Data overage and throttling

If you use mobile data a lot, then at some point, you may have experienced both data overage and throttling. But these terminologies can sometimes be confusing for the general public which is why we wanted to cover this topic here.

Data overage is the additional data you consume after having used up the allocated monthly data allowance that you get as part of your mobile plan. So, for example, if you get 5GB of data in your monthly allowance and you finish it all before the end of the month, then any additional data you use on top of this 5GB will be your data overage and your mobile operator will most likely charge you for that on a per MB basis.

Throttling, on the other hand, is when your mobile operator puts a certain limit on the maximum data speed you get. For example, it may be that under certain circumstances your mobile operator decides to give you maximum speeds of only 500 kbps.

Data Overage

Imagine you are a customer who pays £20 per month for unlimited minutes and texts with 20GB of data. If in any given month, you end up using all of your allocated 20GB before the end of the month, you may be left with two choices:

  1. Stop using mobile data for the rest of the month and rely solely on WiFi for any data sessions in that month
  2. Or, just purchase an add-on (also known as bolt-on) from your operator to have some additional data for the rest of the month

If you choose option # 2, that will be more or less straightforward as long as you are notified by your mobile operator in good time so you can purchase additional data without any downtime.

If however, you are more inclined towards option # 1, then there may be some further scenarios. Some mobile operators make it easier by simply stopping your mobile data usage once you have reached your limits and present you with options on what to do next. But there are some operators who don’t do this by default and let you decide whether you want to stop using any additional data through data capping. If your operator doesn’t stop your data usage once you have reached your limits and if they don’t have data capping, then you are likely to go over your data limit which will incur data overage charges. Mobile operators charge for data overage at different rates depending on each operator as well as your tariff. As a user of mobile services, it is a good idea to be aware of these charges to avoid a bill shock.


Throttling is technically very different from data overage but it is an inter-related concept for a mobile user. Let’s assume that you are a customer in a country with great 4G coverage. With data overage, you can continue to use the mobile internet at normal 4G speeds (e.g. 20 Mbps) but you pay for any additional data you consume on top of your monthly data allowance.

When your mobile operator enables throttling, they put a cap on the maximum data speeds you get. With throttling, your mobile operator can limit you to only using, for example, 3G network in order to reduce your data speeds which restricts you from consuming a lot of mobile data. One of the use cases for throttling is when mobile operators offer “Unlimited” data packages with a “Fair Use Policy”. Mobile operators can use throttling as a way to control data usage in these unlimited packages if a user decides to not follow the fair use policy.

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