This week, T-Mobile announced it will be increasing its soft cap on unlimited data from 32GB to 50GB. It is a move that will surely shake things up in the industry, for a company that consistently rates high in both customer service and service innovation but low in terms of subscriber numbers.
Now, just how much is 50GB? Well, most users won’t even notice a difference but those in the “top 1%” will appreciate a little more breathing room before the throttling kicks in. And those who may have only barely crossed the threshold will certainly appreciate the new margin.
Or, as T-Mobile chief technology officer, Neville Ray, puts it: “50GB of data usage means a T-Mobile customer is basically the top 1% of data users. To put it in context, you could stream a full 2 hours of Netflix every single day – that’s 30 SD movies – and never even reach that point.”
So, T-Mobile has something called a fair usage—or “deprioritization”—threshold, which, essentially punishes those heaviest network users by slowing their speeds when they cross the threshold in order to make room for those who might use just a little less data. If this sounds unfair, T-Mobile moves to argue that it is not intended to be unilateral. Instead, the company says it is an attempt to affect the top 3 percent of data users and limit only those who remain connected to the network through a “high demand” cell tower AND have already passed the limit threshold. Of course, the restrictions will reset at the start of the next billing cycle.
Indeed, the carrier says, “In the vast majority of times and places, you will notice little if any difference. In the small number of times or locations where there’s network congestion, you may notice reduced data speeds. This experience is due to our prioritization practice, which prioritizes customers who use more than 32GB of data in a single bill cycle after other customers.”
It is also important to remember that this concept is not exclusive among T-Mobile customers. Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all have unlimited plan usage thresholds: 22GB, 22GB, 23GB, respectively. And, like T-Mobile, all of these carriers argue that these regulations are necessary in order to “manage network usage” and to “ensure a quality experience for all customers.”