T-Mobile Data Throttling: How Slow Is It?

I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for years. When I picked up my G1 I upgraded to the “Android Web” data plan. As far as I knew the plan included unlimited data, without throttling.

We’ve come a long way since then. T-Mobile now has “unlimited” plans that are cheaper than the older “unlimited” plans. The difference? The new “unlimited” plans are “limited”: once you pass “2GB” of data your speed is “throttled”, which is fancy-speak for “slowed down a lot”.

Apparently the older “unlimited” plans have a limit, too.

I got this lovely text message from T-Mobile today:

456: Free T-Mobile Message:

Due to the amount of data you have used this billing cycle, your data speed will be slowed for the remainder of the cycle.”

I checked my account online: I have 15 days left in my bill cycle, and I’ve used up a whopping 5,190.546 MB (5GB) of data! They told us the throttling was coming, but some (like me) didn’t think we could ever hit that 5GB threshold. I was wrong.

How did I eat it up? Netflix, Pandora, Waze, Feedr, and PocketCast, to name a few of the major offenders. I also got hit with a 1.3GB download when ALK made me uninstall and reinstall CoPilot Live Premium to fix an activation bug.

It’s worth noting that (by my calculations), the download limit is measured in megabytes, not megabits (there are 8 bits in a byte). Speed, on the other hand, is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), not megabytes per second (MBps).

On to the important stuff: just how slow does T-Mobile smack “excessive users” down to? In my case, according to the SpeedTest.net app:

0.05Mbps (50kbps) down

0.15Mbps (150kbps) up

Coming from 2 – 6Mbps (2000 – 6000kbps) down, that’s quite a drastic cut in speed. How drastic? According to T-Mobile’s fine print, your speeds will be “reduced to up to 2G speeds for remainder of bill cycle”. You read that right, you MIGHT get up to 2G speeds for the remainder of the bill cycle. It’s going to be a long 15 days.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.