Throttle vs. Prioritize: What’s the Difference?


To throttle or to prioritize.  That is the question.  But the other question is “What’s the difference?”.  In the new landscape of what are purported to be unlimited plans, it’s clear that some providers do both.  In fact, it’s become evident to anyone who deals with telecom companies that there is no such thing as an “unlimited” plan.

Throttle vs. prioritize: what’s the difference?  Let’s unpack the question in this post.

Throttle vs. Prioritize

Throttling reduces data speeds when usage reaches a pre-determined point until the billing period has concluded.

Prioritizing occurs when the amount of data usage reaches a level (determined by the vendor) during a high-usage period.  The user is then stuck behind other others in priority sequence for the remainder of any high-usage period which results in congestion.

So, what’s the difference?  Is there a difference?

Different, with similar results

While throttling remains in place until the next billing cycle begins, prioritization can last for anywhere from one hour to an entire quarter, depending on the carrier.  Some say this amounts to a type of throttling which is even more egregious than the usual type.

De-prioritized users report that their condition is worse than users who’ve been throttled, because throttling continues to offer users at least 3g speed.  Getting pushed to the back of the line means your connectivity is cut and when you re-connect, you start from zero.

With throttling, your usage isn’t compared to that of other users.  You’ve just reached your data limit and that has no relation to other people.  Prioritization rewards low data users by favoring them and punishing high data usage people.

Where these practices align is in the fact that both define a cap on usage.  This will typically be between 22-28 GB, which approximately 3.5% of users consume, in the case of prioritization.

In either event, you do not have unlimited access to data on your device.  The term “unlimited” is a misnomer which both throttling and prioritization make abundantly clear.

Provider limitations

At present, data usage has limits because providers are hobbled by what they can realistically offer you, due to equipment capacity.

Were genuine unlimited data to be provided and you were left to your own devices in that respect, you’d suck up more than your fair share of bandwidth, leaving other users high and dry.

The solution?  Go WiFi as often as possible, especially during peak usage periods like lunchtime and right after work.  Your connection speeds probably won’t match what you’re accustomed to, but at least you’ll be connected.

Monitoring your usage and ensuring that you rely on WiFi whenever you can are best practices for dealing with throttling and prioritization.  This way, you can ensure you have the data capacity you need when it’s important.


OpDecision brings companies like yours the benefit of insider knowledge.  Our team and leadership come direct from the wireless sector, bringing with them an intimate understanding of how the sector works.

With us, you can save up to 45% on your wireless spend.  Contact us.

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