Our sister blog Gadgetell notes that Virgin Mobile has decided to scale back the $40/mo unlimited-bandwidth 3G plan that I have waxed enthusiastic about in the past (and that “saved the day” for Paul earlier this month). As of February 15, the plan will throttle download speed after the first 5 gigabytes of data in a month.

That may work all right for people who just check their email and do ordinary web browsing, but it’s going to leave people who do more bandwidth-intensive stuff such as stream Netflix movies high and dry. Of course, it won’t really affect those who use it mainly for downloading e-books for their e-reading devices, since those are generally quite small.

On the bright side, at least people who use it aren’t stuck in a contract. But unfortunately, the only unlimited-bandwidth alternatives currently do require a contract.


  1. Disappointing, but I guess it was bound to happen. I’m a big fan of Virgin Mobile unlimited, but it’s still a great deal at 5gig. If you don’t do much video streaming I doubt you’ll ever reach the cap. Audio streaming takes up surprisingly little bandwidth, I’ve found.

    If you are in a Sprint 4G network area you can still get unlimited from them, but this requires a contract.

  2. The plans are still unlimited; it is merely the case that service levels will drop for the heaviest users (generally between 5–20%). (You did use the term “unlimited-bandwidth” not unlimited data, but that’s not really a term that makes sense.)

    You have certain decisions to make as a company for making effective use of your resources (especially when you are a wireless carrier).

    * Overage charges
    * Raise prices
    * Throttling

    Overage charges are generally not well regarded in the United States, but they are extremely effective at decreasing usage (because everyone is afraid to pay extra). They work while greatly increasing ill will. Raising prices is generally a terrible idea because it solves the problem by decreasing your customer base, but those most likely to leave are the 80% that weren’t really using the network anyway.

    That leaves throttling, and it makes a lot of sense. The only method I can think of that would make more sense is time-based caps. The primary goal is to decrease peak usage so that all of your customers receive an acceptable level of service, and a time-based cap serves to encourage the heavy users to push their most costly usage to the idle periods on the network. (This doesn’t work quite so well for streaming movies, but it does work for purchasing movies.)

    This article has a very negative tone toward what sounds like a good service. Rather than criticize realistic and reasonable approaches to managing a limited resource, what would you suggest if you were in charge?

  3. actually i live where i can’t recieve dsl/broadband services. and satelite restrictions were just too strict and cost to much to install. i was estatic when i heard about Virgin Mobile’s $40.00 unlimited data plan, after christmas i purchased a modem and flew on the wireless bandwith. being on dial-up there was alot of stuff i wanted to get. also being a netflix account holder allowed for me to experience their watch it now movies. in my last 30 days i’ve aquired a total of 77020.0 MB. i help my mom at home and we love to watch movies. also i found a new anime site that streams all my favorite animes. i was in heaven til i heard about the cap. people are saying 5GB is alot. no, its not. especially to someone like me where this is my only avenue for fast internet. i’ve been looking to change providers but as of right now i can’t find any around. i may have spent $75.00+$20.00 2-year warranty plan for a paper weight. if they totally remove the Unlimited plan in the next few months, i’m going to be furious.

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