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Sprint is slamming on the brakes for top 5% of data users in congested areas, reports Fierce Wireless.

Postpaid as well as prepaid Sprint customers, including those on its Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile sub-brands, have begun receiving notices alerting them to new data “prioritization management” the operator will employ as of next month.

Sprint’s 2 GHz LTE spectrum is more limited than other carriers, using only a 5 x 5 MHz duplex channel at 2 GHz rather than 10 x 10 Mhz channels of the other carriers. Sprint’s 2.6GHz band promises far more bandwidth, using 40 or even 60 MHz wide channels using TD-LTE, but it is still (mostly) a pipe dream.

Sprint says its 4G LTE now covers more than 225 million people and remains on track to cover 250 million by mid-year. Sprint Spark, which can combine three bands (800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz), is available in six new cities, and is expected to cover 100 million people by year-end.

Under the Sprint’s prioritization scheme, there is no exact amount of data consumption that will place them within the top 5 percent, and the threshold will change monthly as demand changes. But Sprint said customers who typically use 5 GB or more in a given month will likely be in that uppermost tier.

In March, Virgin and Boost customers were told that starting this month those using more than 2.5 GB of data would have their data speeds reduced to 128 kbps.

Truly “unlimited” broadband service is mostly a fiction.

In September 2011, Verizon limited the bandwidth for the operator’s top 5 percent of 3G smartphone users who are on a grandfathered unlimited data plan.

AT&T instituted a similar plan, but revised the policy to slow speeds of unlimited data users who exceeded specific data thresholds.

T-Mobile US also uses a form of prioritization, noting “certain T-Mobile plans may be prioritized” over service plans under its GoSmart Mobile prepaid brand.

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