Last Updated: January 7th, 2012

Update: Dow Jones Newswires apparently left out a key piece of information from Hesse's statement on throttling, in an example of truly stellar journalism and attention to detail (unfortunately, we have no audio or video record to verify Hesse's statements). Hesse was discussing throttling of those who are on networks that Sprint has roaming agreements with (which, admittedly, Sprint has a lot of - including with Verizon). While this still makes Sprint's ads technically misleading, the throttling really only applies to those who live in areas where Sprint's data network relies chiefly on roaming - not to those using primarily Sprint towers.

Unlimited data is slowly on its way to becoming a thing of the past here in the US, there's little denying it. Verizon and AT&T have full-fledged data "bucket" plans with usage caps. T-Mobile throttles users into 2G-oblivion if they exceed their "full-speed" data allotment. And now it appears Sprint, a company that has made its marketing bread and butter out of "truly unlimited," hasn't been entirely forthcoming about its management of the network's heaviest data users, particularly those in the top 1%.

CEO Dan Hesse said today that Sprint does actively throttle the top 1% of data users - a practice very similar to the one that Verizon customers were up in arms over when Big Red announced throttling would be applied to its legacy unlimited data customers who utilized over 2GB per month in "congested" 3G areas.

"For those that want to abuse it, we can knock them off," Hesse said at an investor conference Thursday. He said Sprint pares back data use for about 1% of users, a practice known as throttling.

Dow Jones Newswires

While not actually quoting a specific amount of data consumption that would put customers in that top 1%, Hesse's statement is a clear contradiction to the carrier's advertisements claiming that they remain the only network with "truly" unlimited data. Take this ad, for example:

Or how about (cringe) this iPhone one?

The first ad above actually says T-Mobile will "slow you down" if you "use your phone a lot." Isn't that exactly what Hesse just admitted Sprint does? Without a doubt, yes.

The second ad is even worse, just look at this bit from the end:


"... no throttling, no metering, no overages." Except that Hesse just admitted Sprint does throttle. There seems to be a disconnect between Sprint's marketing campaigns and the views of its CEO - something some people might call false advertising. I certainly would.

While I'm not of the opinion that throttling is necessarily a bad thing (faster data for everyone), when you're advertising your unlimited data network, and one of the premises of that advertisement is that it is truly, throttle-free, un-metered unlimited access, you should probably make sure that's actually true. If it's not, you're misleading consumers, and probably asking for a class-action lawsuit, to boot.

NASDAQ, TechCrunch

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Arben

    This makes me feel a little better about the GNex reveal, having just switched to Vz from Sprint to get one.

  • mastermind26

    This. SUX.

    We left AT&Crap because they were very shady in their cellphone services (not that they're not in their other services) and chose Sprint SPECIFICALLY for their "all inclusive", "UNLIMITED" plan.

    We sad buh-bye to "all inclusive" and now we find out they're throttling!?

    Hmmm. I might just go to big red. Better coverage, better speed, better phones and just about the same price. Hopefully they're more honest.

    • Jeff

      Are you in the top 1%? If not, why are you complaining? You will have unlimited and no throttling.

      If you move to Verizon, you're GUARANTEED to get data-capped.

      • mastermind26

        Not so much that it AFFECTS me as it is the same practice of not being straight forward/clear about their claims.

        But anyway, I found this:
        Update: It seems the Dow Jones report left a key word out: roaming. Dan Hesse squeezed the word in there, suggesting that Sprint will only consider it abuse when you go data-crazy on a network that isn’t actually theirs (Hesse cites “a guy in his house in rural Montana” as an example). Sprint’s fine print, for what it’s worth, say’s they can start capping after 300 MB of “off-network” data usage.

        Sprint reserves the right, without notice, to limit throughput speeds, and to deny, terminate, modify, disconnect or suspend service __ if off-network usage __ in a month exceeds: (1) voice: 800 min. or a majority of minutes; or (2) data: 300 megabytes or a majority of kilobytes.

