15 Comments

Summary:

Only six months after introducing a $40 unlimited prepaid 3G data plan, Virgin Mobile is adding a 5 GB soft-cap of data each billing period. Users that reach the limit will see their bandwidth slowed until the next month of service begins.

virgin-mobile-mifi

Virgin Mobile’s unlimited 3G data service may not be as appealing to customers next month, as the service will be soft-capped at 5 GB per billing cycle starting February 15. PC Magazine received confirmation of the upcoming changes to Virgin Mobile’s Broadband2Go prepaid service which is currently available for use with either a MiFi mobile hotspot device or a USB data stick. Once users hit the 5 GB cap, Virgin Mobile will reduce speeds of the 3G data connection until the next billing cycle begins.

When Virgin Mobile rolled out its unlimited Broadband2Go service in August, we pointed out the value of the no-contract, $40 per month offering for unlimited service, which is provided on Sprint’s 3G network. At the time, the deal was half the price of comparable prepaid service from Verizon. And now, just six months later, the “unlimited” nature of the plan will be capped by speed throttling, the same method T-Mobile implemented last April for its data plans.

The Virgin Mobile plan change in the U.S. follows a modification from T-Mobile UK earlier today, which cut its “unlimited” 1 GB monthly plan in half. At this point 3 is the only mobile broadband provider in the UK testing the unlimited data plan waters while here in the U.S., only Sprint, and it’s WiMAX partner Clearwire, offer all-you-can-use data plans among the largest carriers. With such unpredictable variances in data demand, combined with the number of mobile broadband subscribers about to surpass wired subscribers around the globe, it’s clearly becoming a challenge for any provider to offer truly unlimited mobile data.

Related GigaOM Pro Content (sub req’d):

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. I was expecting this to happen, sometime this year. After I got my tablet (I didn’t want a 3G version) I was planning on buying one of these, but I told myself *wait a few months, Miguel the data plans are bound to change.*

    Despite the new cap, that I’m glad I waited for, I’ll probably be getting one of these to use with my tablet and laptop. This is still the best deal that I could find, excluding clears iOS only device, but again I didn’t want a 3G iPad.

    The thing that I appreciate from t-mobile and VM is the soft cap, especially on a device such as the mifi because it’s way to easy to go over the data limit with 2 or more devices connected. I look forward to getting one of these and hopefully see some decent speeds.

  2. are they at least going to grandfather in existing customers?

    i know quite a few people who switch over to them and invested a bit more money than they would otherwise for the MIFI devices. the service is now basically useless too them. they were sold on being able to run five devices unlimited and in many cases have been using this in place of DSL or cable. they have no problem tolerating the slower speeds than wired for the flexibility of no contracts and no clutter and complication of modems and routers. but a 5GB cap simple will not work.

    personally i use mine as a supplement to cable, i will probably now switch to t-mobile for much faster speeds at a similar price and cap.

    1. I can’t see why or how they would: it’s a pre-paid, no-contract service on a month-to-month basis, so technically, the terms can change in any given month. Bummer! :(

      1. AT&T grandfathered in iPad users when they dropped the unlimited option. that was also no contract prepaid.

        the difference is the demographic. early iPad buyers tended to be wealthy and influential, people AT&T did not want to upset. VM broadband buyers are largely poor and in no position to fight back against sprint. but i bet in most cases their MIFI purchase was a major purchase that caused them to sacrifice elsewhere and they perhaps had to save money for a while before they could afford it. the iPad on the other hand was just another toy that had little impact on its owners finances.

        these customers deserve every bit as much respect from sprint as iPad customers go from AT&T.

  3. if you read the TOS on virgin website it actually says that after feb. 14th the $40 plan is being eliminated all together. current users will be grandfathered into the $40 price but will go from unlimited to 5GB. after that date the only option will be $10 for 200MB or only if you purchased your device at walmart $20 for 1GB.

