Sprint Throttling Top 1% Of Data Munchers? Only If You’re Roaming


The internets is all up in a tizzy after running with a story from Dow Jones that misquoted Sprint CEO Dan Hesse while speaking at an investors meeting as saying — contrary to what is advertised in Sprint’s latest ad spots — they actually do throttle their customers who use too much data. Sprint has spent much of its time advertising “Truly Unlimited” data on their network, going as far as to point out the competition’s practices of throttling and charging for overages.

But you can put your pitchforks down, as it turns out Dow Jones left out a very important keyword: roaming. Customers who are throttled because of roaming account for about 1% of users on Sprint and this is most definitely covered in Sprint’s fine print which says they can begin throttling customers who hit 300MB of “off-network” data.

When the story first hit, I actually didn’t find myself much in arms even if Sprint really did throttle the top 1% of users who use too much data. Data ain’t cheap and the last thing I need when trying to stream my music is a backed up network because some doofus tethered his hacked phone to play COD and stream Netflix (yes, I know of such people).

So, if you’re a Sprint customer, you can continue gloating over the fact that you have the only truly unlimited data network in the US — even if it is one of the slowest at the moment.

[Via TechCrunch]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. So the 1% finally gets their just deserts…

    1. Does spring get good coverage that far off the beaten path?  I would assume the 1% off power users would spend a lot of their time closer to civilization.

  2. “some doofus is tethering his phone to play COD and stream Netflix (yes, I know of such people).”

    Why would somebody be a doofus for using the data they are paying for?  Don’t get mad at them for a slow network, they are fully within their rights as a paying customer to use the product they are paying for.  If anything, blame sprint for either allowing it, or for not being able to cope with it.

    I know you usually try to keep a little humor in your articles, so I hope that was just a joke.  If not, it’s sounding a little self-centered.

    Edit: before my inbox is spammed by disqus by people defending their beloved site and writer, I’m not insulting anyone. I’m just saying I feel his statement was not correct as far as it when.

    1. The unlimited data part is unlimited data for your phone, not “unlimited data for your entire house so go ahead and cancel your ISP and use us for everything!!!”

      1. unlimited data is unlimited data.

        1. un·lim·it·ed/ˌənˈlimitid/
          Adjective:Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent.(of a company) Not limited.

          1. Throttled data is still unlimited. You can get as much as you want. You just have to get it at a slower speed. So…?

            It’s lyk getting mad at a Hybrid because when you turn on Gas save mode, the car goes slower. 

            You’re going to get as much data as you can. You’re just going to get the slowest speeds possible. Enjoy. :D

            So if you only had 1X speeds in your area, or 2G speeds in your area with Tmo, would you care about throttling then? Seeing as when you’re throttled, you go down to 2G speeds.

          2. Well said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        2. FOR YOUR PHONE. Following your logic, you should be able to for your whole neighborhood.

          1. What’s wrong with that?

            Sharing is caring.

          2. Maybe this is why Sprint’t network is so slow. LoL!! I would never do that. There won’t be any bandwidth. LoL!! Imagine taking 2 hours to download a 3Mb audio file. :P

          3. Hmm now if you were using a 3g usb modern for your pc that happened to be running on sprint towers then yeah you would get unlimited data for something other then your phone

          4. I was trolling.

            I only tether on road trips, at my family’s cabin and when my main connection fails.

      2. If that’s the case, they need to put measures in to enforce that situation.  If Sprint allows it, and it is negatively affecting customers, blame Sprint.  Don’t blame people for using what they pay for more fully than you do.

        1. Not that they’re doing it now but throttling users who use excessive data is one way of enforcing it and that’s why I said in the post I wouldn’t be upset if that really was the case.

          Sprint doesn’t allow tethering without the required plan. But if a user roots his phone, he can do all kinds of stuff he’s really not “supposed to.”

          1. My point was I would make sure the group of people I was insulting deserved the insult before giving it, if that was my intent.  Better that, than saying everyone who does something is bad.  To each their own I guess.

      3. Exactly. It’s not like their commercial is showing an Xbox or laptop shooting past everyone else’s phone. It’s a phone. That’s what the data is for. =p

        1. Tethering is like drinking….do so in moder……………………… go nuts!

          I tether all the time at my cabin (in the middle of nowhere) where we can’t get internet service but it’s ok because I’m probably the only one in the whole coverage area using the tower.

