Editorial: I Still Think Throttling Data Sucks, There I said It

I’ve long thought T-Mobile’s loose definition of “unlimited data” has needed to change and now, with AT&T at the center of a throttling data news cycle, “unlimited” is once again called into question. In fact, one AT&T user successfully sued AT&T in small claims court winning $850 after the judge agreed AT&T had sold the customer an unlimited plan and then purposely slowed him down. AT&T has justified throttling by claiming it is only targeting the top 5% of data users.

Now, Validas, a company that helps consumers choose a data plan has examined over 55,000 cell phone bills and discovered that the top 5% of AT&T’s unlimited-data customers aren’t exactly the “data hogs” AT&T makes them out to be. AT&T has said it would throttle, or slow down the data traffic speed for any unlimited plan holder who uses more than 2GB’s worth of data per month. This “plan” is only supposed to affect the heaviest, top 5% of data users on AT&T’s unlimited plans.

The reality is that AT&T’s unlimited data plan users average only 3.97GB’s of data per month, hardly the kind of numbers that choke a network. Moreover, there is also little difference between 3.97GB’s and 3.19GB’s, the average data use among AT&T’s top 5% of tiered-plan users.

Validas concludes that throttling isn’t being put into place to stop data hogs, instead it’s being used to force AT&T customers to migrate over to tiered data plans, which are far more manageable for AT&T’s network. In other words, AT&T has absolutely no reason to throttle users who use less than 4GB’s worth of data monthly.

As we circle back to T-Mobile and their “transparent” data throttling for customers who use over 5GB’s or 10GB’s worth of data depending on their respective rate plans. The use of the word “unlimited” is simply stated, becoming more and more vague. It’s true that T-Mobile attempts to make it transparent that they will throttle customers who exceed their data plan limits, but it’s really just a gentler way of using an ambiguous definition of the word “unlimited.”

Throttling is a dirty trick used by wireless carriers and yet carriers say it’s a necessary move to stem a small group of users from hogging all the bandwidth. The reality is that their use of the word “unlimited” is the real problem. Customer expectations need to be set right from the get go and I’ve talked to far too many T-Mobile customers who claim they were never told about what happens when they reach their 5GB or 10GB data limit. The small claims court victory for the AT&T iPhone users equally shows that AT&T customers never expected to be limited in their “unlimited” data use.

It’s a shady, disgusting move that carriers are pulling and it makes me quickly remember last May when T-Mobile briefly ran a commercial on YouTube. For less than an hour, the commercial poked fun at AT&T for not really having unlimited data. Mind you this was back in May of 2011, so the commercial ran while AT&T and T-Mobile were in the midst of takeover talks, but that didn’t stop T-Mobile from taking a few pot shots at AT&T’s use of the word “unlimited.” So what did I do? I called T-Mobile out on it, grabbed a few screenshots and watched T-Mobile take the video down never to be seen or heard from again. I think the picture below tells the whole story.

Throttling sucks, there is no way around it…but in that same regard the days of truly unlimited data seem to be done as well. Sprint may be the lone survivor among national networks to keep up a truly “unlimited” network as CEO Dan Hesse has promised it will not go away. The fact is that Sprint is just months away from unveiling their LTE network and we really have to wonder if Sprint will keep up that promise with an LTE network likely to bring about increased data traffic.

T-Mobile, its time to lead the charge and stop the vague use of the word “unlimited,” it’s shady, ambiguous and, misleading to customers across the US wireless industry.

PCWorld, USA Today

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  • Guest

    I cant believe I am going to defend TMo but I have to. You are wrong. The data is unlimited. You can call them out on the fact that the speeds change but technically (and this is the only thng that matters), the data is unlimited.

    • Troyag1

       Technically you are wrong the max amount of data you can download at 2G vs 3G vs 4G speeds in a given month are considerably different, so you are being “limited” by speed when throttling is being used. Unlimited would mean you could start downloading a (theoretical file size)file at max speed and continue at that speed for the full billing cycle without interruption restriction etc. So Technically the speed is limiting the amount of data you can use.

      • Guest

        Technically they promise you unlimited data. That still stands.  Speeds have nothing to do with it. So technically, I am right.

        • Technically yes, technicality the definition of unlimited is without restrictions. Throttling is a restriction.

        • whosaidwhat

          Amen!! The carrier redefine the English word and retrain us to think we’re getting what we really pay for. I have unlimited (grandfathered) but I don’t know if they throttle my connection or not and I feel sorry for people who pay for unlimited (but limited to 2GB or 4GB)


          not limited;  unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

        • Fabian Cortez

          Try again and take a hard look at the last image in the article.

          And I quote: “Truly Unlimited Data, talk & text”

          It says nothing about unlimited speed. No this is not hairsplitting.

          Please people, practice some common sense and get out of this me me me dream.

        • Fabian Cortez

          I don’t understand why people can’t get this. Unlimited data is unlimited data.

          Stop believing all the marketing hype and read your contracts before you sign them! There are no speed stipulations. Unlimited data at HSPA+ speeds is still unlimited data at EDGE speeds.

        • Anonymous

          If an all-you-can-eat buffet started giving you smaller plates after your second plate isn’t it still an all-you-can-eat buffet?  

          They never guaranteed a specific plate size :)

        • Fiorellm

          The reality is tmobile never promises the customer unlimited 4g data. They are promising unlimited data at no overages. They do offer data packages up to 10g of 4g but a small percentage of customers are evening willing to pay the price for it. There is no tichnically about it.

  • Nate29p

    I don’t see anything wrong. It IS truly unlimited, just gets slower after you reach your cap.

    • WillieFDiaz

      Truely unlimited would mean by definition, without limits or restrictions. Neither T-Mobile or AT&T offer this to their unlimited or pseudo-unlimited customers.

      • This, this is the actual definition of unlimited. Throttling is a restriction. 

        • Guest

          Throttling is a restriction on speed of data, not data itself. So, the definition of unlimited still stands.

        • Except that isn’t the way this is being sold. It’s being sold at unlimited data at 3G or 4G speed, depending on your phone purchase.

        • Nate29p

          that is not true, they do tell you the the first 2Gbs are at full 4G speeds. I was told that at the store too. 
          Technically it is correct, it is unlimited data, they restrict the speed but the data connection doesn’t go away. 

