Virgin Mobile Unlimited Data – Not So Unlimited Anymore

As you probably know by now if you read HTMLCenter or CenterNetworks on a semi-regular basis, I am a happy user of the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 with their $40/month unlimited Broadband2Go plan. It’s been a fantastic resource over the last 5 or 6 months; enough so that I even cancelled my satellite Internet service in favor of it. Unfortunately, that may be coming to an end very soon.

Virgin Mobile dispatched an e-mail earlier today informing me that the terms of the “unlimited” plan are going to change in February. No longer will the plan really offer unlimited data; instead, each plan will have a cap of 5 gigabytes/month. That’s pretty standard for a mobile broadband plan. However, instead of cutting off your service or charging you exorbitant amounts of extra fees for going over your cap, they’re going to follow the path laid out by satellite Internet providers. They’re going to reduce the speed of your service.

At this time, they haven’t really said what speeds we’re supposed to be getting on the current plan, nor what those speeds will become if we go over our 5 gigabyte cap.

The thing that concerns me most is the accuracy of their bandwidth tracking application. At one point last month, their website was reporting that I had used almost 5 terrabytes of bandwidth during the month (which is obviously way off). If the usage reporting is going to be that far off, I’m worried about how quickly they might think I’ve used up my 5 gigabytes.

In case you’re interested, here is the text of the message they sent out.

Here at Virgin Mobile, our mission is to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Sometimes that means making difficult choices in order to provide the best possible service to the greatest number of customers.

To make sure we can keep offering our $40 Unlimited Broadband2Go Plan at such a great price, we’re putting a speed limit in placeĀ for anyone on that plan who uses over 5GB in a month.

How will it work?

Starting February 15, 2011, if you go over 5GB in a month on the $40 Unlimited Plan:

  • Your data speeds will be limited for the remainder of the monthly plan cycle. During this time, you may experience slower page loads and file downloads and lags in streaming media.
  • Your data speeds will return to normal as soon as you buy a new Broadband2Go Plan.
  • This change will only affect plans bought on or after 2/15/2011.

How will it affect me?

Keep in mind, 5GB is A LOT of data. To give you an idea, it’s about 250 hours of web browsing or over 500,000(!) emails*. So this change shouldn’t affect you unless you’re a heavy downloader/streamer/etc.

How will I know if I’m getting close to 5GB?

We’ve updated the progress bar in your Connection Manager to show the amount of data you’ve used. If you go above 5GB in a month, the bar will turn yellow, letting you know your data speeds will be reduced until you buy a new plan.

By putting this speed limit in place, we’re making sure we can deliver the same quality service you’ve come to expect from Broadband2Go. We hope you understand.

Thanks for being a Broadband2Go customer.