          Not only that, I have an official excuse. My phone came with this ability out of the box (NS4G ftw!).

    2. You sound like a joy at parties

      1. LOL…well put sir!

      2. I actually am, thanks.  Probably because I tend to not give one line responses to things, since nobody likes it when people do that.  It’s a  pretty good sign of social insecurity.  I think it’s one I’ve seen recently…

    3. I’m sorry but if you’re tethering and are using your phone as your only internet option then yes you are abusing and should be held accountable. I understand its unlimited but only on your phone. If you hit 10gb on your phone I’m sure its over a period of time. But if you hit several gigs in several days cause your downloading torrents then I hope Sprint throttles you.

      1. Not at all.  Sprint should be held accountable.  I rarely tether (and I’m not on Sprint) however, if I were a Sprint customer who frequently tethered, I’m well within my rights as a customer.  If sprint is allowing this to negatively impact others, Sprint is at fault.  If they are having network problems, they SHOULD throttle users if necessary.  I’m just saying, don’t hate on the person following the rules.  Hate on the person who allows it.

        1. if you read the title it says if roaming, which is understandable because that means your on Verizons’ network and sprint is paying for you to use it. if your tethering while roaming and doing all that crap then yes i think you should be throttled.

          1. I did read the title.  However, if you pay for unlimited tethering, and Sprint specifically points out that unlimited means no throttling (as in the commercial) then don’t throttle.  That, or don’t advertise it.  Can’t have your cake and eat it to, sorry.

          2. First of all they do not have unlimited tethering…the only way to have it is by rooting your phone which Sprint is not responsible for….stop bashing Sprint it’s anything but their fault they are the victims.  These guys are abusing Sprints network tethering while they are not even paying for it…-_-

          3. while i am on the sprint network yes i expect non-throttled unlimited data as advertised but when roaming on Verizon its completely understandable to be throttled because im now on someone ELSES network, just because sprint gives my access to that network doesn’t mean i’m fully entitled to it the same way i am on sprints, if anything i expect to be forced to play by Verizons’ rules while on there network, and i guarantee you Verizons’ is telling sprint they need to throttle heavy roaming data users

    4. What annoys me is playing cod literally uses like no internet speed at all, it can run perfectly at less then 1 mbps, and unless they are playing for days it uses less then 50 Mbs. and netflix can be streamed to your phone too, so how can you get mad at someone using that? I for one +1 this guys post.

    5. It’s on CNET, phonedog, and everything in between. Sprint users didn’t really think they were that special did they.

    6. This is a joke right? I understand people may use their phones for an internet connection and I have no issue with that. Yes, they are paying for unlimited data ON THEIR PHONE. I’m pretty sure Sprint’s intentions of Unlimited Data are under the belief that the data will be used on your phone, not a rooted phone that has been tethered to a laptop. As a Sprint customer, I am ALL for them tethering people using 10GB+ a month as it is grossly excessive on a cell phone. If you spend that much time using your phone or you are that cheap that you decide not to have internet connection at your house then you need to rethink some things. It’s amazing how inconsiderate people are to others. The world is all about themselves. Screw how anybody is affected by it.

    7. I, too, know a jackass who rooted his phone and plays WOW over the Verizon LTE network.  The problem is that these few will eventually cause Sprint to discontinue their unlimited phone data and punish the other 99% who use their phones within their usage rights.  The plans clearly state that the data is unlimited for phone usage — not to tether your computer to it and clog up the network for everyone else.  The majority of people don’t know how much real life usage they can get out of their phone on a capped 2 GB plan — they don’t understand what 2 GB means in terms of app usage, email, web browsing, etc. so unlimited plans help them relax and just enjoy their phone without having to worry about incurring enormous overage charges.  The turds who are hacking their phones know exactly what they are doing and also know the limitations of wireless bandwidth and still choose to be inconsiderate to others.  It’s like the selfish dude at a buffet who takes all of the good food so no one else can have it.

