T-Mobile on Tuesday announced that it is increasing the point where an “unlimited” subscriber would face lower data speeds during times of network connection.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray:
… I’m happy to announce that starting tomorrow we’re increasing T-Mobile’s prioritization point from an already-industry-leading 32GB to a whopping 50GB! Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T sit at a meager 22GB, meaning Un-carrier customers can use more than 2x the data before prioritization kicks in. Now, 50GB of data usage means a T-Mobile customer is basically the top 1% of data users, and 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! You’d still have roughly 8GB to go.
T-Mobile says it uses a prioritization system to manage traffic during times of network congestion, helping to prevent a small number of users from affecting the connection speeds of the rest of their users.
As background, we use prioritization for T-Mobile customers to manage network traffic and ensure a small number of the very most active users on our network don’t negatively impact everyone else so everyone can have a great experience. Often confused for a “throttle” or “cap,” prioritization is different. It doesn’t cap how much you can use, and someone would only notice it when TWO things happen: the customer has already consumed a ton of data in the month (50GB) AND they are in an area of the network is that currently experiencing congestion. When T-Mobile customers who use the most data hit these prioritization points during the month, they get in line behind other customers who have used less data and may experience reduced speeds. But this impacts them only very rarely, like when there is a big line, and it resets every month. If you have a lot of congestion in your network (I’m looking at you, Verizon & AT&T), these lines can be long and deprioritized customers can be waiting a long time.
If the network is not congested, users who are over 50GB of usage for the month will return to 4G speeds. T-Mobile says only around 1% of its users use more than 50GB of data per month.
All four major U.S. wireless carriers have similar systems in place. AT&T and Verizon de-prioritize customers after 22GB of data usage, Sprint does so after 23GB of data usage.