        I guess I stand corrected. :)

      • Lamdroid

        you have to realize that top 1% will continue to lower the threshold of who it includes. Typically, you start to become top 1% around a mere 2GBs. You keep throttling the top 1%, their usages will start to decline and eventually it'll be 1.8GB... 1.6GB.. 1.5GB..

        at least on verizon, you kno where your limit is, and currently, it's 4GBs for current and new signups.

        aside from that, just because it doesnt currently affect you shouldnt mean you dont complain about it being wrong. If you dont try to stop something when it starts, it's going to be far harder to stop when it's built up momentum and they start bearing down with even more limits.

        ..and aside from all that.. how about false advertising.

      • Tony Tony

        I have Verizon & I have no data caps

      • Pawnty

        Yesh.... be happy that you are a PART OF the 99% in this case.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

      You might want to skim back over the last 2 months worth of articles just on AndroidPolice. The worst offenses have pretty much all been stacked against Verizon. They've lied about a TON of stuff, they intentionally mislead people regarding CarrierIQ (they don't use that one, but they use a nearly identical piece of software with a different name), and just consider the likelihood that VZW will ever get another Nexus phone (or even friendly partnerships of any kind with Google) after the debacle with the Galaxy Nexus. I'm not saying anybody else is really much better, but if you're asking for honesty from a carrier, you're not going to find much worse than Big Red...

  • http://archshrk.com archshrk

    I'm sorry, but where did CEO Dan Hesse say this?

    • David Ruddock

      Check the NASDAQ article.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Which isn't even correct. TC issued a correction. I'm virtually shaking my fist at Dow Jones Newswires.

  • http://www.nutcan.com Jeremy

    1% is a lot, but I suspect them reserving the right to throttle some people is in the fine print somewhere.

    Perhaps the disconnect is an automated/policy throttling vs a manual "we've asked this person to move on, and in the meantime will do this" policy.

    I worked at a university IT dept during the height of the kazaa era. We struggled very much with what to do, and while we had no throttling policy in place, did make manual exceptions after talking with the student.

    One study I found by another university discovered that something absurd, like 98%, of their total internet traffic was their top 3-5 students.

    IMO it's a blurry line maybe, and they DO emphasize it, but I think I would have been fine saying "we don't throttle internet usage" even if we did to the people that abused it on a crazy level, because it really wasn't our policy per se, and for all intents and purposes was true.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/116930094233210246792/posts Chris Bailey

    yeah, I knew about this. Especially recently I've noticed my data being throttle a lot recently. I think this is something that really started in the past 6 moths or so.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski

      Funny you "knew about this", as it never actually happened.

  • justapoint

    This shouldn't be surprising anybody. The deal that it's truly unlimited data. They go on to define this in your terms of service as a service where you will not be charged overages... but if you go over their soft limit of usage per month your speed will be throttled... as opposed to hit with data fees.

    Their terms of service and customer representatives have been incredibly open about this fact since they started using it as a value add vs their competitors.

    This is no secret. It's why they use wishy-washy terms like "truly unlimited data".

    • Jeff

      You say: "...but if you go over their soft limit of usage per month your speed will be throttled... as opposed to hit with data fees..."

      Did you read the article? Did you see the ads?

      "... no throttling, no metering..."

    • Cliffy

      That would be a sound argument if it weren’t for the fact that in one of the Sprint commercials it makes a direct comparison that they don’t do what t-mobile does, and that they’re truly unlimited. What you described is exactly what t-mobile does, and what Sprint made a point to say that they don’t do. Check the update from TechCrunch though for more clarification on what Dan Hesse was talking about.

  • Cliffy

    Check out the update at TechCrunch. It sheds a little bit more light on what Dan Hesse was talking about. I watched the commercials again after reading the update, and a case could still be made that it’s false advertising because it doesn’t mention that the unlimited only applies to in-network use.

    • keith

      It does sayin the fine print on Sprint ad "while on the sprint network"

      • Cliffy

        Hm, ok I must have missed that. Nevermind then.

  • Ceelos

    As long as you aren't in the top 1%, you shouldn't really complain. There are ppl who abuse the system, so to speak. Sprint does offer unlimited data but common sense should still define a fine line between reasonable data usage and abuse. I know of ppl who use a reasonable 6GB a month, and some that just plain go about 80GB+
    From my point of view, Sprint should use some disclaimer which does state that the top 1% of data hogs can and will be throttled. Why? Because the way things are going, ppl who abuse data will be to blame if Sprint decides to opt out of unlimited data and begins to cap us like Big Red and AT&T. I'm also 99% sure, those top data users will be the biggest cry babies if/when Sprint begins to cap data.