        • Purenupe1

           But if you don’t have a full speed phone how can you ever reach the full speed cap? you idiot!!!

        • whosaidwhat

          They’ve done a good job with this one. Do you guys think paying an additional $15 – $25 for tethering is justified?

        • Frigadroid

          Taste great! Less filling! David you could have a harvard english professor explain in detail how wrong it is with Jesus at his side nodding in agreement and they will still choose to live in denial.

        • Yup, I’m getting that! A perfect comment for me to close the night on!

    • If you have been throttled you will know it is plain wrong. I have, and web pages will often time out and unable to load at that speed. That makes it non-functional.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve been there and it sucks. It feels like Tmobile starts to ignores my page requests a lot more and my phone is barely usable. Even just using Twitter was annoying

  • Unlimited data is pretty much dead. Wireless companies, especially in the U.S., are notorious for misusing the word unlimited. Yes, the customers need to start reading the fine print more often, but the carriers also need to make it easier for customers to notice that they’re not really unlimited.

    I think it’s more rare with T-Mobile than it is with AT&T and Verizon since T-Mobile’s cap is higher. Anyone who uses more than 5 GB probably should probably learn what “Wi-Fi” is. The only way that seems to be possible (for regular everyday users that is) is a lot of streaming.

    As for Sprint, well, we’ll see how long they can hold on to their unlimited before it, too, is taken away.

    That being said, technically, T-Mobile’s is unlimited. The speeds change but there is no overage.

  • luvdr

    The problem is that they just don’t care. What they advertise is not what they want to sell you. Its up to the sales reps in the store to calm the misinformed customer down and sell them what Tmobile thinks they need.

  • Anonymous

    It’s unlimited………. Unlimited at slower speeds

  • Jarrod

    I understand the need for throttling, I just disagree with the speeds they do this at. With all this push for 4G they should at least be different about it vs. Verizon & At&T and throttle at 3G speeds between .60MBPS to 1MBPS instead of EDGE speeds especially with phones having to require so much data over little things to work properly. 

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know where you got the idea that AT&T doesn’t drop you to EDGE.

      A friend of mine has an iPhone with the original “unlimited” data plan and now he gets the warning message from AT&T before he even gets near the 2GB milestone and is stuck at EDGE for the rest of the month.

      Highly annoying.

      • Jarrod

        No thats what I was saying they need to be different then Verizon and At&T and raise the throttle speeds. Verizon throttles data for the rest of that month and the next billing cycle. And At&T is ridiculous they throttle at rates less then a cheaper plan includes. Both Verizon & At&T are doing everything in their power to push/piss off there customers so they will get off unlimited data. Its really sad loyalty doesn’t even matter to them after through the cycle of a two year you’re giving them over $2,000 at least.

        • Jarrod

          Not* what I was saying.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, David. This article is right on the money.

  • Ricky

    If they want to keep slowing data they should come up with some sort of “rollover data” …. Its only fair. Its your data after all. And it’s ridiculous how they manipulate the meaning of the word “unlimited”. The wireless industry NEEDS to become a lot more regulated by more competent agencies in the US.

    • Chatter

      This is an idea most of us would jump on. I dont think the carriers would do it but I REALLY like your idea. Maybe do it only at the 5 and 10GB levels since these people pay more. Anything along these lines is awesome.

  • Hah.  For more fun, try verifying a JPEG image sent over the T-Mobile “Network”.  I and many others have discovered that they are using a mandatory (no opt-out) image compression proxy in many parts of their network.  There appears to be no connection to using this in response to network conditions like the May 2011 Terms of Service allude to.  Class action!

  • Anonymous

    Be a mini Sprint with much faster data T-Mo, come on.

  • T-mo also has a 2gb “unlimited” plan.

  • Itisme

    Sprint’s LTE Network? Have you heard what happened between Lightsquared and the FCC?

    • Anonymous

      What does that have to do with Sprint’s LTE Network? 

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree. It especially SUCKS that I live in a 2.5G area and when I drive to the big city and get a taste of 4G, if I have already reached my limit (even though the limit was reached using 2.5G) I STILL get throttled!!!! I would have a slightly less problem if they counted only 3G/4G minutes towards the data limit, but they count everything (except wifi).

  • Anonymous

    I agree throttling sucks but overage fees suck even more.  I think what needs to happen is 2GB at 4G speeds unthrottled anything above that gets throttled to 1mbit per second.  That seems reasonable – the drop off between 4G and 56k modem speeds is simply too extreme.

    • Luis Medina

       we should send a petition wtih a request like this to the carriers.

  • haters on rocks

    Real talk people should stop winning yeah it sucks that u get throttled and your a unlimited data plan but time had changes only a certain few carrier stay true to the unlimited sprint and Verizon if u are unlimited data. Att not so much after news found out that att throttled their so called top 5% unlimited data user but barely hit 3gb which is garbage. Has anybody that has T-mobile unlimited data plan ever had this problem? I say T-mobile has more bang for the Buck for data 30 dollars for 5gb better then att 30 dollars for 3gb. But everybody are usually on wifi now a days. Real talk is throttling that bad compare to be cut off data.

    • Jarrod

      Verizon throttles data also and not only that they do it for the next month after.

      • haters on rocks

        Oh really my cousin never got throttled and he went up to 20gb and still gone up without throttled

        • Jarrod

          They don’t throttle LTE if he is using that they don’t care because only 5% of there base us LTE so they see it as having unlimited band width even though there network has slowed down

  • MajentaRulz

    Unlimited web is just that. Unlimited web. The use of the term unlimited does not guarantee web access at a certain speed. The phrase Unlimited 4G Web would be more appropriate. Admittedly, I have talked to some reps that sell the 2GB plan as unlimited, but there are just as many who set the expectation of what happens after the soft cap is reached. Regardless of your position on the use of the word unlimited, T-Mobile is the only company that you don’t have to be worried about receiving a surprise bill due to data overage.

  • caramel s

    point is once reaching the limit the phone is using for email. 

  • Np6s4x

    maybe i’m wrong in thinking this, but i think of unlimited as in any speed not just unlimited 4g, as in your paying for unlimited data at any speed, without worrying about having an overage, vs, saying like 5/10gb of data is ‘unlmited’ but then you have to pay extra if you go over

  • Jake

    Well recently I’ve noticed my EDGE speeds are able to load pages faster than 4G on my sensation, is anyone else having this happen to them? Btw I live in Phoenix AZ.

