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February 16, 2011

Mobile phones unlimited data allowance subject to throttling

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by Brian Turner

If you sign up to a smartphone contract that offers “unlimited data”, do be aware that heavy usage will almost certainly make you subject to throttling.

A couple of people on a recent feature about 3 offering unlimited data allowance on their One Plan raise the issue of being subject to throttling.

Just for the record, one of 3‘s business managers told me this week that, in no uncertain terms, the “unlimited data” plan is subject to a fair use policy, with heavy users definitely subject to throttling.

In fact, other networks I’ve spoken to who now also offer “unlimited data” plans have all stated that some degree of throttling will occur with heavy users.

The difference is really as to at what threshold throttling will actually take place.

I’ve also been told that throttling occurs according to daily usage, not monthly usage, so as to ensure it is the heaviest users who are most likely to be affected.

Of course, while throttling of any kind is hardly welcome, this has been a common issue with normal landline broadband connections, so it’s no surprise that it may also occur on mobile networks.

This is not least when mobile computing tends to have lower transfer speeds in the first place anyway.

However, while some broadband ISP’s still offer data limits on basic packages, there has been a sea-change movement away from bandwidth limits.

The hope is that as mobile operators expand into unlimited data transfer contracts, that we’ll see them become more efficient at offering more bandwidth to more people without fear of congesting their networks - and therefore use throttling of any kind only as a last resort in the most extreme instances.

In the meantime, I’ve just got myself a HTC Desire HD from T-Mobile on an unlimited data plan, not least because I want to ensure I can connect online wherever I am.

While I don’t expect to be a heavy user and therefore experience throttling problems, obviously I will report on anything that comes up.

For the time being it is simply a relief to move away from data limits on a mobile contract, whatever potential issues that may be subject to.

After all, we’re fast reaching the point where internet connections will be primarily made through mobile devices rather than PC’s.

All the more reason for mobile operators to have mature systems in place that can handle the ever increasing data needs of an ever expanding generation of mobile internet users.

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  1. Brian, I found this article very interesting as I have taken out the 3 One Plan - as I wanted unlimited internet due to not being able to have a landline or cable. However, I have found their speeds very slow indeed. Who was the business manager you spoke to, as their admins on their customer service blog maintain that there is no throttling whatsoever and that it truly is unlimited.

    Comment by Ich — February 17, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  2. Ich, technically the 3 mobile plans are “unlimited”, ie, you won’t get hit by masty extra charges for use.

    However, the 3 business manager pooh-pooh the consumer offer of “unlimited data” stating that it was throttled, whereas the business plans are not - which in themselves are far more restrictive in their internet usage.

    I spoke to a reseller of T-Mobile who suggested that the unlimited data plan they provided myself with was throttled at around 3GB per day, which should be more than I actually need.

    Comment by Brian Turner — February 17, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

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