Here’s what you need to know about carrier throttling of unlimited plans.
You’re probably already aware that all the major U.S. carriers offer an unlimited plan and that they have imposed a limit on it if you use too much data in a single billing period. If you’re not, we’re talking about wording like this in the carrier terms of service:
On all T-Mobile plans, during congestion, the small fraction of customers using >50GB/month may notice reduced speeds until next bill cycle due to data prioritization.
That’s T-Mobile’s, but every carrier has something similar in the contract terms that say the same thing — use too much and we can stop giving you that high-speed LTE data that you know and love and toss you back to those 2007 3G data speeds. Users call it throttling, carriers call it prioritization, but no matter what it’s called, it means the same thing: some users may get slowed down if they use too much data in a single month.
That has a lot of vague wording in it — some, may, a small fraction, etc. — so we’re going to spell it all out because your phone carrier is good at delivering you internet access and we’re good at writing. Everyone wins!
More: The best unlimited data plan
What is throttling?
Network data speed (technically, bandwidth) throttling means the same thing as throttling anything else — purposefully choking or restricting a thing. That’s exactly what is happening here and the network gets slower because your ID (you sign into your carrier’s data network with a unique ID, but it’s usually done automatically) has been marked in a way that the servers which route the internet traffic know to only send you data at a certain speed.
When you have used enough data to be hit under your carrier’s data prioritization,