Sprint Wavers On "Truly Unlimited Data" Promise, Will Start Throttling Heavy Data Users

Sprint prides itself on offering "data without limits" and "truly unlimited data," which are a pair of taglines you may have seen the company use when advertising its $79.99/month unlimited plan. Go ahead and put on your umpire cap because you may want to call foul once you learn that Sprint intends to throttle data speeds for subscribers who take advantage of the service the most.

In an FAQ on Sprint's website, the carrier explains that if you fall within the top 5 percent of data users, you'll be subject to throttling, or "network prioritization," as the company calls it.

Sprint Throttling

"The heaviest data users consume a disproportionate share of network resources and cause a negative user experience for the rest. To more fairly allocate network resources in times of congestion, customers falling within the top 5 percent of data users may be prioritized below other customers attempting to access network resources, resulting in a reduction of throughput or speed as compared to performance on non-congested sites," Sprint explains.

Most subscribers would probably agree that it's fair to ding a small percentage of data hogs for the greater good of the vast majority -- in this case, the other 95 percent of users -- but what's not fair is to repeatedly advertise and promote a truly unlimited network with no throttling if in fact you can't live up to that promise. And to reverse course after the fact is a type of bait and switch that shouldn't be tolerated.

Sprint Limits

What's really at issue here is it seems Sprint's network can't sustain a truly unlimited data network at all times. If it could, there wouldn't be a need to shove heavy data users into the slow lane. On the bright side, it's not an all or nothing affair -- in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech, Sprint explained that slower speeds will only occur when necessary.

"Once a customer is no longer connected to a congested cell site, or the site is no longer congested, speeds will returned to normal," Sprint said.

There's no set data amount that will blow out your tires, as it varies month to month depending on how much data all subscribers are using as a whole. However, Sprint says that anyone using over 5GB of data per month are most likely to be affected by this. So, unlimited data really equals roughly 5GB, after which it's unlimited with concrete boots to slow your roll.

Bear in mind this also applies to Virgin and Boost Mobile subscribers -- duplicate FAQ pages appear on each wireless carrier's website.