Leaked information is pointing toward T-Mobile moving away from its unlimited data plan offerings, at least for the smallest plan option. Instead of slowing speeds once a customer surpasses 200 MB of mobile data in a given billing cycle, the carrier will charge a $0.10 per MB overage if the leaked data is accurate. Enthusiast blog T-Mo News received the detailed information, which suggests customers on the current 200 MB data plan will be grandfathered in to the throttled plans until August 13. If true, this suggests a shift from unlimited-but-speed-limited plans as carriers are still trying to figure out the best business model for mobile broadband.
Currently, T-Mobile advertises its plans as unlimited, which many suggest is not entirely accurate. The carrier is playing loose with the word “unlimited” because although the amount of data isn’t currently capped, customers buy a set amount at the fastest available speeds: 200 MB, 2 GB or 5 GB per month, for example. Upon hitting the limit, T-Mobile reduces the bandwidth speed for the rest of the billing cycle. Technically, since data isn’t shut off, it’s unlimited; it’s just the speed that suffers. As a result, Sprint (s s) has recently taken advertising shots at T-Mobile and others by saying its service is truly unlimited.
Why is T-Mobile reportedly considering such a change to its smallest data plan? According to the leak, the 200 MB option is a victim of success: “Additions of the 200 MB feature have exceeded T-Mobile’s expectations.” That suggests many customers opt for the cheapest plan thinking unlimited means as much fast data as they want. That’s not the case due to throttling speeds, and once that happens, customers aren’t happy with the experience of a slow mobile broadband connection.
.@tmobile, your throttling your customers sucks.
— Thomas Hawk (@thomashawk) March 31, 2011
Although unrelated, I find it interesting that AT&T (s t), which is poised to purchase T-Mobile, has recently taken the opposite action. Last month, AT&T said it would begin to speed limit heavy users that kept old unlimited data plans from before the carrier’s move to tiered data plans last June. On the high end, AT&T customers are getting throttled, while on the low-end, T-Mobile customers may see data overage charges. And in the middle, customers get squeezed as network operators continue to re-jigger network offerings while data demand rises. Regardless, customers that don’t like throttling may have good news, provided they can stomach the bad news of overages at the same time.
Image courtesy of Flickr user, san_drino