Sprint subscribers are facing new limits on their supposedly unlimited data plans, at least in congested areas.
The top 5 percent of data users may now get slower speeds during peak usage times, according to the legal and regulatory section of Sprint's website. Speeds will return to normal when users leave a congested area or when demand subsides.
Sprint's prepaid Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile brands have similar stipulations on their own sites, and some Virgin subscribers have started receiving notifications about the change in policy, according to FierceWirelessTech.
Sprint told FierceWirelessTech that the new policy stems from usage "increasing on a steady and increasingly steep basis for years." Sprint says it wants to provide a "high-quality data experience" to all users during peak usage times.
The amount of data subscribers can use without being throttled will vary from month to month, Sprint says, but right now the cutoff is around 5GB. Incidentally, that's the most data you can currently get from Sprint on a tiered data plan.
Sprint's policy on whether it will throttle tiered data users is unclear. The company says that the throttling policy is "independent of any caps or overage charges that may apply," but also says it reserves the right to "alter the priority of other customers on specific devices or plans on the Sprint network."
In any case, it's not hard to imagine Sprint offering higher data tiers in the future, with the promise that these users won't be throttled at all. That's basically what happened with AT&T and Verizon when they started offering tiered plans--and throttling the heaviest unlimited data users--a few years ago.