      1. Why is a person a jackass if they tether their phone on Verizon?  Verizon caps data.  If you’re paying for 2 GB of data and you choose to use your 2 GB to tether your phone to your desktop or laptop in order to play Warcraft, how is that different from someone who uses his 2 GB allotment to send e-mail messages with photographs and stream movies on his phone?  You pay for 2 GB and their your 2 GB, do with them what you will.  Sprint is a special case because they do not limit your data consumption.  I do NOT agree that someone who tethers their phone on Sprint is a “jackass” but I can understand the logic, at least.  Stating that someone is a jackass because he tethers his Verizon smartphone to another device is ridiculous.  How does his choice adversely affect you so much that you’ve resorted to childish name-calling?
        It’s true that Sprint will eventually have to discontinue their unlimited data plans, but I suspect that the iPhone will be the culprit, not rooted Android devices.  It is well documented that iPhone 4S users use more data (50% more) than iPhone 4 users, who use more data (on average) than Android users.  I don’t condone running a server farm through your Evo because Sprint says they have “unlimited” data, but the demonization of a gamer on the go tethering his device on a weekend away seems unnecessary regardless, and particularly unnecessary and misplaced for a person who has a set data limit with serious overage fees.

        1. I should have been more clear.  He was doing this last summer on his Thunderbolt before Verizon instituted the data capping.  Once they cap data usage, I do agree that it is less of an issue — even though technically it is against the terms to tether without a tethering plan.  My point was more aimed at Sprint since they still do have the unlimited data.  Those plans were not designed to handle the amount of data that WOW or services like Netflix require.  They were meant to handle the typical load of a phone. That is why Sprint does cap their tethered plans.  When people like this ruin a good thing for the rest of us, I think calling him a “jackass” is fully justified!

        2. LoL!! The iPhone hoggin all the 3G. Not the 4G. So I don’t really care about them. I hope all these iPhone winers help make Sprint make they’re 3G faster.

    8. Chris is a huge spring fangirl

  3. Exactly unlimited means no limits. The cell phone providers sell you a smartphone but you are limited in how you are able to use it. If they can’t handle the bandwidth then they shouldn’t be selling data capable phones.

    1. Yeah, but think of it this way.. 

      You’re Sprint. You want to give people unlimited data as long as it’s only on their smartphones. People start hacking their phones and tethering them on their Xbox and PC’s. That’s not what you gave ’em unlimited data for and this creates network congestion slowing things down for everyone. So you throttle them or tell ’em you’re going to move them onto a tethering plan. Simple. 

      I pay for unlimited data on my smartphone. And that’s what I’m getting. I don’t want to pay for slow data speeds because someone wants to tether and play COD through their cell network.

      1. Then sprint needs to address this issue.  Someone who is hacking to get a plan they didn’t pay for is one thing (something different than stated in the article).  Still, there are solutions to this.  Sprint can say something like “If you are using the max network speed for longer than 1.5 hours, you will be throttled for the rest of the day unless you have the proper plan” or something.  Better than punishing everyone.

        1. It’s almost like you have problems comprehending sentences. Chris said That’s what they are doing. Punishing ONLY the people who illegally abuse their unlimited data. You do not have the RIGHT to root your phone to illegally obtain unlimited tethering. It is pretty simple.

          1. I’ve been ignoring most disqus emails, but the stupidity of this comment came through in the preview. 1. That’s NOT what sprint is doing. They are throttling high data roamers. Huge difference. If I was on sprint, on sprints network, illegally tethering, they aren’t doing anything about it. 2. I even said you don’t have the right for what you don’t pay for, including tethering. 3. My claim was not to hate on people who pay for tethering, and therefor have the right to use it as they wish. If you don’t like that, blame sprint for letting them pay for it.

            It’s like you have trouble comprehending sentances. Delicious irony.

      2. Just so you know, playing games like Call of Duty online uses about 5 MB an hour. That is NOT clogging the network. If you are going to be upset at someone, the people who use their phone to download torrents are much better targets.

        1. And yet, that can be done ON THE PHONE, completely negating most of the arguments here..

      3. I have unlimited on Verizon and unlimited tether i pay for and I use it playing cod and people complain. Why would anyone care I pay for it and people will say your the reason we have teird data.

      4. I have a sprint account as well. I Almost never thether. I do see your argument chris but I’m sick and tired of seeing all these customers at the casino cheer for the house. When I pay money for a service I expect service not excuses and hustles. Customers are always gonna find loopholes to abuse the system but I rather see that happen than to see the system abuse the customers. Bottom line the data capping stat quo is a new way for the casino to beat us out of our money that should be paying for more spectrum rather than lining the pockets of CEOs whom already have too much money or unlimited as I’d rather put it:-)

      5. If you think playing something like COD is what is congesting the networks, you have been seriously misinformed. The amount of data online gaming uses is miniscule compared to what all of the content streaming consumes. I can listen to google music (something that is A-ok with ALL US mobile carriers) and rack up 2 gigs in a few hours.

