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Does the end of unlimited data spell doom for the mobile revolution?

Patrick Gray doesn't think that the end of unlimited data will stifle mobile innovation. Do you agree?

For months, U.S. mobile carriers have been discussing ending their unlimited data plans for phones and tablets. The two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, have already ceased offering unlimited data plans, allowing users who already have such a plan to be grandfathered into keeping their unlimited data. Recently, however, executives at these companies have suggested they'll seek to end even the grandfathered plans, requiring users to abandon their unlimited plan if they want to upgrade to a new device or faster 4G speeds.

The carriers claim unlimited users place undue strains on their networks, consuming an "unfair" share of data and the associated infrastructure without paying the true cost for what they consume. Consumers argue that carriers are now attempting a "bait and switch," gradually diminishing the value of a service the carrier contractually agreed to provide. In extreme cases, each side claims that unlimited data could spell doom for the rapid adoption of mobile devices like phones and tablets, with carriers saying their networks can no longer handle the demand placed by unlimited users, and consumers and pundits suggesting that cheap, plentiful mobile data is a cornerstone of rapid tablet adoption. So, which side is right?

The perils of "all you can eat"

While I have no special inside knowledge, for the carriers this is likely a simple financial decision. Like it or not, the major mobile network providers are gradually being reduced to "dumb pipe" status similar to household and office broadband, where the connection to the network is little more than a commodity.

With unlimited data, consumption is no longer a factor in purchasing decisions. Just as a significant number of electric customers would set their AC to near-icebox levels if electricity were free, providing everyone with unlimited data creates no incentive to buy additional products or services from the carrier. Why pay extra for carrier-provided messaging or video calling when you can jam it all down the unlimited dumb pipe?

It's hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for the mobile carriers, since they effectively created this scenario by offering unlimited data, a mistake that many global carriers have avoided. Now, they are forced to offer customers less for more -- or carefully force a switch to a metered plan in exchange for faster network speeds or increased services.

Does the end of unlimited kill the mobile revolution?

Pundits argue that a world where users must carefully monitor and track their data usage will kill innovation in the mobile space, since any new app or service must be carefully considered rather than downloading first and asking questions later. There is some truth to this concern: a user or business might skip a genuinely useful application or service if they feel it's not worth allocating scarce resources toward it. While this might be a new consideration in terms of data use, it's not new in terms of time and financial resources, so the end of unlimited data makes these questions more complex but doesn't necessarily pose an entirely new set of considerations.

In the consumer space, much of the mobile innovation is around social networking, and high-data services (like image and video sharing) will likely be impacted as their user base must more carefully consider its data usage. Carriers have made some noise about allowing these applications themselves to pay for their data use, which seems to be an interesting solution if concerns around so-called "net neutrality" can be worked out, but this seems to be years away at best.

To some extent, banishing the unlimited dumb pipe might spur innovation and higher-quality applications. When you must pay for the bits required for the latest trivial app or viral video, concerns about the quality of what you're downloading suddenly enter the equation.

The doom and gloom is overrated

If one takes the carrier "party line" that unlimited is degrading and straining their networks at face value, surely some change is necessary. I struggle to rally much sympathy, since the carriers made a business decision that appears to be shortsighted, but I don't see the end of unlimited data stifling mobile innovation. With 4G networks rallying around common standards, and the carriers themselves increasingly becoming a commodity, we're far more likely to see innovation in the mobile space rather than a world where every user spends minutes pondering each tap and download.

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About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

67 comments
kenh
kenh

Up until now the real costs have been waived by the wireless companies so they could build their client base. Now they want to cash in at the consumers expense!

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I chose an unlimited data plan and I fight to keep it. My carrier wants me off it (sending me letters and such saying it isn't available any more, trying to tempt me to switch to another plan while not really giving me any benefits to do so) but I cling on to my original contract terms like a limpet. Why? I'm not a really heavy user, don't often tether, don't use torrents or p2p sharing. What keeps me on the unlimited plan? Peace of mind does. I use my Dell Streak for everything - mail, streaming video, messaging, gaming, sat-nav, e-reader, all my web needs, business and pleasure. When data doesn't work on it I'm effectively web-blind, and wi-fi isn't often an option for me. I want my data always on and I can't predict what I may be doing week to week on my handset. Unlimited was the way for me. Now, I said I'm not a particularly heavy user. Bigger than average, sure, but not massive bandwidth hog. I'm sure I could switch to a limited plan if the price and benefits were right. Here's the thing though - I'm noticing that more and more our handsets are looking to send/receive data while we aren't actively using a app or service. As these services get more complex or as advertisers get their teeth into more apps this 'data bleed' will only continue, sapping usage from a user's plan without his/her knowledge. Add to this the fact that carriers can't seem to monitor usage accurately and it adds up to a situation where users can't be sure that they can use what they've bought. The limited usage world is certainly the logical step for carriers as businesses. As app writers and handset/OS tech becomes more reliant on their 'always on' connection or on update downloads I feel a limited use world may stifle the innovations more and more and not server customers at all well. How do you fix this? I'm not sure I like any of the options being presented really. For me I think better monitoring, codified behaviour of apps and services in relation to network access, and lower price data plans may allow a reasonably workable limited use - if carriers don't make such a thing simple for users to manage then the complexity and hassle will put many users (like me) off such a thing. On the flip side for unlimited (or high limit) use to be our method carriers need to invest more in their infrastructure and governments need to relax restrictions to allow them to do so whenever legislation gets in their way. I clearly don't have a solid answer here but I know one thing - I don't have to worry about managing my data use so much that I choose not to use features of my handheld that I bought the thing for in the first place. THAT WOULD BE stifling innovations. EDIT: It's worth noting that, like others here, I do believe all the power is with the carriers rather than the consumer at present. We buy only what we get told to, pay penalties and charges even for things beyond our control (such as rubbish carrier performance (ergo, cancellation) and poor metering) and get locked into greater lengths of contract. We can't even use our handsets on the networks we may choose because carriers 'lock' them in and put bloatware on them. I'm sorry but that isn't fair and no other industry would get away with it. Imagine that happening in the car industry? (to use our roads you can only buy one of these 10 cars. Oh, and we'll be changing the dashboard. And the milometer will be wrong. And you have to stay on our roads to 2 years. And we'll charge you extra if you use anyone else's roads.)

