Sprint to throttle 'unfair' customers using more than 23GB of data per month

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2015
Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest cellular carrier, announced on Friday that it will begin throttling connection speeds of unlimited data customers chewing through more than 23GB of data in a monthly billing period.




As detailed by Sprint's chief technology officer Dr. John Saw, the new policy is an attempt to address an ever-present need for increased mobile bandwidth. The 23GB cap will protect the vast majority of subscribers against a "small minority" of unlimited data customers who "unreasonably" eat up network resources.

Saw notes unlimited customers will, as their plans state, be able to use an unlimited amount of data per month, but might see connection speeds drop when they hit the 23GB mark. As he explains, the quality of service technique operates in real time, meaning throttling is applied based on current network conditions.

Unlimited data users will be prioritized below other subscribers only in times and locations where the network is strained, Saw says. Prioritization windows are calculated every 20 milliseconds, and throttled users will see services restored to normal operating speeds once traffic conditions at a particular cell site clear.

"The 23GB threshold is typical in the industry and other carriers have already implemented a similar practice," Saw said. "Today approximately three percent of our postpaid subscribers are using overwhelmingly disproportionate network resources. Our goal with QoS is to prevent some portion of that three percent going forward from negatively impacting the other 97 percent of customers."

According to metrics provided by the carrier, with 23GB of data users can send 6,000 emails with attachments, view 1,500 Web pages, post 600 photos, stream 60 hours of music and another 50 hours of video.

America's "big three" wireless carriers all throttle data to some extent. After doing away with unlimited plans years ago, AT&T and Verizon were first to institute connection slowdowns on customers with grandfathered-in all-you-can-eat subscriptions. T-Mobile, which like Sprint still markets unlimited data options, also adheres to a soft data cap set at 23GB, and in August said it would come down hard on users abusing the system.

Carrier throttling is a somewhat controversial practice, and one that recently came under fire from federal regulators. Last year, Verizon drew the ire of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler for a "network optimization" initiative designed to limit 4G LTE speeds for unlimited customers. The company ultimately decided not to implement the restrictions.

AT&T also saw its share of trouble with the FCC, but earlier this year adopted policies more in line with those announced by Sprint today.
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 78
    Thats a lot of data :!
  • Reply 2 of 78
    How can someone use that much of data? I don't understand...
  • Reply 3 of 78
    sirdirsirdir Posts: 114member
    It depends. If it's your primary means to connect to the internet, that's nothing...
  • Reply 4 of 78
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    So it's limited after all.

  • Reply 5 of 78
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

     

    So it's limited after all.




    The article says that it's throttled, not limited.

     

    I know this is a contentious issue but throttling is actually a sensible and fair network management practice. The available bandwidth of the mobile (cellular) network is limited (laws of physics). At busy hour, everyone wants to use it (normal patterns of behaviour) so sharing the available resource between all would-be users is fair. That means that the rate offered to individuals must be limited ie throttled. Throttling does not necessarily limit how much data they can have, only how fast they can get it.

     

    Now the networks may have suggested otherwise in their contracts, perhaps due to limited understanding of the technical issues by the sales people, but I don't think that changes the way that the networks should work. Subscribers whose contract terms defy that reality and are being changed should, in my view, ask for a small financial recompense. The networks ultimately have to recognise reality so I think the contracts will inevitably change.

  • Reply 6 of 78
    I'm not (yet) a cord-cutter, but for those who are I could imagine streaming video (e.g., Netflix) hitting this limit:
    30 days x. 2 hours/day. = 60 total hours

    But I guess this is just for over-the-air (cellular) access, whereas at home most people still have wired access that they can use via WiFi hitch does not count against the cellular limits.
  • Reply 7 of 78

    I have never heard of a cord cutter meaning no landline internet, usually it refers to dropping Cable for streaming services. Unless you are rural you can get pretty cheap landline internet (albeit speeds may be slow or throttled). Cellular isn't home internet replacement.

  • Reply 8 of 78
    pkabir wrote: »
    I have never heard of a cord cutter meaning no landline internet, usually it refers to dropping Cable for streaming services. Unless you are rural you can get pretty cheap landline internet (albeit speeds may be slow or throttled). Cellular isn't home internet replacement.