    • Jarrod

      They might be adding more backhaul to towers in preparation for HSPA+ on 1900MHZ

    • Anonymous

       Use the SpeedTest app to measure the speeds.

      • Jake

        Did a few some tests on both EDGE and 4G and yes 4G is faster but it seems the problem is having weak signal in my house. Does anyone know a way to get better coverage indoors?

  • Techdude

    I have sprint at the moment, my account is totally grandfathered so I don’t think I’ll have to worry about them ditching my unlimited as of yet. That and I’m pretty sure they’d lose quite a bit of customers to Verizon and At&t if they went about with tiered data so I’m pretty sure they’re gonna do all they can to protect that. Beefing up the 3g and going LTE seems the way. As for T-mo, I don’t even know what direction they are headed in. They have some pretty sweet phone offerings, but their plans aren’t as sweet as the fine print makes them out to be. I think they just need to rethink their plans is all. They need more data focused plans for users who use a lot of data that doesn’t try to add “unlimited minutes”. I’m sure people would rather pay for extra data and have 450-700 minutes with nights and weekends. I’m on unlimited data with 450 on sprint and i never go over 300 mins.

  • Miguelanski24

    I disagree with this… While it is true that it sucks to get throttle down after a certain amount of GB consumed at the end of the day it is still unlimited regardless of speed so they’re not false advertising on that… Second thing is that if our 2g network is gonna get upgraded to hspa+ then don’t you think t-mobile will have that problem solved?

  • whosaidwhat

    All you can eat buffet BUT you are done after the second plate and we kick you out. That’s exactly what’s going on here. 

    They make it all better by letting us know ahead of time that we’re getting kicked out after our second plate. 

    For those of you who think this is okay in the comments…tell me something.

    Let’s say you were grandfathered into unlimited minutes (calls) but all of a sudden they change the wording to unlimited minutes (fine print: up to 1000 minutes), call quality will be degraded after you hit 1000 minutes. Does that seem right? Especially, when you are forced to give up your grandfathered plan when you upgrade your phone.

    • Techs

      Quality is not degraded speed is. Quality stays the same. Tmobile doesn’t charge extra for getting extra GB. Im sorry but you argument doesn’t seem as valid as it should. When in fact you don’t get charged extra nor does quality drop. And the fact that you can keep using data and quality does not degrade again speed does quality doesn’t.

    • Anonymous

      I really don’t get what your trying to compare here. Food and internet ?

    • WirelessRefugee

      When I was in high school a bunch of us went to a Chinese restaurant all you can eat buffet.

      We all were eating our chow, including our super fat friend who was on his fourth plate piled high with nothing but fried shrimp. (Personally, I could see why he was fat, eating all that deep fried crap).

      Anyway, the manager, who I think now works for T-Mobile marketing, came out and told our friend that the pile of shrimp on his plate was his last. He argued and said “but the sign says ‘All You Can Eat!”

      The manager fired back “Sign no apply to fat boy like you eating all shrimp. You eat fried rice, that good for you too.”

      Our friend argued, but what ya gonna do, the manager came between our friend and the buffet line-up. And the manager called the dishwasher for backup.

      So we left and told our fat friend that he got his value out of eating 200 shrimp anyway.

      Moral of the story: “Unlimited” and “all you can eat” do not mean “unlimited data” and “all the shrimp you can eat” because you still have a connection, and you can still eat all the fried rice you want.

      Note: I was remiss in not checking the sign in the restaurant, to see if it said in fine print “applies only to fried rice.”

    • Fabian Cortez

      More like they’re now offering much smaller plates at the buffet.

      Still unlimited food though.

      Nice try.

  • Anonymous

    I guess they could say “Use as much internet as you want on our overage free data plans!”

    Seems more complex… and T-Mobile could do with a lot LESS complex.

    If you’re coming in new to T-Mobile though it’s pretty transparent you are picking out a 2GB, 5GB, or 10GB data plan.  T-Mobile clearly offers tiered data plans, it’s what happens after you surpass your tier is what differs from the other carriers.

    I guess overage-free would be better terminology.

  • peter

    It’s false advertising on att. We were throttled to 0.1 mb after 2gb and they said it’s because of abuse of our unlimited plan. All i use it for is emails, work (im a physician and use professional programs and apps), youtube from time to time, and internet. I don’t abuse it but regardless i got unlimited plan over 3 years ago and now i can barely use the phone when throttled. Throttled should be half the speeds not 90 percent of the speeds. They said i could change to a tiered package or cancel and pay the cancellation fee. I said it’s unfair and they said it’s the rules you signed up to. Well i told them I’ll check my contract and contact my lawyer, they laughed. Anyways, thanks to me and my brother, we will be doing a class action suit very soon. Paperwork is already started and lawyer had previously done class action against cingular and won… Sooooo he’s eager for this case. Btw we know how we are supposedly not allowed to do class action against att, but lawyer says he doesn’t care.

    • peter

      Clarification… We have already started the class action law suit against att.

      • AT&T’s legal terms and conditions prevents class action lawsuits. I don’t think you’ll have much luck.

      • WirelessRefugee

         I am all for going after any company who cheats customers, but you are wrong about the class action. (I hope you are not BSing or that your lawyer is not a dumb a##).

        Check out the U.S. Supreme Court opinion “AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion.”

        There’s a reason why AT&T laughed at you when you mentioned a class action. THERE IS NO SUCH THING ANY LONGER. The Concepcion case did away with consumer class actions where the consumer has signed an arbitration agreement. (After Concepcion call businesses sent arbitration agreements to their customers, either with online notice, billing inserts, or when you purchased the product or service).

        Your lawyer should be aware of the Concepcion case. You can print this comment and give it to him or her:

        In Concepcion v.
        AT&T, consumers brought a claim against AT&T Mobility for false advertising.
        However, because the value of their case was only $30, their case was
        consolidated into a class action. AT&T sought to block the lawsuit by
        pointing to the mandatory arbitration clause in the wireless service contract.

