T-Mobile’s Data Prioritization and Deprioritization

Last updated: 6/18/2019

It’s a bit hard to figure out what services T-Mobile does and doesn’t prioritize. On this page, I list my best guesses based on what I found digging through T-Mobile’s policies. I’m not confident all of my guesses are accurate.

Prioritized services

  • Most postpaid plans (on-device use)
  • Most T-Mobile-branded prepaid plans (on-device use, excluding Metro by T-Mobile plans)

Deprioritized services

  • Mobile hotspot and tethering
  • T-Mobile home internet
  • Metro by T-Mobile
  • Most MVNOs using the T-Mobile network
  • Use beyond 50GBs per month on normally prioritized plans[1]

Relevant excerpts from T-Mobile’s website

From an FAQ entry on prioritization:[2]

T-Mobile-branded plans except T-Mobile Essentials and Home Internet are prioritized before the data of customers on non- T-Mobile-branded services such as Metro by T-Mobile. We also use a smaller data threshold to determine heavy data usage prioritization for non- T-Mobile-branded services than for T-Mobile branded services. The vast majority of customers on T-Mobile-branded and non- T-Mobile-branded plans receive higher priority than the small fraction of customers who are Heavy Data Users. T-Mobile Home Internet customers are prioritized at the same level as Heavy Data Users, but are less likely to experience congestion because the equipment is stationary and available only in authorized areas. Where the network is lightly loaded, customers who have chosen T-Mobile Essentials, T-Mobile Home Internet, or non- T-Mobile brands will notice little, if any, effect from having lower priority. This will be the case in the vast majority of times and locations. At times and at locations where the network is heavily loaded in relation to available capacity, however, those customers will likely see reductions in data speeds, especially if they are engaged in data-intensive activities.

From T-Mobile’s plans web page:[3]

During congestion, customers using>50GB/mo. may notice reduced speeds; Essentials customers may notice speeds lower than other customers.

From T-Mobile’s page on open internet policies:[4]

To ensure the best possible on-device experience for the most possible customers, and to minimize capacity issues and degradation in network performance, we prioritize on-device data (except that of significant data users, as described above) over tethering data at times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources, which may result in slower tethering speeds.

Footnotes

  1. These services appear to be even lower priority than the other deprioritized services.
  2. Excerpt text from 6/16/2019 (archived here). Note that this excerpt seems to suggest there are more than two levels of prioritization—contrary to a view I’ve maintained in the past.
  3. The excerpt came from the plans web page on 6/16/2019.
  4. Accessed on 6/16/2019 and archived here.