The unlimited mobile data plan suffers more casualties

Photo: Flickr / Wesley Fryer

Consumers keep hoping for an unlimited mobile broadband plan revival, but the opposite keeps happening. What few remaining unlimited plans carriers offer are disappearing – or at least becoming more restrictive.

On Jan. 20, Boost Mobile, one of Sprint’s prepaid brands, will start throttling its so-called unlimited plans after customers surpass 2.5 GB a month, according to a company Facebook post first spotted by FierceWireless. Sprint’s unlimited contract plans will remain unthrottled – a strategy CEO Dan Hesse has stressed is key to differentiating Sprint from the competition – but now both of Sprint’s primary prepaid services, Virgin and Boost, will have usage restrictions.

Broadband Reports confirmed that Clearwire is now experimenting with usage-based pricing plans in 10 cities, selling customers 2 GB a month for $20, 4 GB for $40 or an unlimited package for $60. The 10-city trial aside, all of Clearwire’s current plans are marketed as unlimited, but many customers have complained that throttling policies have kicked in at seemingly arbitrary usage levels.

It’s not clear whether the WiMAX operator maintains those same throttling policies on the new more expensive “unlimited” plan, but considering many Clearwire customers use the service as their primary residential broadband connection, it’s likely throttling will remain in play.

True unlimited plans are becoming harder and harder to come by. AT&T and Verizon both began throttling their grandfathered unlimited customers last year, though neither has set a specific soft cap. New customers have no choice but to choose a tiered or family share plan (in Verizon’s case shared plans are really the only option).

MetroPCS has kept an unlimited plan, though it raised its price. T-Mobile is the one bright spot for unlimited enthusiasts. After getting rid of its unlimited plans last year, it reintroduced them this summer, but they do come with more restrictions than its soft-capped plans, for instance: no using your phone as a hotspot.

Buffet image courtesy of Flickr user Wesley Fryer

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