  4. There’s no where in tos that says it will throttle you if you roam! ? I know it’s 1% but it’s the principle of the matter! First it’s the 10 dollar premium data which.i partially agree with , then no more premier benefits, no more unlimited tethering, then 1% of roaming gets throttled. Do you see where this is going?? No limits is what I signed up for? My sprint service has gotten really bad the past 6 months. This is why I’m happy I’m switching too t mobile.

    1. roaming isn’t unlimited in the first place, why does it matter

      1. Oh thank God! Someone who actually reads, not just talks. Thank you thank you!

    2. Go ahead! Switch to T-Mobile! You will totally enjoy the 60kbps I get roaming on other carriers 3g and 4g networks. (cough cough I wireless)
      and it’s all the time!

  5. I get unlimited data with boostmobile which is a subsidiarity of Sprint but my speeds are aweful at only 100-120kbs down and around 150kbs up and pings as high as 900 which is standard for me and its really annoying becuase pages take a few seconds to load. and if I am trying to listen to music or watch videos from places like reivion 3 and youtube its even worse. and dont get me started on trying to tether my tablet to my phone for data when I am not at home where both devices sit on wifi so i have a great connection.

  6. Roaming has nothing to do with your plan.. Roaming is working off another network. Why would you be allowed to get unlimited roaming on another carriers network. Get real people this is not part of sprints plan and everyone only allows a certain amount of roaming till they terminate your service.

  7. Playing COD off of cellular data isn’t that great, I’ve tried it and had TERRIBLE ping. Netflix is possible, but forget about HD. If you’re willing to make that sacrifice instead of paying for real internet then that’s fine; I’ll just have an easier time knifing youin the face

    1. Worry about yourself and nobody else and I get hd movies and play cod of my phone and i pay for it. So quit worring about what everyone else is doing.

  8. OK I have a friend that has the evo 4g he use his unlimited data to play COD but it truely does suck he’ll lags and get kick out off game a lot… my point sprint has no right to throttle people if they are paying for unlimited data suckie 4g speeds though

    1. They’re paying for unlimited data, not unlimited speeds. I don’t get what you’re saying? So if they slow your speed down you suddenly have no data? Your data just get’s cut off because they slow you down? Yea, you’re data is unlimited. All they do is slow you down. My gosh, really?

      I’m not defending what ppL do. Remember, the throttle is based on how fast you’re going. It doesn’t matter how much you’re using.

      If you get throttled at 5GB, you can still use more data. You can use as much as you want. It just slows you down. As long as your phone is still getting data, then you are in contract. So I don’t understand your argument? How does speed relate to the data being unlimited? Does it say you have unlimited 4G and 3G speeds where available, or unlimited data? 

  9. I’m just kind of all around pissed at sprint because I bought a 4g phone because they insisted I would be getting 4g in my area, now almost two years llater i find out the phone they sold me will never see 4g as they are switching to lte. Off topic but non the less I want some fucking 4g sprint!

    1. “Never make a purchase based on what you are promised tomorrow. Make all purchases based on what you have today.”

      With mobile network companies you need to live and breath that mantra, otherwise you will be nothing but S O L the majority of the time.

  10. And there it is.

  11. This place is getting out of hand with trolls, I’m out I’m deleting the app and bookmark from this site.

  12. They actually threaten to cut you off if you use over 300mb of roaming data on a regular basis. I had Sprint and at my job I had no service… maybe a bar or 2 if I was near a window.  The only way I could get any data is if I sat my phone on my lap and let it switch to Roaming.  I didn’t know I only had a 300mb limit on roaming (they never explained that when I asked them about it. Idiots).  So one day thier Roaming Dept calls me and tells me I’m using too much roaming data and if I continue then they will cut me off.  I told them that’s all I get at work, so they offered to let me off my contract etf-free and go to another carrier.  Now I have Verizon.  I miss having unlimited data, but if I have no service it’s useless anyway.

    1. yea man i feel you…these guys completely blocked my data access to 1x roaming even at a VZW site i work at. shoot i dont wanna change to VZW for their insane pricing. it sucks i would like to have service at all times but im like whatever 8 hours of no service doesnt kill me, got used to it.

  13. Lairs. Unlimited my ass.

  14. I currently have T-Mobile “unlimited” data. However, I *ALWAYS* cap out to the throttling speed. I would love to have the Sprint unlimited plan, but completely hate the Sprint network. It’s spotty and slow everywhere I have ever been in my city. 

