Virgin Mobile users received a text from the company this week advising them of changes to network management beginning June 1. The text reads;
"Beginning 6/1/14, to provide more customers with a high quality data experience during heavy usage times, Virgin Mobile USA may manage prioritization of access to network resources in congested areas for customers within the top 5% of data users. For more info visit virginmobileusa.com/networkmanagement."
The linked page has lots of verbiage about all the different types on network management that Sprint does. Some of it is new but much of it isn't. When I compared the current copy of the page with one retrieved a month ago by archive.org I found a couple of significant differences:
Users whose previous month's usage puts them in the top 5% of data users will be assigned a lower priority than other users for the current month. When the network is congested these lower priority users will experience slower data speeds than other users. According to Virgin, the amount of usage needed to get oneself put in the low-priority penalty box varies but that anyone using more than 5GB in a month is likely to fall into the top 5%.
In other words, if you use a lot of data in June then in July you will be subject to throttling right from the beginning of the month even before you have had the chance to use much data. The top 5% will be recalculated each month giving penalized users the opportunity redeem themselves by using less data.
Also new is this statement, "Sprint also reserves the right to alter the priority of other customers on specific devices or plans on the Sprint network.". To me that means users on lower priced plans, including prepaid can be assigned a lower priority.
It's hard to say how much impact these changes will actually have on Virgin Mobile users. All current Virgin plans have a 2.5GB soft cap with speeds throttled to 128Kbps or less after 2.5GB. It's hard to imagine that many users will be able to use enough throttled data to get anywhere near 5GB. But what if the threshold for lower priority is the top 5% of all Virgin Mobile users rather than all Sprint network users? I bet that 95% of Virgin Mobile users don't use much more than 2.5GB for the simple reason that video streaming, which accounts for the majority of mobile data use, is nearly impossible at 128kbps.
On the other hand these changes give customer service reps a new excuse to dismiss users reports of poor network performance. They can now tell your that your data is slow because you are in the top 5% or because you are on prepaid.
Sources: HowardForums, Virgin Mobile. Image: Twitter