    1. Tom, do you have a link for that? I hit the TOS on the site, but according to the date, that page hasn’t been updated since August of last year. Thinking you found a specific link as opposed the general TOS. It’s odd that any future pricing plans would be in a TOS, but not impossible, of course. Thx!

        1. Thx for the link, Tom. So as I read it, if you’re not already on the plan by next month, you won’t be able to get it. Or if you switch away from it, you’ve lost it, much like AT&T’s approach when ceasing it’s unlimited smartphone plans.

      1. but AT&T grandfathered in existing customers to their existing terms if they continued. virgin mobile is changing the terms for existing customers. those who continue will now be capped at 5GB in order to get faster speeds.

      2. Correct – it’s not entirely like the “true” grandfathering that AT&T used. You can still keep the plan but a part of it has changed. Not good for consumers. :(

      3. i just reread the TOS and have an interesting question. it states that service ‘purchased’ before Feb 15th will get uncapped status. virgin works with a prepaid PIN system. is a ‘purchase’ mean when the PIN code is bought in a store or online with a credit card or is it when the PIN is applied to an account?

        in other words could someone stock pile PINs before Feb 15th and than activate each 30 days after for the purpose of getting some extra months of true unlimited?

        i am not even going to attempt to ask this question to a CS rep. since i am quite sure they will both be confused and unable to get an answer. if anyone from virgin mobile is reading this and would like to answer i would be delighted.

  4. Just wrong. They must not have thought this through at all. Bait you in with the promise of unlimited service so you terminate existing carrier, invest in new equipment and they cap the service. Does the FCC allow such bait and switch tactics?

  5. I think they will lose most of their customers. I just signed up but I already notified them that I will not renew after expiration.

    The marketing genius who did this “bait and switch” move didn’t realize that all the new customers that they acquired late last year because of this plan, will take their business elsewhere.

  6. due to congestion virgin mobile is often quite slow anyways well bellow the 256 kbps throttling speed. will VM always be providing throttled customers with slower service than non-throttled or would the speeds be the same during times of network congestion that mean everyones service is below the capped speed rate.

  7. What I think about this decision of Virgin:

    ABUSIVE and cause me damage that I want to recover from them or the seller Walmart

    I think about class action.

    About grandfather, it is easy to track, just the date that you register on Virgin is enough to tell when you get inside the system.

    In doing so, Virgin break the essential lien of confidence with is customer. I decide to buy MIFI from Virgin base on their offer of unlimited plan for 40$.

    I was far from thinking that after only 4 month (buy in october 2010), the service will substantially change. I consider that Virgin used my confidence to convince me to buy the Mifi, but not only the MIFI, I also buy 3 Internet radio and a Bridge to stream TV the Internet content.

    What will be the speed after 5 gigs:

    256K OR BELOW BELOW BELOW BELOW BELOW

    read the letter from Virgin:

    Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer care.

    In response to your concern, we are really sorry for the inconvenience. Broadband2Go Terms of Service have changed which potentially impact download and upload throughput speeds on the $40 Broadband2Go Plan when monthly data usage exceeds 5GB.

    Customers will continue to have access to Broadband2Go service but maximum speeds may be limited to 256 kbps or below for the remainder of the monthly plan cycle. During this time, customers may experience slower page loads, file downloads and degraded streaming media. Throughput speeds will be restored when a new Broadband2Go Plan is purchased.

    If you feel that the speed of your service is even lower, please contact our Broadband department at 1-877-877-8443 so that our Broadband specialists can help you with troubleshooting steps to restore the regular speed of your device.

    Hope this helps, If you need additional assistance, feel free to let us know how we can assist further or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *VM from your handset). You can reach us Monday through Sunday from 4am-9pm PST.

    Thanks,

    Jose
    Virgin Mobile At Your Service
    http://www.virginmobileusa.com

    It’s time to fight back those giant that use us. My lost is several hundred of dollars since my Internet radio and TV streaming will become obsolete after 5 gigs and I don’t want to loose that money.

Comments have been disabled for this post