Cricket Wireless has just announced a change to its unlimited data plan that could bother some of the carrier’s most loyal customers. Starting April 2, those enrolled in the $70-per-month tier will see their speeds throttled in areas of network congestion if they use more than 22GB of data in a billing cycle. Cricket calls the practice Congestion Management, and is rolling out the change alongside a new feature that is designed to diminish data usage when streaming video on the AT&T prepaid carrier’s mobile network, called Stream More.
Stream More automatically reduces the quality of high definition video to 480p, and will be activated for all customers by default when Cricket begins implementing the data-saving measure in April. Customers can turn Stream More on or off by managing their account online or using the myCricket app. Alternatively, Cricket is allowing content providers to opt out if they so choose.
The carrier says it will notify customers every step of the way as these new measures begin to take effect over the coming weeks. When unlimited data users top 16.5GB, they will be warned that they’ve used 75 percent of their throttle-free data allowance. Cricket will also send out reminders about Stream More twice before it is activated and once on launch day — though the company says it expects to “notify (users) before October 2017.” This indicates that it might take many months before Stream More reaches all customers.
Although Cricket is likely to come under fire for adding a caveat to its unlimited data plan, the news does fall in line with the practices of many other carriers, including all of the established postpaid options. Verizon and AT&T begin throttling their top-tier customers at 22GB, Sprint at 23GB, and T-Mobile at 28GB.
The commonality between these networks, including Cricket, is that they deprioritize data speeds for unlimited customers who have passed the threshold and are accessing the network during times of congestion. Once the stress lessens, normal throughput is restored. It is important to note, however, that Cricket users are already restricted to top speeds of 8Mbps over LTE and 4Mbps over HSPA+, compared to the 12 Mbps AT&T’s post-paid customers reportedly average on LTE. As a result, throttling might result in slower speeds on the prepaid carrier than it would elsewhere.
Article originally published on 02-27-2017. Updated on 02-28-2017 by Adam Ismail: A previous version of this article incorrectly said users may see throttled speed at peak hours. Data speeds may temporarily be slowed during periods of localized network congestion, according to Cricket Wireless.
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