        State courts applying state law invalidated AT&T’s arbitration clause because it
        banned class actions entirely. AT&T’s arbitration clause basically insulated itself from ever being held accountable for fraud or deception (because no customer has the time or inclination to sue AT&T over $30, $100, or even $200).

        In Concepcion the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower state court decisions which sought
        to protect consumers when a company cheats them out of $30 or other small amounts. The majority of the Court held that the Federal
        Arbitration Act barred state courts from banning arbitration clauses, such as the one AT&T had with the Concepcions. The effect of this decision is it insulating companies from liability when they defraud a millions of customers of small sums of money.

        Yes, you have an arbitration agreement with T-Mobile .

  • Ajg1718

    I’m sorry but when tmobile started to use the throttle they made it clear ad now try have their disclaimer about in small print they still state the disclaimer is the same advertisement other companies use. Those who say they never knew what happens after 2GB should look what they are getting into. Would you sign a contract to buy a house or a car without reading it first? I hope not. Then you Gould read the contract that you sign for cell phone service. The service is unlimited you can still use it unlike AT&T or Verizon where they cut you off completely. Granted its throttle but you still get to use it. So it’s not false advertisement their fine print says it in black and white. Look before you leap.

    • WirelessRefugee

      You should Google “T-Mobile’s deceptive business practices” and see what comes up, it is quite interesting.

      Your’s were the arguments made over the past two years from people defending T-Mobile’s throttling and also justifying T-Mobile’s use of fine print, for example, on its store signs advertising “UNLIMITED!” and “$49.99 Unlimited Web, Talk, Text.”

      While T-Mobile may have a legal argument, the fact is, a prospective customer who sees “$49.99” for an unlimited plan is going to walk out the store pissed off that the $49.99 price is on one buying two lines and that the plan is 2GB, not unlimited.

      I have to think that some of those 800,000++ customers that T-Mobile lost in three months, and who knows how many chose not to sign up with T-Mobile, had to have made their decision based on their feeling that T-Mobile was being deceptive.

      In my opinion, those signs advertising $49.99 for a plan is a bait and switch. The signs are obviously designed to get INDIVIDUALS into the store so that the salesperson can work the person over and sell him or her a more expensive individual plan.

      And while fine print is technically legal, we are talking about cell phone plans here, not a car purchase. Why does T-Mobile have to engage in these gotcha tactics. While they may cinch the sale by advertising “unlimited” that assures that at the end of their contracts some people are going to not renew.

      People don’t like dishonesty nor feeling like they have been had. Again, I’d be curious how many of the millions of customers who chose to leave T-Mobile in 2011, how many of those subscribers left because of the way they have been treated by T-Mobile.

      Why doesn’t T-Mobile just stop it with this fine print nonsense and focus its efforts on providing a good product, good customer service instead of defending its use of fine print and deceptive use of words like “unlimited.”

      • tmo

        You sir I agree with. You place the blame where it belongs, the uppers not the store level reps. People are “deceived” by the fine print on a daily basis, and add to that they have to pay full price or add monthly payments for the device and that = one hard sale.

      • Tanvir Ahmed

        Sorry to say this… but every company got fine print my friend. WELL COME TO USA BUSINESS 101! lol.. sorry to say they day all the companies lose their fine print they will stop advertising bc they will be sued by almost eeryone for something.

  • Whylee77

    I cant help but disagree….  I have always been aware that they throttled…  I am lucky and only pay 15bucks for 5GB of Data….  I got the hookup on my android accounts.  I have to really really try to use 5GB of data…   And when I went over, they didnt throttle me… I am not sure if its after so many time of going over or what… Anyrate.. No matter how you slice it, its better than going over and getting charged.  Even when they throttle you to 2G, you really dont notice it too much for surfing the web on the phone, looking up news… Id say you just cant stream or download after your throttled…  Well atleast for me…

  • I understand David’s point. I mean I do believe T-Mobile has stated it the right way. I was in a store in Chicago & they straight explained it’s unlimited 4G speeds for “2GBs”, what it would take to reach that, & that you would still be able to use data, but at slower speeds. But besides that, the point is still that “throttling sucks.” It makes me not even wanna use my ‘paid’ data. I feel like if it was gonna be throttled & go from unlimited to “throttled at certain data caps depending on your plan” they could’ve started at 5GB or 10GB on up, or at least gave us 3G (UMTS) speeds throttled. This is why I hate some phones skipped from 2G straight to 4G, you never see a 3G options on your phone under mobile network. I wish phones had all those implemented & what not.

  • RCS

    David, here is the issue that no one has commented on as yet. Phones are becoming more sophisticated, and with this the data consumption has increased greatly. The carriers (TMO and all the rest as well) now push the sale of data centric apps to their subscriber base at an additional cost (ex: T-Mobile TV) and 3rd parties push these type of apps as well (ex: Netflix, HboGO, etc.) which the subscriber pays extra for – but there is no additional data allowance to accommodate the use of these apps. Pay for T-Mobile TV for example and use it as intended and watch how fast you will burn through your 5GB data plan, or try Netflix and watch a few movies. Carriers are loving this as it is “forcing” subscribers to increase their data allowance just to be able to even use these apps reasonably. More data, more revenue. If a subscriber pays for a “premium data centric app” carriers NEED to include a data bucket for that app or service.

    Purchasing a “premium” data centric app like T-Mobile TV for example should include “reasonable use” which does not affect the rest of the data plan – that way your internet would still be usable instead of crippled by throttling. Basically, users are paying a monthly cost for a “feature”, and then paying again for the data allowance to be able to use the feature. It is just not right.

    As the industry continues to mature, cloud apps and services will increasingly replace built-in apps, forcing the phones to use even more data to perform many of the same tasks that the built-in apps do today. Again carriers are “lovin it” and salivating at the thought of increased revenue generated by the increased data requirements of the phones just to do the things we can do today. Consumers need to wake up to what is actually going on, and carriers need to institute “fair use” policies the actually are fair and make sense.

    • Frigadroid

      You got it right they want to force you to the 10Gb plan that’s why its so darn slow that even email hangs & webpages timeout. The carriers are the big crying complainers here. I see through those crocodile tears. They act like they don’t make a profit with all the data we’ve used, yet the truth is data activations are soaring as more people move to smartphones. If the network was at the capacity restraints that they claim they wouldn’t be able to brag about the awesome 4g speeds people have been getting.
      You know I had the 10Gb unlimited plan but they cut it to 5 not long after the vibrant came out. Not very cool considering I had paid for unlimited data on my dash and G1 for years and didn’t get 3g until the g1 was almost 1 year old. So you know what? That lit my torch! Now they want to just cut us off with no data when we roam! Keep it up Tmobile and I’m going to go to the barn for my pitchfork.

