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If you read the user reviews of Straight Talk wireless service, you’ll see plenty of conflicting information. Some users claim that there is a 2GB cap on their unlimited data plan. Some claim that it’s even less — that they’ve been throttled after just a few days. When Straight Talk started offering the iPhone at Walmart outlets, the topic of throttling was sure to come up again. After all, iPhone 5 users consume huge amounts of data, and iPhone users in general are known for their data-heavy ways. That raises the question of how Straight Talk will deal with such a load on its resources.
FierceWireless spoke to a Straight Talk spokesperson, who confirmed that there is no set data cap. Instead, they throttle user speeds based on usage trends. That is, if a user streams video consistently across a short number of days, they’ll likely get throttled well before they reach 2GB of usage. That’s why many users complain of being throttled early in their monthly periods. Show Straight Talk that you might cross that 2GB cap, in other words, and you’ll likely see your data speeds throttled.
This can be quite frustrating for Straight Talk users who happen to use a chunk of data early in the month. Early in one of my recent cellular pay periods, I made a few train trips and streamed lots of Netflix on the way. It amounted to roughly half my data allotment in the first week of my billing cycle. Yet I still came in under my monthly limit. Straight Talk users who do this will be punished for the last three weeks of the month, even if they use very little data in that span. (In fact, given the throttling they will use little data by necessity.)
That is to say that the policy makes sense for Straight Talk, since it can throttle users before they become a problem. But it punishes users who consume a heap of data in a short span, but would otherwise be normal consumers later in the billing cycle.
Here is one policy that does make sense: Straight Talk does not allow the personal WiFi hotspot function. Even Verizon disallows this feature on its older plans, so for an MVNO of the network to disallow it makes sense as well. This is pretty much standard for any MVNO offering smartphones. They don’t own the network, and so have to pay for usage. Why pay to let people hook up their laptops to their smartphones?
Again, the iPhone for Straight Talk, which reportedly operates on the Verizon network, is available only at Walmart. Users can use Straight Talk’s bring your own device program to use other carriers’ iPhones.