Sprint Throttles Unlimited Data Users That Surpass 23GB Of Monthly Data

Oh no, a minority of insatiable data guzzling wireless users on Sprint's network are crowding up the joint and leaving no room for the other 97 percent of responsible users, something must be done! Right? Right!? We're paraphrasing a bit here, but that pretty much sums up the sentiment of Sprint's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. John Saw, who warned the wireless carrier's unlimited subscribers that using more than 23GB of data in any given month could have performance consequences.

Sprint is implementing a real-time Quality of Service (QoS) scheme that kicks in when its cell sites are "constrained." When it's deemed that a cell site is huffing and puffing like an out of shape boxer in the 12th round, Sprint will single out unlimited data subscribers who have used more than 23GB during their billing cycle and prioritize them behind other customers. That's really a nice way of saying throttling.

Cell Tower

"This QoS practice is intended to protect against a small minority of unlimited customers who use high volumes of data and unreasonably take-up network resources during times when the network is constrained," Dr. Saw explains. "It’s important to note that this QoS technique operates in real-time and only applies if a cell site is constrained. Prioritization is applied or removed every 20 milliseconds. And performance for the affected customer returns to normal as soon as traffic on the cell site also returns to normal, or the customer moves to a non-constrained site."

The new prioritization policy went into effect on Friday and applies to all new unlimited data subscribers. Anyone who subscribed to an unlimited data plan prior to October 16, 2015, is exempt, but only until they upgrade their handset.

Network congestion is the popular fallback excuse for wireless carriers whenever they want to implement limits on unlimited data subscribers, whether it be outright throttling or assigning them a lower priority. If you're ever affected by Sprint's new QoS policy, you'll just have to trust that your forced sacrifice is justified for the greater good.

According to Dr. Saw, about three percent of Sprint's postpaid customers are using an "overwhelmingly disproportionate" amount of network resources. He also points out that 23GB is enough to stream 50 hours of video or 60 hours of music.

Here's the thing, if Sprint wants to claim that a small minority of subscribers are ruining the fun for everyone else, that's its prerogative. But it also puts the pressure on the wireless carrier to ensure that its network provides solid speeds and coverage. And when it doesn't? Well, no more pointing the finger at heavy data users.