, or so. Been with Sprint for 10+ years, waiting for them to catch up to the other networks, but enough is enough.

T-Mobile have an honest policy. If you purchase to a limit then you can use data until you reach that limit on whatever speed and then after that limit is met then it reduces to 2G speed until the end of the month period. Unlimited LTE means unlimited LTE (or whatever is available in your area) with no reduction in speed.

There is nothing worse than a provider advertising 'TRULY UNLIMITED' as Dan Hesse did on their advertising campaign when he was shown walking down a hallway telling the camera that they were doing 'truly unlimited' when it turns out now that you may be treated differently after you moved to them.

Not only that, it seems that you may be slowed simply because there are lots of people in your location using the service and the cell tower you are connected to happens to have met it's contention rate. Sure that's a reason for them to look into adding extra towers in that location and improving the quality of service for their customers not making a bad customer experience that very well may drive customers away.

Sprint have a lot to learn when it comes to customer service and customer experience.

You should be the new CEO of Sprint! You make it sound soooo easy!!! I mean geeze, if that's all they have to do when why not just do it??? Why continually piss people off?? Oh I know. Sprint is a non profit company that will do anything to drive business AWAY right???

This is very surprising not well liked

My 13 years loyalty means nothing to them

Sent from the iMore App

What does that even mean that your 13 years of loyalty means nothing? Are you using so much that you might be throttled?

What if you were one of the customers who's data service is affected because your neighbor is using 20 Gb of data each month. So Sprint will throttle their data during peak ours so you can have the best possible experience. Does that change your mind?? I mean you've got 13 years in!! Screw that other guy.

Makes perfect sense to me. VZW does the same thing to the highest data users on a given tower if there is bandwidth issues. No offense, but if you are trying to streaming HD video during rush hour in the middle of the city, eating up the bandwidth of the many other users just trying to check FB, I would say you should be throttled at that time too. Your massive use should not have the right to ruin all the other users use. Seems like basic network management to me.

I'm surprised they have not been doing that and tells me why many area's are so slow...

This is different than a data cap.. This is about proper data bandwidth management. About keeping the fewer data hogs from killing the network for everyone else.. People actually torrent on Sprints network.. lol I mean.. common..

Good for Sprint, and I am a Sprint customer. Some people just abuse the service, I know of people that use 50G/month, these people need to be throttled and I am ok with that.

Honest question here, how is someone "abusing" a service, that's been offered to them as "unlimited", and they treat it as such?

When users tether, especially by jailbreaking, and use the mobile internet pipe as their main internet access connection, they are essentially putting too much burden on the tower and affecting other Sprint customers. That is not right even if you have unlimited plan.

If you are truly using 50G on your phone, you need a life.

Sprints network is nowhere near fast enough to act as anyone's main internet connection!!!

Sent from the iMore App

I'm paying an insane $95 a month. I'd expect that I get what I pay for -unlimited bandwidth as advertised. In the Wash. DC. area, my LTE speeds are about as fast at 3G. To cap speeds even further is absurd.

So what about users that aren't tethering but use that much data? I have used 20+ GB's in a month without tethering a single byte. It's not difficult to do, but it's also why I chose a carrier that offers me unlimited data use without caveat. Now, if someone had a limited data plan and found a way to circumvent their allotment, I would agree with you that their abusing a service. However, that's not the case here, we have heavy users, probably people who stream one of the various music or video services on a daily basis, that are using what they paid for.

As for Sprint throttling data in congested areas at times of high congestion, I can understand that decision. It makes sense to me even as someone who may experience it from time to time if the network can't handle the traffic. However, this is only if it is in that circumstance.

So much for the hogwash that was spouted by the Softbank chairman as he tried to curry favor with the FCC and congress over the planned Sprint purchase attempt of T-Mobile! Didn't he claim that there would be Superfast low cost internet for all? Or did I miss something in his claim.

Shows that he's a liar, Sprint's not competent to be a major network, Dan Hesse is incompetent and it is clear that they will soon be the 4th place major carrier behind T-Mobile and T-Mobile should and it's turnaround should be left to continue.

Thankfully I know that I am not in an area where there are affected people because they don't even have decent voice service and barely data service at a 2G level.

What fairy tale land are you from where complete network overhauls are accomplished overnight? Id love to see if they are selling unicorns. My daughter has been bugging me about one.

I am excited! Get these data hogs off or limit them. Us average users need some breaks finally.

Sent from the iMore App

So it's basically like a brownout, except that your local power utility doesn't have an army of Internet trolls to start bashing them every time there is a temporary service downgrade.

Surprise Surprise Surprise Shazam! If it sounds to good to be true.......... nothing last forever, no matter what the company says. There is really no such thing as forever unlimited data. The math will tell you that. The more people on the system, the slower it will be at times. I do not care how big your water hose is, if all your neighbors are tapping into it, your pressure at the end will be a dribble.

Wow, this is not throttled data or limiting it, it is simply network management. If you use tons of data, and there is a load in a small area, you are managed so that everyone gets the unlimited they pay for. This is not an asterisk as the article states incorrectly. You still get to use data, just not as fast, but you still have unlimited data.

I don't use a ton of data, I'm not close to the top 5 percent. probably cause i don't use a ton of data so i'm kinda fine with it. I'm not getting blocked. My data may get faster. So it will help me. Not hurt me.

I don't tether, i don't stream movies. Good. My connection may suck a little less.

I am surprisingly okay with this but probably because they have tricked me now i think about it they might be lying about the top 5% the 'congested areas' might be anywhere where they have more than a couple of thousand customers. This also might be foot in the door psychology they get us to agree to this and before you know it you'll okay to pay 3x as much for 500mb of data sorry to be so cynical but from i'm seeing about major american i have lost any faith they have any basic business morality and are out to screw their customers to the point where they are stretching the law,except apple of course

I've been with Sprint almost 7 years now and I have stayed for 1 reason only, the price! I accidentally found the SERO plan while searching for a new phone and haven't looked back. Them getting the iPhone back in 2011 also helped, but I probably would've settled for the Samsung Galaxy. Their speeds are spotty to say the least, but I recently started getting LTE and re-upped for the 5s. When I saw the headline I almost laughed. Coverage at my home is so bad that they sent me a Sprint Airave for free. The bottom line is they keep losing customers because of poor data speeds. Their customer service had improved greatly since I first started with them, but they always seem late to the game on every front.

T-Mobile has a real unlimited data plan without throttling speeds. I know because I have one. I sometimes use as much as 20 gb and never been throttled. T-Mobile also gives me 3gb of using my phone as a hot spot. Great Plan with sick fast Data Speeds. I pay $87.00 - absolutely love it. Thanks T-Mobile.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

I've been with them for over 10 years and I'm jumping ship when the next iPhone comes out. I live in a good-sized city with a huge amount travelers and snowbirds. I'll be on a major street and my data service will just disappear for a while. Having an iPhone on Sprint's network is like trying to run a Mercedes using water instead of gas.

Sent from the iMore App

I do not have Wi-Fi at home I have unlimited data through sprint if they do this I will have no reason to stick with them I will go to Verizon immediately

Sent from the iMore App