Cricket throttling its unlimited data users harder starting April 2

Cricket Wireless reduced the price of its $70 a month Unlimited Plan to $60 monthly today. The plan has talk and text included as well as calls between Mexico, Canada and the US and texting to 38 countries.

The prepaid brand also introduced a Group Save discount that gives a progressively growing discount for accounts that add lines on with the Unlimited Plan. A second line would garner a $10 a month discount, a third line would subtract $20 and so on for up to five lines. What would’ve been $300 a month for five Unlimited Plans is now $200.

Of course, there’s good news and then there’s bad news.

AT&T-owned Cricket already implements a speed cap for all of its subscribers: 8Mbps for LTE-capable devices and 4Mbps for lesser devices. And that’s if users who have are on a limited high-speed data tier don’t tip over for the month — they get dropped to 128kbps if they do.

You might ask why AT&T throttles subscribers of its owned-and-operated prepaid service when its network has lowest MVNO load — 24 carriers including Cricket — out of the “Big Four” in the US. Heck, why does it limit speeds for its own unlimited data users? Couldn’t it limit speeds of its wholesale blocks to third-party virtual operators instead?

Of course, we’re beside the point of what Cricket Wireless is doing to its unlimited data plan subscribers. The carrier made changes to its mobile broadband information last week and will implement two new schemes designed to further manage bandwidth usage on the network starting April 2.

Stream More is an opt-out program that limits most video streaming speeds for 480p viewing — think what T-Mobile’s Binge On used to be. Some video may not be formatted for Stream More recognition and will not be managed in such a fashion. Users can toggle Stream More on and off on their myCricket app.

The second measure puts a 22GB threshold on when Cricket may de-prioritize unlimited data planholders’ data traffic. The company wants to be clear about how de-prioritization works: speeds may be affected if network usage swells in a particular area, but will return to normal once usage in a planholder’s drops off one way or another.

We’ve seen these measures at the outset of carriers launching their unlimited data (with asterisks) plans and the practices are typically disclosed in quick, incomplete fashion in promotions page fine print and hidden in a lengthy agreement section that has to be dug up. It’s the same for Cricket, which places its stipulations in this document. And while the argument for these 20-ish gigabyte trip switches comes down to leashing network hogs at the lower single percentiles, usage patterns may tip towards the heavy end in a matter of years.

At this point, though, you really have to think about how the prepaid sector is trying to spice things up when all the action has been in postpaid over the past several months.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.