    • gydhrx

      Thats why att is condidering having app developers pay for these hogging apps…ala a 1800 #

  • Anonymous

    While you do have a point the ad clearly states Unlimited Data, as in unlimited bits moved to and fro the Internet, so there’s no misleading. Whether at full speed or not you get unlimited data unlike with AT&T Wireless or Verizon Wireless.

    • Anonymous

      At the same time that data has to be usable data.. You can’t just call it unlimited data because some data packets go through. Through my experience traveling to a city with 2G speeds (what they claim to throttle you down to) that data is by far unusable, I have also been throttled before a lot of errors saying there is no connection or it will take a whole hour to download a 1mb app through the android market speaking of that good luk even getting connected to it on throttled speeds. You either have to have wifi or 3G for the current generation of devices to work there is no such thing as using edge(2G) as another option of data. The devices today aren’t able to be used under throttled edge speeds.

      • gydhrx

        What about fact many Tmo handsets have Sms failures on 4G & Tmo Tech support says that to send a 5-word text, you need to constantly turn your 4g off& switch to edge . So customers are paying for 4G (unlimited or not) AND CANT EVEN SEND A SIMPLE TEXT MESSAGE. Check the Tmo website forums. Dont know why that issue isnt covered on this blog. Frustrating to get text failures on “Americas Largest 4G network”!!!

    • WillieFDiaz

      Unlimited implies by definition, unrestricted, unbridled, without limits. The speed being limited after a point in unlimited, is a restriction thus the data is not offered unlimited. Data is inclusive within the bandwidth as well.

      • Anonymous

        amigo don’t read so selectively. The ads specify – Unlimited data, text and calling. Unlimited data is pushing bits, not speed

  • Frigadroid

    The way they implemented the throttling plan is another prime example of why tmobile is fourth and the churn rate is so high. Sorry I love you tmobile but the truth hurts. It should have been implemented over time and at speeds fast enough to function properly. Rather than changing the grandfathered plans that were 10Gb down to 5 they could have started with only new terms for new contracts. Eventually they could have forced us to change plans when we wanted to upgrade to 4g phones.
    Just more poor planning & short thinking, who or “Humm” should we blame? I want to see some heads roll and whips cracking before I believe tmobile is on the right track!
    What they did here makes me want to ride out this vibrant until LTE arrives. The vibrant on 3.5 G can move fast enough for me when not throttled or coughing on touch wizz and T-bloat, so I’m not buying in on the 4g hype.

  • Anonymous

    I used the term “semi-unlimited” since no-overage webconnect was introduced 2 years ago and this is the best explanation of this throttling.

  • WirelessRefugee

    This is not a discussion about whether or not T-Mobile’s data plan is false advertising when they say “unlimited.” In fact, that issue has been discussed since 2009-2010.

    What this article reveals is that the carriers’ justification for throttling is a pack of lies. I am not too sure that is news since most of us knew even back in 2009 when it was rumored that carriers were going to phase out unlimited plans that the “controlling data hogs” justification was bogus.

    And by the way, there’s plenty of experts on the Net who say that the carriers’ spectrum arguments are a load of BS too.

    In fact, Congress knew back then it was BS and the arguments failed when made to the FCC and DOJ when AT&T argued why it should be allowed to acquire T-Mobile. AT&Tand DT made these limited spectrum and data hog arguments to the FCC, DOJ and Judge. No one bought it.

    And we all knew that AT&T was being dishonest when it came out with its tiered data plans. What AT&T did that was crooked was set the $15 data plan at an artificially low limit guaranteeing overage charges on most anyone who did more than check basic e-mail.

    Of course there’s justice in the end. AT&T’s reputation in Washington assured it would be sued by the DOJ when it tried to acquire T-Mobile.

    Side note: And T-Mobile too has a lousy reputation in Washington. People can defend its business practices, but it does not bode well for the Company’s reputation when the FBI has German law enforcement raid the CEO’s home. .

    • Th3problem17

      You sir are seriously slow. german law enforcement really you are a sad human being/ sound like the customer that calls in and wants to talk about the usa and gov’t as that has something to do with your phone. Please get a realistic life because the sh** you are talking about has no bearing on anything. Att verizon charge ridiculous amounts for data and overage. The employee speaking on the data hogs can see how much internet you use when they pull up your account? why would that have anything to do what corporate or a manager says to us. I don’t know about other employees but we don’t get spoon-fed lines everyday to say to yall. Only insecure people that take stuff to serious can seriously think i care or get paid enough to read robot lines to upset people all day.

  • WirelessRefugee

     Oh, on my last sentence:

  • WirelessRefugee
  • Jeanwean03

    As a rep, I personally wish customers would stop trying to use there phone as there sole means of data. If there is wifi at a place ask to use it. You will enjoy your web much more and be able to use your phone more and at faster speeds longer. Its cheaper to pay $30 for home internet than to up your data to 10gb at $50 a phone line.

    • Kahlayoh

      Why should we go out of our way to find wifi when we pay for our data plan? It should be true unlimited as in unlimited 4G data speed!!! 

      • Anonymous

        Finally! Someone says it. You pay for this service to be unlimited and to use it on the freaking go! Wth is wrong with people. 

    • WirelessRefugee

      Your assumptions are in complete contradiction to what this article says.

      There are few, if any, data hogs. So your generalization that T-Mobile customers are data hogs is misplaced, unless YOU have evidence as to how many people are using there (sic) phone as there (sic) sole means of data.

      As a T-Mobile employee you evidence what the problem is with T-Mobile, you think the customers are the enemy, trying to steal your service and phones, or otherwise take advantage, can’t read, get what they deserve, or that they are stupid.

      Anyway, please post your evidence showing how many of T-Mobile’s millions of customers are using their phones as their sole means of data AND how many are using 10GB of data every billing period. Perhaps you have a T-Mobile meeting handout where this information is stated.

