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Don’t listen to those Sprint ads that tout a “truly unlimited data” plan — they may not be entirely true.

The carrier actually slows down data speeds for the top 1 percent of its smartphone customers, CEO Dan Hesse admitted Thursday. “For those that want to abuse it, we can knock them off,” Hesse said at an investor conference, according to Dow Jones Newswire.

The practice may not fall in line with what the company preaches in its advertisements (like the one seen above), but it is consistent with an October 2011 decision to stop offering unlimited 4G data plans for tablets and broadband cards.

Throttling or not, Sprint remains the only U.S. carrier to offer an unlimited data plan for the Apple iPhone. That fact alone should keep the company in the good graces of mobile users and help it continue on its long road to recovery.

Another part of that recovery plan, at least according to a leaked ad obtained by The Verge, seems to include the Sprint Galaxy Nexus, the carrier’s first 4G LTE phone. And because Hesse also revealed Thursday that the company will launch LTE in Atlanta, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston market by mid-2012, we know the device is coming soon.

Update: New reports suggest that Hesse was misquoted and that the throttling statement was made in regard to customers roaming on partner networks.

Update #2: Sprint posted a statement to its community site (members-only link). “Sprint does not throttle any postpaid phone data users for on-network or off-network usage,” the statement reads. “Sprint does have terms and conditions which prohibit certain types of data use that may impair other customers’ usage or harm or interfere with the network. At yesterday’s investor conference, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse was referring to Sprint’s right to terminate service of data abusers who violate Sprint’s terms and conditions.”

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