    • Lamdroid

      Sprint asked for the business of heavy users by appealing to them with blaring adverts of unlimited data. It's fair to say 99% of users linger under 1.5GB/mo.

      if you feel 2GBs is a strict cap then you're probably Sprint's 1% pool of users.

  • mastermind26


    read the article and Gus Nassar's and Harold's posts (1st 2 responses)

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Mine, Gus' and Harold's posts were referring to the fact that the TC article author (Greg) said technically they can limit you over 300MB, without mentioning roaming at all. That's why we all jumped on that.

      There was no way for anyone to know (the transcript or audio feed are not available) that Dan actually said something about roaming himself, considering we tend to listen to Dow Jones, which makes Greg's 300MB blunder kind of ironic.

      • mastermind26

        Was just to clarify to the readers that there was an update to the article where the info came from....

  • http://gthing.net sam

    It would have been smart if he told us how much data those people use. I suspect it's people who are tethering as their primary internet connection.

  • Rob

    Perhaps some day, our national wireless carriers will figure out a way to reach a managed state of throttling wherein software and systems identify heavy users and peak usage times and adjust data availability accordingly and in a more rationed or balanced way; one that is the most fair and least punitive or limiting.

    Everyone wants data and lots of it; it is the data diet the phone manufacturers and various service providers got us all hooked on after all, so why not make your networks more aware, smarter and efficient at managing themselves rather than dishing out punitive measures to customers who are using the very services you got them to like.

  • http://www.reviewedbyandy.com Andy

    Trololololol grandfathered into unlimited data on Verizon. U mad? Honestly though, if you're in the top 1% of data users on Sprints network you deserve to be throttled IMO. There's no reason anyone should use that much data period. Now for the whole 300mb roaming thing, I agree that that's kind of stupid.

    • Jon

      My wife uses hulu quite regularly as she is a stay at home mom. Just using that and occasional emails she has hit 25gb in a month. She is using an offered service on an UNLIMITED data plan. Is that abuse? No, it isn't. Everyone thinks they know what number of gb's is "abuse" but you can't go over unlimited. In my opinion you should be throttled, how's that sound? Not so good to you huh? Well there are people in that 1% who are using legitimate apps that are data hogs, who also paid for unlimited data, why then should they be throttled? Because they are using what they paid for?

  • Andrew H

    I use on average 3-5GB of data a month...I don't have a rooted device so I am not tethering...I just stream a lot of music, watch movies on the go, then there is Facebook, Google+, all 4 of my email accounts...the list can go on & on with using data especially if you travel a lot & wifi is not an option.

  • http://i520.photobucket.com/albums/w327/Abu_Noah/335611_2753593251805_1616887389_2549110_430126754_o.jpg Jason Galvan

    I used 80 gigs in December. If I could post a Pic, I'd show you.

    Edit: click my name and it will go to my Photobucket to show you. I'm tethering now.

  • Dan Bobke

    I am glad that Android Police clarified and corrected the article - I was concerned because only part of the story was being reported. They certainly throttle on their prepaid networks (Virgin and Boost). Here is a quote from the CNET piece on this, clarifying the remarks from Hesse:

    "But Sprint executive Bill White denied this was the case. Sprint's businesses include its prepaid arms Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, both of which do practice throttling, and Hesse was referring to those customers.
    "We don't throttle our unlimited postpaid customers," White said. "He is not referring to postpaid."

    There is a caveat, and it is in the Ts&Cs of all Sprint customers. If you abuse the data plan, you can get choked off. If you tether your phone to a server in your house to serve up content to the Internet, you are going to get choked off. But the normal heavy user is not going to get throttled under the current service if you are a contract customer.