      Sheesh… who filled your head with such nonsense, Mr. Humm or your store manager? With thinking like yours T-Mobile will continue on its road to doom and never be able to get itself back on track.

      • tmo

        I disagree with you. As a rep dont you think he would rather tell something else to his customer that comes in angry at him for something a boardroom decides? He is just stating what he and numerous other reps have been advised to tell customers. If the slow down affects you, spend more or WiFi it up.

        How much does Verizon or good ol’ at&t CHARGE you for going over 2 GB? At least t-mo just slows you down

      • guest

        You sir are the problem not him. You get what you pay for. You’re probably the jerk yelling at the cashier for not accepting an expired coupon like its their choice. For shame sir, quit trolling start supporting.

      • Anonymous

        HE never said T-Mobile customers were data hogs.

  • WirelessRefugee


    If T-Mobile’s “Unlimited” gimmick is a great idea, why doesn’t the competition do the same thing? I am not aware of any carrier who advertises “Unlimited” but has fine print that limits what unlimited means.

    If this is such a great feature, why does T-Mobile have fine print? Why not simply say “Unlimited – First Two GB” or something like that?

    If this is an awesome marketing concept, why did T-Mobile have a net loss of 117,000 customers in Q4 2009, 318,000 in Q4 2010, and 500,000+ in Q4 2011.

    Since 2009 T-Mobile has loved to blame its losses on not having the iPhone. Sorry T-Mobile that excuse might work for a one quarter or so, but not for three years. Besides, blaming things on the iPhone is inconsistent with T-Mobile’s strategy to position itself as the mid-tier carrier, for people who want something better than a feature phone, but not as expensive as a superphone. Uh, that strategy means the iPhone does not fit in T-Mobile’s lineup since the iPhone is a top-tier phone.

    Anyway, it ain’t the iPhone that’s causing customer defections, it is all this unlimited/throttling crap and other nonsense, including customer service, but let’s not start talking about that. LOL. 

    • Jason

      They say unlimited for two reasons. Technically it is unlimited. I have been throttled and it sucks, and it’s barely useable. But I’m spoiled by my GS2. Second reason is cause customers, to keep it simple, are idiots. Trying to explain what throttling is to a first time smartphone user, who most likely never use close to 2 let alone 5GB, is tedious. Tech nerds get it, but we want NEW smartphone users, and unlimited is appealing. People hear that and come running.

      You are the minority, and while you feel throttling is lame, you’re part of the reason it’s here to begin with.

    • gydhrx

      Management are ostriches with heads buried in sand, ignoring customer complaints, terrible customer service, handset & network isdues, and terrible & confusing/misleading marketing

  • Wadeiator

    You are getting unlimited access. Reason for throttling is allowing customers affordable options. How many people complained because data featured cost to much. Now you have more options with different levels.

    • Anonymous

      No you are not! I dare you to go over your allotment and still tell me you have unlimited access.

  • Throttling data does suck, however, if after 5GB you still have access to the internet (even if it’s slow), It’s still unlimited because they’re not “stopping” you from using your internet.

    However it is very shady because they mention unlimited without mentioning that only the first 5 GB will be high speed. 

    • Anonymous

      If you have ever been throttled you’d know its far from usable data after your allotment.

      • Anonymous

         True. They slow it down to GPRS speed. -.-

        • Cashman

          Its next to impossible to browse the web on GPRS. It’d be nice if t-mobile would at least let slow your down to EDGE

        • Anonymous

          i think they do slow u down to EDGE at least in my case cuz when i got throttled i was getting around 120 kbps and that is usable not the fastest but usable to just do some regular browsing no heavy pages or videos though

    • jdubtrey

      I would still consider that “limited”.

      Plans aren’t “unlimited” if you throttle.  They should start saying “no overage” because that is really what you’re getting.  You’re not getting unlimited versions of the data rates that you start the month with.

      What plans “stop” you from using the internet?  Maybe the prepaid ones do but they don’t bill themselves as unlimited either.

      Just promote the plans as “100MB of 4g/3g with no overage fees” or “100MB + X per addtl MB”.

  • Suzanne31381

    I have to tell them it’s a lie every time I’m on the phone with customer service.  I bought my unlimited data plan years ago before throttling yet if you make any changes to your account (not necessarily about data) they slap the limits on.  Here’s the thing, as Fabio alluded to:  they send you the text message saying you are near your 5GB even if you are not (I checked) just as a scare tactic or to sell you a newer, more expensive plan.  I have been cut off before when I went to 10GB.  This only happens when I am tethering in my classroom to provide my students with wifi.  So sue me.  ;)

    • Anonymous

       Data is capped to keep people from setting up their phones as a public free wifi hotspot. You would not believe that there are people that would do that, but there are. Its seems extraordinarily greedy for someone to assume that they can just give away stuff and expect me to suffer because of it.  Go back to school and take an economics class,

  • Marineio

    How come a small mobile operator (mvno) can offer completely unlimited data with no throttling in the UK, yet these big carriers struggle? Same goes for UK operators, the network that this small operator uses limits data due to “network conditions” yet they can offer unlimited data?

    • Anonymous

      Volume. the carriers pay for bandwidth too and when you have a small customer base and are trying to grow, the cost benefit is easier to swallow than when you have 100 million customers and are trying to increase profits in the face of iPhone subsidies and a nationwide LTE build. 

      • Anonymous

        Not to mention the size of the infrastructure in the UK is about the size of Texas. We are a little bigger. 

        • Geographically, T-Mobile’s network is the size of all T-Mobile networks throughout Europe combined and then some. It serves the same number of customers as Telekom Deutschland’s mobile network operations serves. But, European networks are built to the capacity levels of U.S. networks over a smaller space, which is fairly easy to do. Combined with huge allocations of spectral bandwidth, European network operators can do a whole lot more than their U.S. counterparts.

          T-Mobile is trying to squeeze every drop of performance out of the 60MHz they have across two frequency bands. That’s a very difficult and expensive challenge. LTE will improve matters considerably for T-Mobile, but it doesn’t do any good when the highly-inefficient 2G GSM network remains the dominant network technology deployed throughout the U.S.

          T-Mobile needs to accelerate and replace remaining 2G-only markets with HSPA+ as soon as possible. The initial massive hit taken to do that would be offset by the massive decrease in maintenance costs due to the modernization and harmonization of network infrastructure equipment.

