Virgin Mobile Cap Discovered (NOT Unlimited) - Users Throttled to 256kbps after 5GB

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Monday, 10 January 2011

Virgin Mobile Cap Discovered (NOT Unlimited) - Users Throttled to 256kbps after 5GB

Back in September Virgin Mobile stirred up the mobile industry by announcing a $40 per month data plan featuring unlimited 3G data access. We figured it was only a matter of time before the "Unlimited Usage" would fade away, and some type of hidden cap would emerge. 3Gstore tested both an MC760 and Virgin MiFi for our Sprint VS Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go comparison, and we found that the Virgin device consistently yielded lower speeds than a comparable Sprint device. Many of our EVDOForum members commented on poor download speeds and network quality with Virgin, but thought that a reduction in speed was a good trade off for truly unlimited access.

A recent discovery was made in a RadioShack newsletter that showed Virgin's new usage terms, which include a 5GB per month cap. If users exceed the 5GB limit, they'll be throttled to 256kbps (approximately 5x the speed of a 56K dial up connection - MUCH slower than 3G). At this time the TOS (Terms Of Service) doesn't indicate this change but the new terms will go in effect on 2/15/2011. Because this service is prepaid and month to month, there is no way to have a grandfathered account and anybody that renews after 2/15/2011 will be subject to the 5GB cap. According to Virgin, this move was made “to implement network controls to ensure optimal experience." At this time the only major carrier to offer completely unlimited unrestricted mobile broadabnd access is Sprint, with their 4G WiMAX network available in 70+ markets.

Update (1-13-2011):
Virgin customers have begun receiving letters notifying them of the new terms. Below is a copy of the letter being sent out to existing customers.


Here at Virgin Mobile, our mission is to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Sometimes that means making difficult choices in order to provide the best possible service to the greatest number of customers.

To make sure we can keep offering our $40 Unlimited Broadband2Go Plan at such a great price, we're putting a speed limit in place for anyone on that plan who uses over 5GB in a month.

How will it work?
Starting February 15, 2011, if you go over 5GB in a month on the $40 Unlimited Plan:

  • Your data speeds will be limited for the remainder of the monthly plan cycle. During this time, you may experience slower page loads and file downloads and lags in streaming media.
  • Your data speeds will return to normal as soon as you buy a new Broadband2Go Plan.
  • This change will only affect plans bought on or after 2/15/2011.

How will it affect me?
Keep in mind, 5GB is A LOT of data. To give you an idea, it's about 250 hours of web browsing or over 500,000(!) emails*. So this change shouldn't affect you unless you're a heavy downloader/streamer/etc.

How will I know if I'm getting close to 5GB?
We've updated the progress bar in your Connection Manager to show the amount of data you've used. If you go above 5GB in a month, the bar will turn yellow, letting you know your data speeds will be reduced until you buy a new plan.

By putting this speed limit in place, we're making sure we can deliver the same quality service you've come to expect from Broadband2Go. We hope you understand.

Thanks for being a Broadband2Go customer.
Virgin Mobile

* Data usage per activity is based on an average. Actual usage varies depending on the types of websites, video, email and other internet applications accessed. 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 January 2011 )
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