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MetroPCS begins data throttling for select plans

Along with increasing the price of its premium unlimited plan to $70, MetroPCS will begin restricting 4G LTE data speeds for data-hungry users.

Samsung Craft SCH-r900
The Samsung Craft was MetroPCS's first LTE 4G smartphone. Josh Miller/CNET

Slowly but surely, wireless carriers are admitting that data throttling is unavoidable. First it was the national providers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and now even the smaller prepaid carriers are following the crowd.

Today, just as it increased the monthly cost of its unlimited plan by $10, MetroPCS also announced that it would begin throttling the data speeds of its cheaper plans. The latter change was more of a footnote on MetroPCS's data plans Web page, but a carrier spokesman confirmed the move in an interview with Fierce Wireless.

The carrier's premium unlimited plan now costs $70 per month and includes unlimited talk and text, unlimited data and e-mail at 4G LTE speeds, and unlimited access to the carrier's Video On Demand Rhapsody Unlimited Music services. Previously, customers paid $60 per month for almost the same services, but they had to choose between the video and music options.

The new $60 per month plan includes unlimited talk, text, e-mail, and access to Rhapsody, but the carrier will deliver 4G LTE speeds only for the first 5GB of data speeds consumed. After that point, customers will fall back onto 3G data speeds or slower depending on their location.

In an e-mail, MetroPCS spokesman Drew Crowell told Fierce Wirelesses that even if data speeds drop below LTE, most customers won't see a big impact for typical mobile data use. "The experience for the majority of what a customer does on a daily basis, like Facebook, web surfing, etc., should continue to be solid," Crowell wrote. He also said data speeds will increase again after a customer's monthly billing cycle ends.

The $50 per month plans includes unlimited talk and text and LTE speeds for the first 2.5GB of data used. Likewise, the carrier's cheapest plan will deliver unlimited talk and text and 250MB of 4G data for $40 per month.

Though MetroPCS's 4G service covers just 14 cities and is slower than that of its rivals, it was the first U.S. carrier to launch an LTE phone with the Samsung Craft in 2010. It now has 500,000 LTE users, but last month a carrier exec admitted that it needs more spectrum to expand 4G service.