          @TMOTECH:disqus, is T-Mobile using the new NSN Flexi equipment or are they using Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent, or Ericsson equipment for the network modernization? 

        • Anonymous

          Mostly NSN Flexi. In some markets Ericsson will be used.

    • Anonymous

       UK is the size of Oregon.  If you can get all of your customers to cram together in one small area, you only have to run one pipe to the tower, you only have one tower, your costs are very small.  TMO has 30,0000 towers.  That’s 30000 pipes.  The way that works is you get 30,000 contracts for internet bandwidth..  You can’t get the volume discounts that they get in Europe because the customers move around in one great big giant country called the USA.  Which has to have thousands of towers to provide coverage.  Europe not the same as US.  Go move to France

  • To still have this as a topic, is just for fun.  Because the carriers are NOT listening, and they are gonna throttle.  They do have people out there, who are just BALL HOGS.  So, they have to keep it under control.  Yeah, sprints says they have  truly unlimited…but their speeds suck! BAD! So, deal with it, and move on to the next one.

    Oh but, would it make you feel better if they stated it is NOT unlimited?


    as of april 5th i’m gone. no more data roaming. no more mikeeeee.

    • Tbyrne

      Gone to where I wonder? You know it’s worse with the others. One was sued and lost in court. One has astronomical prices and the other one has slower data speeds. Again, gone where?

      • Anonymous

        Maybe you pay for what you get after all??  

      • Spanky

        Perhaps gone to a service that will allow him to pay for additional data roaming, instead of completely cutting off his data?

  • stevee

    Its even worse in prepaid where there are large billboards all over time heralding the value of a $50 unlimited everything, including data. Only later do customers find out that unlimited means 100mb thst youll use up in days without even trying.. Even worse, when called on it, more than one rep told me youd still have 3g & be able to do anything you need. Instead, you get what Tmobile refers to as ‘dial up speeds’ which basically turn your smartphone “dumb” & useless. More misleading mrktg & poor custserv continuing to piss off customers & cause long term damage to the the Tmo brand

    • Jason

      If you walk into a Tmobile store it says it, in pain clear sight, that it is slowed down after 100mb. It’s a huge wall display. You can’t miss it.

      • Tbyrne

        Thanks Jason. I don’t know why stevee can’t read?

        • It has nothing to do with Steve not being able to read and everything to do with T-Mobile NOT using the unlimited moniker when there are clear restraints placed on the offering.

        • Jason

          “clear restraints”

          As in, “clear for everyone to see these restraints but yet still bitch about it cause they want more for nothing in return”.

        • Spanky

          Yes, the restraints may be clear to see. As such, T-Mobile needs to remove the term “Unlimited” from their advertising. It’s a deceptive practice.

  • My2Cents

    For a user like myself.  If I was offered unlimited Data at full high speed access I would just use my phone as a mobile hotspot and run internet at home off of it.  Data caps are set to discourage consumers from doing just that.  Sure currently carriers are not seeing high loads because most consumers are not streaming movies etc from their devices. 

    Consumer habits are changing rapidly as the technology of mobile evolves.  T-mobile in the past let consumers use 3G speeds for tethering and mobile hotspots run at 3G speeds unlimited.  But now that they’ve built a revenue stream around those kinds of activities they are beginning to put a stop against that kind of behavior.

    Mobile networks are now running at speeds where consumers who have great converage can seriously think about dropping their cable and DSL lines.  Mobile carriers are not going to let you run your home network off of your phone for the price of your mobile plan.

  • Koji

    The problem is greed!

    They don’t want to invest in increasing capacity instead they want to to charge for something you’re not getting and what you should be getting is allocated to the next customer to be abused. So just like this article is saying there’s no really way around it unless you get lawmakers to lay the hammer on these carriers. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work to because these carriers have policticians in their pockets too. Still, there should be a carrier network for the people just like a credit union like setup for this service or maybe just vote with your dollars and go with Sprint. Really sad…

  • Kevincarter7

    funny that i just saw this…i’m so annoyed with tmo rt now. i got the 5g with the free hotspot. i asked will this affect my media ie will i get throttled down. she said no. yesterday i was using my phone for my tablet and it slowed down. i checked my data then got a txt saying i have exceeded 5g. i was like wtf i dont even use my phone anymore i use the tablet. then it hit me. duh! again a csr told me wrong info. im lookin into other carriers. might drop tmo soon. i want better phones also. i hate att gets stuff first and then updates their phones faster. tmo plans are cheaper but needs to do better all the way around. just my rant

    • WirelessRefugee

      TMoNews and the Net is replete with people telling the same account, a CSR told me this or that, then later denied making the promise.

      But that has been going on for years with most large businesses that provide telephonic customer service. (I recall way back the rule with AT&T was to get confirmation of land line terms in writing because AT&T had the reputation of saying one thing, but doing another.) Does not make it right, just saying that’s the way most companies do business.

      As to solutions, you may want to consider prepaid. (I have my sister and parents on T-Mobile because they are all disabled or infirm, so dealing with a carrier change is too much a hassle.But I switched our two accounts to prepaid last June).

      The beauty of prepaid, if you don’t like something or the carrier angers you, it is far easier to simply switch carriers since there’s no contract.

      Anyway, I switched to Straight Talk on Monday and paying $45 monthly for unlimited data, talk and text. I can use Skype or Google Voice, and my data connection, per speedtest[dot]net is 1.5 megabits on the download, 800K download. I am getting HSPA+ and fast 3G. (Update: just conducted another speed test, “H+” indicated in the notification bar, 2.48Mbos download, .97Mbps upload.)

      My phone is getting five signal bars and I can talk anywhere in the house (whereas before with Sprint, T-Mobile, or MetroPCS I had to keep my phone on a “sweet spot” on my desk at all times, otherwise I would lose the signal).

      Best of all, I signed up with Straight Talk Sim that allows me to use on its service ANY GSM phone, including any iPhone (for those who use that handset). The service is 4G at the $45 price.

      I bought an AT&T SGS II on eBay ($360) and the phone/service have been fantastic.

      An SGS II, 3G to 4G unlimited data, unlimited talk and text, for $45 monthly, seems a no brainer (especially to people using iPhones on EDGE on T-Mobile, who can buy a Straight Talk sim for $15, put it into their iPhones and get 3G via Straight Talk).

