“Beginning 6/1/14, to provide more customers with a high quality data experience during heavy usage times, Virgin Mobile USA may manage prioritization of access to network resources in congested areas for customers within the top 5% of data users. For more info visit virginmobileusa.com/networkmanagement.”
This means that Virgin will throttle the top 5% of the heaviest data users in a given area by giving them lower priority on the data network over those customers with more moderate usage patterns in an attempt to provide better service to all customers at peak times. This move also follows the recent enactment of a lowered post-throttle speed to 128Kbps beginning today for both Boost and Virgin customers, again to discourage heavy users.
With Virgin and Boost Mobile moving to tighter restrictions for data management, it’s very likely that both brands are aiming to force heavy users off of either brand onto competitors better able to handle such users and Virgin Mobile has yet to make any major changes to its plan slate in a similar vein to Boost Mobile, which went to a more conventional usage-based model starting today after finding its Shrinkage-based plans untenable over the last 18 months.
Currently, Virgin Mobile is still offering 2.5GB of monthly data access on its own Beyond Talk plan slate before throttling to 128Kbps and has made no indication that it would change its plan slate to a usage-based model similar to Boost Mobile.
Update: Since this was first published, Sprint has officially confirmed that the policy will apply across the entire company and its sub-brands next month. While Sprint is not eliminating the option for unlimited data on its postpaid plans, much like the identical move taken by AT&T a couple of years ago, the days of truly unlimited data are now numbered on the carrier after years of touting it as a competitive advantage against AT&T and Verizon.
What makes the policy more onerous is that Sprint is relying not on a specific number to assess which users are in the “top 5%” in order to be given less priority, but Sprint will be relying on the level of congestion on a given cell site to make that determination, which many would consider to be faulty logic, as the level of congestion on a given cell site changes far too frequently to determine who using more bandwidth than another user.
These changes will do little to stem Sprint’s growing negative perception and will only serve to annoy customers further, especially as the respective FAQ for the changes states that using more than 5GB in a monthly cycle places a customer in the “top 5%” but also states that it uses a “proportional fairness scheduler algorithm that allocates network resources based on radio frequency signal quality and other metrics. During times of congestion, the proportional fairness scheduler algorithm ensures no one user is deprived of network resources”, meaning that Sprint is either waiting for customers to hit 5GB before throttling or they manage access automatically regardless of the total amount used, which isn’t clear at this time.
Whether these changes will serve to help Sprint as they finish the Network Vision project is unclear, but the carrier is already acting with SoftBank’s heavy hand and it’s not looking good for those that previously relied on Sprint’s unlimited data access.