    It is for some of us.
  • Reply 9 of 78
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,974member

    My question is whether someone using this much cellular bandwidth actually hurts any other users. What's the maximum throughput of Sprint's system at any particular point? 23GB/mo is less than 1GB/day, which isn't that much data transfer. I checked the physical size of my iTunes movies and they are all around 4-5GB. I presume when these are streamed over cellular to a mobile device the total size will be smaller but one movie per day might exceed Sprint's limit. That's not very much.

  • Reply 10 of 78
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,667member
    michasam wrote: »
    How can someone use that much of data? I don't understand...

    It is the stupidity of streaming services, especially movies and audio. If you watch one movie or "TV" show a day that can easily reach 60 GB of data transferred. Add in some web data, software updates and whatever and you can easily burn through lots of data.

    As a side note I always look for a LAN connection, that is a WiFi hit spot, to update apps on my iPad. Just doing the iWorks and other iOS 9 updates that have come through would have cost well over a GB of data. The small updates can add up real fast.

    Which brings up the next point, we need much larger SSD sizes in apples iPad line up. Sure it is completely possible to delete apps and redox load as needed but this is problematic with iOS due file storage within the apps bundle. In the end larger SSDs can help reduce your streaming and downloading needs.

    Frankly I find the streaming services to be anti consumer as the consumer bears the cost of delivery of content. It is also ignorant in the sense that physics doesn't allow the data rates needed over RF connections. There is a limit to how far we can go with RF technologies due to higher frequencies being very much line of sight.
  • Reply 11 of 78

    Do you live out of range of landline internet? Are you sharing your Sprint connection with other devices?

  • Reply 12 of 78

    On s4gru.com I read that Network Vision LTE sites have 110 Mbps shared over 3 sectors, so I am guessing they have enough heavy users that other users are noticing. Once their B41 (TD-LTE) network is bigger they can be much more lax on this I am thinking. WiMax is chewing a bunch of that spectrum up but that will be turned off in early November.

  • Reply 13 of 78
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,667member
    rob53 wrote: »
    My question is whether someone using this much cellular bandwidth actually hurts any other users.
    This really isn't that hard to understand, a given technology has a limit on the data rate it can handle. With cellular technologies it can be pretty obvious when the networks are overloaded.

    Consider this, have you every been in an Airport when they have canceled all the flights and tried to make a cell phone call? Often it is near impossible due to congestion on the cellular network. The same thing can happen during disasters, concerts, and other large gatherings of people. Data transfers suffer from the same issues, you can only transfer as much data as the technology allows at any given point in time. You can see this also when web access gets slow on your device.

    Then there is the issue of LTE not being available everywhere.

    What's the maximum throughput of Sprint's system at any particular point?
    That can vary from location to location for all providers. Right now I live about 8 minutes from a large city and are right on the fringes of an LTE network. Even the distance from the cell tower can impact transfer rates. As can the generation of the cell towers base station equipment and their pipe to the Internet.
    23GB/mo is less than 1GB/day, which isn't that much data transfer.
    Actually that is a lot of data. Right now I buy data in 5GB blocks and try to make it last a month. That isn't easy at all.
    I checked the physical size of my iTunes movies and they are all around 4-5GB. I presume when these are streamed over cellular to a mobile device the total size will be smaller but one movie per day might exceed Sprint's limit. That's not very much.

    Actually you can't assume that (movies being smaller), people could have a high resolution device or they might be tethered to such a device. A laptop perhaps.

    I often refer to this technical problem as the stupidity of streaming services. Such services might actually work over hard lines to a home but are absolutely hopeless when it comes to RF based communications. The problem is that the demand for bandwidth won't slow down, realistically iPhones are still relatively new technologies, as adoption increases so does the need for bandwidth. At a certain point that bandwidth can only be satisfied by new technologies or much higher densities with respect to current technologies (more cell towers).

    More cell towers has become a political issue. If you live in an area controlled by ignorant democrats there may not be an opportunity to build more towers. You could very well have your bandwidth limited by politics in many areas right now.
  • Reply 14 of 78
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,667member
    pkabir wrote: »
    I have never heard of a cord cutter meaning no landline internet, usually it refers to dropping Cable for streaming services.
    I don't know where you get your information but it has never meant that. It originally started out meaning giving up a landline phone connection for a cell phone. Later it was also applied to people cutting off their cable connection due to many reasons including the nonsense of the cable companies.
    Unless you are rural you can get pretty cheap landline internet (albeit speeds may be slow or throttled).
    Not really. People generally make the decision to cut landlines due to the expense.
    Cellular isn't home internet replacement.

