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T-Mobile tiptoes around data throttling, iPhone Wi-Fi calling

T-Mobile executives at the company's "Uncarrier" event on Tuesday appeared to come down on both sides of the throttling issue, noting that users exceeding their allotments will see slower speeds, but that heavy data users will not see their bandwidth throttled.

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Speaking at the company's media event in New York, T-Mobile CEO John Legere addressed the possibility of throttling. T-Mobile customers with set data limits — the base 500MB plan or the 2.5GB plan, for example — will see their their speeds dropping to 3G levels should they go over those limits.

The company's execs say that it will not, however, throttle the bandwidth of high-data consumers on unlimited plans, so long as they aren't inhibiting the fair access of other customers.

"We put a fair use policy in," Legere said during the event's question and answer section. That fair use policy is aimed more at keeping the network open to other wireless customers, and T-Mobile apparently already has customers using massive amounts of data without being throttled. One exec noted that some customers are using more than 50GB per month, but the times in which they are doing so aren't adversely affecting other customers.

"If there is ever a case where we're going to use a fair use policy," VentureBeat quotes Legere saying, "we're going to post it so you can have a look at it. It's not a number — if someone is having a party at 3am [using a ton of data], I don't really care."

T-Mobile's executives on stage attempted to parry accusations that they were trying to have it both ways on throttling. They pointed out that all of the rate plans get top 4G speeds up until their data limits. Speaking with Barrons, T-Mobile marketing officer Mike Sievert said that the company had tailored its pricing and data rates to fit the usage patterns of power users.

Throttling has become point of contention between the carriers on one side and heavy data users and consumer advocates on the other. AT&T — as do most of the major carriers — touts its plans as offering "unlimited data," but the network drops user speeds once they pass a 5GB threshold within a month. In February of last year, an iPhone user successfully sued AT&T over its throttling measures, winning $850 from the carrier.

The carrier also announced that its version of the iPhone 5 will not initially support T-Mobile's Wi-Fi Calling technology. Speaking with Engadget, Sievert said that Wi-Fi Calling "is not coming" at launch. Pressed on the issue, Sievert said that T-Mobile "loves its Wi-Fi Calling feature, and I'll have to leave it at that."

The Wi-Fi Calling feature allows T-Mobile customers abroad to receive calls from their US phone number through a Wi-Fi connection anywhere in the world. The feature is currently available on a number of Android devices on the carrier.