Updated. MetroPCS on Tuesday became the latest operator to begin throttling mobile data, but before the boos and hisses start, we should also point MetroPCS isn’t eliminating its unlimited data plans entirely. It has added a $70 price tier that preserves unlimited voice, SMS and LTE data use, but customers buying any other monthly 4G plan will get a data cap and find their speeds slowed down
considerably once they exceed it.
PhoneNews.com first reported on the new pricing structure, and MetroPCS confirmed the changes today, posting the new plans on it website. Metro’s $40 plan will included 250 MB; its $50 plan 2.5 GB; and it’s $60 5 GB. The carrier will also bundle in its unlimited use of Rhapsody music streaming at the $60 tier and access to its MetroStudio video-on-demand service at the $70 one.
Once a customer surpasses those limits, MetroPCS will slow down the connections to the same speeds of its “3G” network, said Drew Crowell, a spokesman for the carrier. “Even though the speeds are reduced, they will remain on the 4G LTE network and, because of the ‘always on’ nature of our 4G LTE network, the experience for the majority of what a customer does on a daily basis, like Facebook, web surfing, streaming music, etc., should continue to be solid,” Crowell said via e-mail.
By 3G Metro is almost certainly referencing its CDMA 1X network – a 2G technology that many carriers misleadingly call 3G. Throttling back to EV-DO speeds would have little impact on network use. MetroPCS customers won’t be breaking any speed barriers with 2G data speeds, but at least the carrier won’t charge overages or simply cut its subscribers off. Save for the lone unlimited throttling-free plan, its services now look remarkably similar to T-Mobile’s, which also sells cheap buckets of smartphone data and throttles after a pre-defined cap.
Update. It turns out I was wrong. Crowell confirmed in a follow-up that when MetroPCS says “3G” it really means 3G. Customers who exceed their caps will see their connections slowed down to the equivalent of EV-DO speeds, which isn’t much of a punishment considering the majority of smartphone users rely on EV-DO and other 3G networks daily. EV-DO won’t support the multi-megabit speeds of Metro’s LTE network, but even its typical 300 Mbps-plus connections will support pretty much any application on a smartphone, save video streaming. In fact, limiting video use over its cheaper data plans may be precisely Metro’s aim here.