    I can totally agree with throttling a person if that person is:  

    1. Aware of the throttling up front.
    (I wasn’t aware of the cap. I understood that I had “unlimited” data. *sigh*)

    2. Offered an option to increase their pre-throttling data. 
    For example: Like I said, I always cap out my data usage, but never use all of my calling minutes. (or half of them for that matter.) I would love to convert my excess calling minutes into increasing my data limit. 

    Now, it should be noted that I *do* tether my laptop to my phone on occasion when I’m at work. (No wifi available.) I didn’t root my phone or download an app to do so. It’s built into my phone. (LG T-Mobile G2x)

    Just my $0.02. 


    1. sorry but ive used that line for unlimited data…and it is no sigh. The word unlimited then should not be used in anyway shape or form on these contracts. So i applaud ATT and VZW for dropping that word. regardless of fine prints on contracts. you are creating a problematic contradiction for customers in the first place. Ive had them warn me and threaten shut off and ive simply told them “do what you need to do but its about time you guys either stick to the full meaning of the word ‘unlimited’ or drop it and start doing what ATT and VZW do”…i know that will trash it for the rest of us but seriously every company has some contradiction with the word unlimited and fine print…seriously specify what you want, dont say something on tv and contract and online when i check my account with the word “unlimited” and then bring up the Fine print.

  15. I stream Netflix on my Sensation 4G and its great. But at times TuneIn Radio buffers now thats puzzling!

  16. Old News. Tell me something else?

  17. For all those who think they should be able to tether on their rooted phones and use all of the data, check again with sprint, tethering is no longer included as unlimited.
    As for throttling, if you want to pull out definitions and be technical, throttling does not mean your data is not unlimited, only shutting down your data, or charging you overages is not unlimited. T-mobile also offers unlimited data, though throttled after certain usage points, no one has sued T-mobile, because by all definitions the data is still unlimited, it just comes slower.

    Wireless spectrum is a limited resource you can’t treat it like a home internet connection, I have grandfathered unlimited data on Verizon, and I use a lot of data between 3 and 6 GB a month, but it’s only on my phone as intended. 
    I will be very unhappy the day I finally lose unlimited data, and believe me I’d sure as hell rather be throttled than charged overages. I’d switch to sprint or t-mobile once I lose Verizon unlimited data, if  the packages still exist, my guess is they won’t.

    I honestly think throttling a top X % of users is a very reasonable network management practice, that is used to protect and serve the majority of their customers as best as possible, overages I hate as they are just a money grab.
    Any company that chooses throttling over overages is OK in my book.

  18. Well guess sprint got hip to people leaving their contracts ETF free because of sprint booting them for roaming too much.

  19. I can say they have been doing this since may or june of 2011 for me. I was forcing PRL hacks on my evo 4G to have it force a 3G connection to VZW towers instead of 1x. worked for about 3 months since Feb of 2011. THen all of a sudden i wasnt even connecting to 3G towers on roaming nor on 1X. Mind you i did rack up 4 to 5GB of data on both sprint and VZW. So now my phone is unable to access any 1x towers in NJ but i am able to in the state of PA….this has pissed me off becuz its an isolated problem with my evo only. me and my friend work in a VZ corp site and his connects but mine wont…so i believe sprint is able to even cut it off completely

  20. i think we can use all the data we want because we pay for that,right now i pay almost 200 a month for two lines so ,why i cant use all the data i want …

    1. 200 for two lines? what carrier?

      1. Dude! Stop hitting the *Post* button… We heard you already!

    2. 200 for two lines? Sounds high; what carrier?

    3. 200 for two lines? Sounds high; what carrier?

  21. I’m so lost. Errbody is saying that throttling is not unlimited data. I don’t get it. Just because your data is slow doesn’t mean your data hasn’t stopped coming.

    In that case, you can get mad at Sprint every time you leave 3G/4G coverage. You’re basically being throttled for like that small amount of time. I don’t see you complaining about unlimited data then. Oh wait, because you still are getting data. I really don’t get what ppL are talking about.

  22. @google-1869f1d01dd30c8c4aa9a8469c2f54c2:disqus Would you like to work from home? Read more here:
    and you will find out how to get a nice income every month.

  23. fuck you im rooted and running on pre pay boost getting 2-3 gigs a day kis my asssss

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