Virgin Mobile, the prepaid arm of Sprint Nextel, said today that it is moving away from a fully unlimited data plan and will begin to slow the connection speed of its more excessive bandwidth-hogging customers in October.
Virgin said that customers who exceed 2.5 gigabytes of data in a month will see reduced speeds, a practice known as throttling. The company said less than 3 percent of its customer base go over that mark. The policy will affect all customers.
Virgin is the latest carrier to acknowledge the pressures that heavy data usage by its customers have placed on it. Last week, Verizon Wireless switched to a tiered data plan, following AT&T's move last year. T-Mobile also throttles its customers' connection speeds.
As further evidence of the pressures Virgin faces, the company also unveiled new plans starting July 20 that raise the price of its cheapest options. Its 300-minute plan, which includes unlimited messaging and data, costs $35, $10 more than before. Its 1,200-minute plan goes from $40 to $45.
The company did cut its $60 unlimited calling plan down to $55, likely an acknowledgement of the competitive threat presented by MetroPCS and Leap Wireless. The company also said it would waive the $10 add-on fee for BlackBerry smartphones.
The plans were first reported by Fierce Wireless.
Virgin has been a major factor for much of Sprint's turnaround with its customer base. While winning back contract customers has been difficult, the carrier has seen explosive growth in the prepaid segment, where customers pay on a month-to-month basis and can leave at any time.