What’s the Difference between Mobile Throttling and Deprioritization?
Mobile throttling occurs when you pass a certain threshold of data usage in a month (data cap) and your speeds start to slow down. Deprioritization, on the other hand, occurs when the wireless network you’re on gives priority to other users and slows down your data speeds. Both phenomena slow down your data speeds, but for completely different reasons.
When would I experience mobile throttling?
It all depends on what cell phone plan you choose. Generally, the more expensive the plan, the higher your data cap threshold will be. Let’s take a look at some unlimited cell phone plans and see where the mobile throttling occurs:
|Data plan||Cost||Data cap|
|Sprint's Unlimited Kickstart Plan||$35/mo.||50 GB||View Plan|
|T-Mobile's Magenta Plan||$70/mo.||50+ GB||View Plan|
|Verizon's Get More Unlimited Plan||$90/mo.||75 GB||View Plan|
|AT&T's Unlimited Elite Plan||$85/mo.||100 GB||View Plan|
Whenever you pass your data threshold, your data will start to slow down. That’s why it’s important to know your data caps before you sign up for a new plan. Think of it like gasoline in your car—once you use up all of your gas, your car will start to slow down. Once you use up your data, your phone will slow down. Thankfully, unlike your car, your phone won’t altogether stop working on the side of the highway.
When would I experience deprioritization?
Deprioritization can happen on basic unlimited plans with major providers but is a more common issue with mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) wireless plans. “What are MVNOs?” you’re probably wondering. MVNOs are like any other carrier, except they don’t have their own network—instead, they just use other networks. For example, Visible Wireless uses Verizon’s network, and Metro by T-Mobile uses (you guessed it!) T-Mobile’s network.
MVNOs are kind of like the renters of the wireless network space. The big four carriers own the networks, and the MVNOs rent space on those networks. The plus side to the arrangement is that MVNOs typically offer cheaper cell phone plans. On the negative side, MVNOs suffer from deprioritization.
While using an MVNO, your signal can suddenly disappear in congested areas. This happens because whatever network you’re using gives priority to its own customers.
For example, let’s say you, a Visible Wireless user, attend an MLB baseball game with your friend, who is a Verizon user. You struggle to get a single text out during the game, while your friend has no problem posting updates to Twitter. Since you’re both on Verizon’s network, shouldn’t you have the same signal? Nope! Since Visible Wireless is an MVNO, its data speeds can be deprioritized.
Here are some of our favorite MVNOs:
Deprioritization is more annoying than throttling.
Throttling and deprioritization will both slow down your data speeds, but at least you can see it coming with throttling—you’ll have already used up all of your data. Deprioritization can strike at any time, most commonly in crowded areas when you probably need your signal most. Few things are more annoying than trying to call an Uber to pick you up from an event but you can’t get the call out.