  • Mike

    Sprint just loves to shoot themselves in the foot. I work in a secure building where tower cel signals don't reach (3 stories underground) and 3 years ago, cel repeaters were put in that allowed me to get a weak but EVDO signal still. The repeaters were for pretty much all the big cel companies with their range of frequencies.
    Two months ago, I came in and got no Sprint signal at all and it switched to roaming. Back and forth it went attempted to lock onto a Sprint signal to the point where my phone became useless. A little investigating with our building maintenance department and I found out that we had contracted with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint when the repeaters were put in to come in and fine tune them. Apparently the first two did one weekend, and I had been getting my signal off a sloppily adjusted AT&T repeater. Once it was tuned up though, bye-bye Sprint signal.
    So, I did what I had to do; Bought Roam Control for my Evo3D and suffered the pitifully slow speeds to view stuff on my phone. November and December I jumped from about 6mb roaming data in the prior months to 700 and 800 for the latter months. My building Maintenance contact told me that even though we have a contract with Sprint, they just ignore and refuse to come in and do the work. Kind of ironic.
    Oh, and my contact also told me that Verizon installed LTE repeaters too, so, you know what Sprint? FU. I'd rather pay a little more and have a data cap with Verizon than pay you for no service at all. :P

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski

      I'd like to know how you roamed on a GSM network with your CDMA phone.

      • DCMAKER

        if his story is true he was probably on verizons network

        • Phil

          A lot of lte phones have gsm roaming.

    • John Baumgartner

      This is actually happening to me right now...and after 50 tech support phone calls to Sprint I still haven't had them fix it...

  • Mark Boyle

    I think a soft cap if 10GB is fair, after all I'm paying around 40bucks per month for data, that alot of money for only 2GB a month. I think 1 percent is too much, because regardless of usage amount, 1 percent is still throttled, even if they use a reasonable amount of data.

  • Steven

    I regularly hit 5+ GB a month... sometimes upwards of 15-20 with heavy tethering...

    I've NEVER been throttled.

    If you look around forums for sprint users... the top users are in the 50s regularly, if not higher.

    You've got to try REAL hard to get into the top 1% on Sprint.

    And for all the non-Sprint customers, the 300MB "cap" is only for roaming, as stated a few times in the comments. And I've hit that cap a few times streaming music in the middle of BFE with no repercussions.


    ok so they only throttle roaming data? Who cares? their contract says they can boot you if you go over 800 mb of roaming data. Why when i use PDAnet i make sure roaming data is turned off. if i didn't loose my phone i would have broke 200 gigs of data this month. There network is horrible slow but they did make some improvements installing some new towers where its actually like 3g now. i used to get 6-60k on average because their network was so crappy but after they upgraded their network it rangers from 60-250k depending on its mood lol.....i do wonder if they throttle you though.....

  • Entitled consumer

    How dare Sprint throttle my Rooted Android device and prevent me from fully utilizing the tethering capabilities, that I should technically be paying for...the nerve of them. This is America and I should not be handicapped, because Sprint wants to ensure other Sprint subscribers have a great data experience. It's also not my problem that they need to keep roaming costs down.

    Entitled Consumer


    you dont even need to root. Second I already pay for unlimited data so why pay extra to use what I already pay for? Its also the fact that they dont give you for warning about roaming being limited and they reserve the right to kick you. I was lucky enough to realize that while reading through the polices they have online. (by being a diligent consumer) They state online in your account unlimited roaming data.....when it is actually not unlimited roaming because they are allowed to breach the contact. That's why its BS. Now don't get me wrong. I am more than fine with roaming being "capped" but its the fact that they say its unlimited and its not. They say one thing and do another. So I only leave roaming on when i am using my phone to browse the web. When i make a download I turn roaming off to make sure I don't break 800mb of data. (Also I roam a lot because their network in NC is very shotty in buildings) Also I am an entitled customer....you want to know why? Because I pay them 200 dollars a month for 4 lines that is why I am entitled to unlimited data.....so yes i am entitled to all of that. That is why I am an "entitled customer" You should learn when and how to use the word entitled to insult someone. Also all I do on the internet is legal. It is not like I do bit torrent and download illegal things. If I did that I would have far higher bandwidth used.

  • Steve Schaffer

    Comcrap advertises UNLIMITED NET but they fail to tell you it's unlimited up to 250GB. Now that's false advertising. But this Americrap so the rich run and rule everything. I can't complain cuz Sprint has always done me well. I have unlimited data but I only use average 1 to 2 gig a month. Used only about 750MB last month. But I got it for when I really need it and not home on the WiFi.