    Sure it is. If all you have is an iPhone or iPad that is your internet solution. It really doesn't make sense to pay for multiple internet providers for many people, so LTE becomes the sole connection to the web. For many this works out really well.
  • Reply 15 of 78
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,667member
    pkabir wrote: »
    On s4gru.com I read that Network Vision LTE sites have 110 Mbps shared over 3 sectors,
    That data rate also assumes no slowdowns any where else in the network. It is fairly easy to see how such data rates divided across multiple users can be a problem.
    so I am guessing they have enough heavy users that other users are noticing.
    Sure people notice!! Maybe the net if filled with a bunch of people that failed physics but there is no magic involved in LTE networks. The bandwidth available is based on the physics of the technology use to implement the communications system. Right now LTE is state of the art and has real limits on transfer rates.
    Once their B41 (TD-LTE) network is bigger they can be much more lax on this I am thinking.
    I highly doubt that. The problem is demand is growing very fast, they will need policies in place to keep bandwidth users in check.
    WiMax is chewing a bunch of that spectrum up but that will be turned off in early November.

    This creates another problem, many will need new hardware to benefit fro the technology upgrade. Legacy hardware users are still the majority of users on a cellular network, it takes awhile for the technology to trickle down. By the time it trickles down bandwidth demand has risen to compensate.

    People looking for quick fixes to bandwidth issues are likely to be disappointed.
  • Reply 16 of 78
    wizard69 wrote: »
    It is the stupidity of streaming services, especially movies and audio. If you watch one movie or "TV" show a day that can easily reach 60 GB of data transferred. Add in some web data, software updates and whatever and you can easily burn through lots of data.

    As a side note I always look for a LAN connection, that is a WiFi hit spot, to update apps on my iPad. Just doing the iWorks and other iOS 9 updates that have come through would have cost well over a GB of data. The small updates can add up real fast.

    Which brings up the next point, we need much larger SSD sizes in apples iPad line up. Sure it is completely possible to delete apps and redox load as needed but this is problematic with iOS due file storage within the apps bundle. In the end larger SSDs can help reduce your streaming and downloading needs.

    Frankly I find the streaming services to be anti consumer as the consumer bears the cost of delivery of content. It is also ignorant in the sense that physics doesn't allow the data rates needed over RF connections. There is a limit to how far we can go with RF technologies due to higher frequencies being very much line of sight.

    Streaming in my opinion only exists for one purpose: tracking use. It diverts consumers from "buy once, use plenty" to "pay per use".
  • Reply 17 of 78
    matrix07 wrote: »
    So it's limited after all.

    A leopard never changes its spots, it only says they're "truly unlimited" for a time.
  • Reply 18 of 78



    Some of the people on Verizon I know with the old unlimited data plan use over 100GB a month because they use it for their home internet.

  • Reply 19 of 78
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,330member
    michasam wrote: »
    How can someone use that much of data? I don't understand...

    Sure. It depends on your plan. We have a family plan with Verizon. We don't have unlimited, but 15GB per month. We also have LTE on our iPads. It doesn't happen every month, but there are months where we need to be careful the last several days. I can see us using 23GB if we're freer with our usage. My wife is the one who uses little. It's my daughter and I who use 80% of the data. So if my wife used more, then we'd easily be pushing past 20GB.

    But still, for most Accounts with a single user, 23GB is an awful lot. They'd need to be watching a lot of video.

    Still, AT&T used to throttle at about 4GB, if people here remember, so this is vastly better.
  • Reply 20 of 78
    gwmacgwmac Posts: 1,795member

    23 GB is extremely fair. And even then they don't throttle for the rest of the month just during congested times that day. I am on Sprint and find it really hard to go over 13GB a month and I use my phone pretty heavily. The only way I can imagine exceeding 23GB is as others above suggested by watching movies nearly every day. I don't think cell phone networks are robust enough to be a replacement for a landline type ISP as these data hogs seem to be doing. 

Sign In or Register to comment.