T-Mobile Institutes Soft Data Cap on Fixed Wireless

T-Mobile’s 5 million fixed wireless subscribers may find their speeds slowed if they consume too much data after the carrier updated its data prioritization strategy to give it the option to slow speeds for those it has designated as heavy users if the need arises.

 Impact: T-Mobile first implemented the soft cap on new fixed wireless customers earlier this year, specifically targeting heavy users who consume more than 1.2 TB of data each month. But as of April 10, even existing T-Mobile FWA subscribers could find their speeds throttled during period of network congestion as part of the company’s new priority data limit policy, aka a soft data cap. That’s not to say every customer that goes over the 1.2 TB limit will see their speeds slowed every month, but T-Mobile has reserved the right to do so at times of heavy network congestion. The move appears designed to prevent a small subset of heavy users from overloading the network, something T-Mobile has to pay close attention to as it adds more fixed wireless customers because its network also supports the company’s 120 million mobile subscribers. With mobile still T-Mobile’s bread and butter, the need to prevent disruptions to users’ service and prevent constraints on the network takes precedence over the very small subset of fixed wireless customers gobbling up huge amounts of data. If fact, T-Mobile said the cap will likely have very little impact on its Home Internet subscribers because most of them are located in areas where it experiences less network congestion in general.

The data cap will also apply to the two new broadband plans T-
Mobile will launch this week: Home Internet Plus and Away. As one might guess, T-Mobile described Home Internet Plus, priced at $70/
mo, as a standalone service or $50/mo when bundled with a premium mobile line, as a premium version of its existing Home Internet plan with the company’s latest 5G gateway and a Wi-Fi Mesh Access Point included for a better Wi-Fi experience.

Source: T-Mobile

The carrier designed the Away plan for travelers in RVs or camping who need a way to stay connected; the plan includes a 5G Gateway that can connect up to 64 devices at once. But convenience comes at a price, with 200 GB priced at $110/mo and unlimited data available for $160/
mo. As with its other plans, T-Mobile still describes its monthly data allowance as unlimited despite the presence of the 1.2 TB data limit, in part because T-Mobile isn’t actually limiting how much data customers can use, but rather slowing down the speed at which they will be able to use it.

According to LightReading, T-Mobile already has a similar cap on some of its mobile plans for customers who use more than 50 GB or 100 GB of data in a month, meaning the “Heavy Data User” designation applies to both mobile and fixed wireless users, albeit with different amounts of data in play. T-Mobile will then slow the speeds of those users by deprioritizing their data usage, meaning other customers will get higher priority on the network. In fact, when updated in January to apply to new fixed wireless customers, T-Mobile revised the “Heavy Data User” policy to say that “new T-Mobile Home Internet customers who exceed 1.2 TB of data usage for the current billing cycle will be prioritized last on the network.” T-Mobile projects it will reach 8 million fixed wireless subscribers within the next two years, making data management an increasingly important part of its day-to-day network operations. It appears T-Mobile has started implementing these data management strategies to help prevent too much network congestion down the road, although the ongoing popularity of fixed wireless could put those strategies to the test.

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