    • Drewmelcher

      even Sprint has a 5gb cap on their tethering
      No company gives you unlimited 4g tethering for your pc or mac.
      You are going to be paying top dollar to tether 4g.
      even with T Mobile you will be paying Verizon, At&t pricing to tether to your tablet

    • Drewmelcher

      No company lets you unlimited tether. Sprint PCS has a cap on tethering.
      You can have unlimited from your phone, but the cap is 5gb. Sprint will sell you more, but you are paying GB no unlimited when it comes to tethering. T Mobile does the same thing.
      So does Verizon and At&t.

  • Don’t you think “throttling” is better than overages?

    • Randy P

       I ask the same exact questions. I wouldn’t want overages. If you really think about it you are getting unlimited data….your not getting “unlimited speed”.

      • Pdub311

        We are paying for bandwidth, and bandwidth is a measure of network speed, not amounts of data… if I have an unlimited plan I would expect the speedbandwidth of the connection to stay the same regardless of how much data is actually transferred.  Throttling data rates is not unlimited, it is bullshit it is 2012… why does wireless feel like 1990’s AOL crap. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwidth_(computing)

  • Anonymous

    Yes throttling does suck… period.  I have AT&T with the old unlimited plan and have not yet been throttled luckily even after going above 2 gigs this month.  I’m nearing 3 and usually don’t exceed that much if i have to so but it still sucks regardless.  I can’t see it getting any better in the future, it’ll only get worse across all carriers as more and more people use mobile and the influence of the cloud consumes the computing world.

  • Nope, sorry :)

    I operate a tech blog for Tru, which is the first global mobile network, and they have MVNO agreements with carriers in the US, the UK and Australia.

    T-Mobile UK does have what’s called a “fair use policy,” which reads as follows:

    “You can browse and email as much as you want.

    Your price plan has a 500MB or 1GB allowance (depending on the plan
    you select) for streaming videos and uploading and downloading files. If
    you hit this limit during the month, you won’t be able to do this stuff
    again until the next month.

    If you’ve bought a tablet, iPad or iPad 2 on a pay monthly plan,
    you’ll get 1GB of data to use a month. But, great news for night owls;
    you’ll also get an extra 1GB ‘quiet time’ allowance to use between
    midnight and 10am.”

    You can find that here: http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/services/uk/fairuse-mobile-broadband/

    • alpinestars1z

      Yeah I saw that too, but why did all the news outlets say that the Full Monty plans have no Fair Use Policy?


      Are you sure that the fair use policy applies to the Full Monty plans too?

      And what about Three UK? Don’t they offer a real unlimited plan, except I believe you’re not allowed to tether?

  • EXIBITman

    After i use my 5gb of 4g’s. i get a text saying that i will get unlim 2g. wtf

  • guest

     Tmobile is having on after hour sale on their website tonight.  All phones are free or heavily discounted

  • Drewmelcher

    I couldn’t agree more. Once you start streaming movies, your data starts to be eaten up.
    A half hour tv show could use up 1/4 a GB
    a two hour movie could use 1/2 GB
    4 movies a month your at 2gb. what about my email, cnn, nba.com, and twitter.
    plus all your apps. Even 5gb can go quick. I use my phone on the orange line and bus system.
    NOt to mention your 4g signal won’t work every where, or work well enough to stream a movie un inerrupted, but with a great phone like the Galaxy s2 or the Amaze your data usage will go quick

  • Crazyaboutphones

    And we wonder who is in control of the wealth in this country!!!

  • Kevin

    To be fair T-Mobile doesn’t claim to have unlimited speed just unlimited data… that’s clearly stated when you read the terms and conditions of service.

    • Deepz

      Have you gotten hit with a throttle?  Speedtest run 40kbs when throttled that is not quite data it seems to get to da…….

  • Cray820

    T-mobile isn’t trying to take any charge. They are trying to follow At&t and Verizon.

  • Diana

    I have such a legacy plan that I actually *do* have unlimited, *UNTHROTTLED* data , and even *I* think data throttling sucks.

    • Deepz

      I have the throttled plan, that actually shows my usage online as 0/unlimited.  It doesn’t have the 0/unlimited (5 gigs of high speed data).  I still get throttled, the vergabe they use in the contract says that they can throttle you for putting to heavy strain on the network, or causing issues for other users.

      However, they were not able to explain to me how me watching a 3 hour movie on Netflix caused anymore strain than a 1 minute Youtube clip.  The reason is that they can’t, it doesn’t cause ANY network differences if I stream for 1 minute or 100.  The effect is the same but they are experienced longer. 

    • Haha

      actually all of our plans are throttled, you just haven’t hit that point, legacy are set to 5 gb. if and when you do get throttled, a care rep or sup will tell you that 4g hspa+ wasn’t part of your plan legacy agreement, so in reality with GPRS or Edge you couldn’t hit 5gb target. please sign up for a amaze 4g and use Netflix for a full day, i bet you $100 bucks in order to get more speed access, you’ll be told you’ll need to switch your plan, and pay $60 for 10 gb. lol

  • I just recently switched from an HD7 to an HTC Amaze and for the first time ever i’ve been throttled. Its so noticeable its ridiculous. They might as well just tell me i can only talk and text at this point. I’ll just have switch to wifi whenever I can. Does it really cost these phone companies that much for data usage????

  • Sixlence99

    so much for the concept of “reading the fine print”.  and to be fair, word by word they are telling you everything you need to know.  this is the same misconception when plans first came about, exiting the late voice stream days…along the lines of 750 “anytime” minutes, unlimited nights/weekends.  what was to stop anyone from marketing it as Unlimited Nights/Weekends (750 anytime minutes).

    be fair in your arguments/complaints peeps, there’s grey in every contract, we should of all been aware/looking for it.  every tmo ad/commercial had the fine grey print up.

    i don’t mind tmo’s decision on how they have their data plan’s constructed, (i hopped on the 5gb promo hsdata about a year ago, 3000 minutes, unl txt)

    but should it change, if they can prove it will keep TMo in business, then why not

  • Spokker

    At the very least, there’s no reason to throttle at 3AM.

    • Sixlence99

       lol, that’s funny.  i’ll agree to that one