fkieser
fkieser

The simple truth is that if I am paying more for data usage, I have less to pay for Apps or other programs that use that data and even new equipment so I believe the mobile revolution is going to slow tremendously! As a side note, $29.99 for unlimited data now and $29.99 for 2GB of data at upgrade! Are you kidding me??? Unlimited to 2GB! Lets be a little bit reasonable here. I would be less upset with 5GB or even 4GB!

MetalFR0
MetalFR0

The 'mobile revolution' will not be stifled by something as trivial as a lack of unlimited data. What it means is that the onus is on developers to create 'thinner' applications and platforms, or rely less on live web data for apps that don't require up-to-the-minute info.

WanderMouse
WanderMouse

With limited data, anyone who develops an app which tracks your usage automatically, which you can access at a click to get an exact usage figure, and which will automatically alert you when threshholds you yourself preset are reached (e.g., 75%, 90%, 95%, 99%), will make a goldmine. When all plans are limited- or if you're already on an unlimited plan- make your kids buy their own phones and pay for their own plans if they consistenly run over the monthly limit. When they can no longer pay for their plan, and when carriers will no longer allow them to sign up (poor credit risk), switch them to a voice-only dumb phone for basic communicationn & security purposes. (Make sure you teach them Finance 101, and how any such consequences will affect their credit ratings for 5 years, before signing them up, however.) Kids may actually have to learn interpersonal communication skills, and get their faces out of their phones and into the real world around them, were this to happen.

WanderMouse
WanderMouse

The push toward cloud computing will atrophy when the last unilimited major carrier, Sprint, gives up its unlimited data plan. For both business and consumer, there are certain programs to which we wish to have access 100% of the time. Admittedly, we usually have access to either Ethernet or home/business wireless networks the majority of the time, and access to Wi-Fi for some of the remaining time. But when we're away from home/buisiness, and Wi-Fi isn't available, do we really want to lose the functions of programs such as Word, Excel, Outlook, etc., because we can only access a 3G or 4G carrier, and the cost of using these systems might become prohibitive? If your business or non-business travel takes you to any such location, even occasionally, are you going to want to commit to Office 365 completely, and give up Office Whatever Version on your computer? If Chromebooks needed another nail in their coffin, this will be one. Look for cloud computing to be limited to niche functions- e.g., storing photos to show to your family- and productivity functions to remain on your hard drives.

Gussy2000
Gussy2000

The number crunching courtesy of Wired. Without even clicking on the link; remember when your phone bill was based solely on the number of actual minutes (units) you used? Ya know, like the electric companies do? Does it seem to make more sense for the carriers to determine what it costs to sustain/maintain their networks at 100% capacity divide that by the capacity, come up with a margin that will make the shareholders happy and then meter it out? That way if your data usage varies you don't end up paying $50 for using 700 MB instead of the 5 GB you are paying for (used up or not). This would also take care of heavy users as well. Data will eventually go the way of the voice minute (hey rollover data usage, imagine...I mean they are getting ready to roll out shared data plans, it is only the next logical step). This is NOT about "oh our poor strained networks" not when the average user is using 1 GB/month maybe. This is about money, money, money. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/06/how-much-does-your-data-cost/

cybershooters
cybershooters

The end of the "cloud" nonsense, if it costs too much to access your files or whatever on-line, it means the end of various OTA services which were ridiculous to begin with. Verizon is a major partner of Microsoft most of the time, and I seriously doubt Microsoft were onboard with this decision! Availability of internet access was always at best questionable, but Microsoft et al were deluded into thinking they could move to subscription-based models because the internet works better in N America and there were unlimited data plans, etc. Now reality will be forced to dawn on the marketing types who excessively hype "cloud" and OTA services.

ADarkAria
ADarkAria

I find all of this to be laughable! When wireless companies restructure their business practice to meet and exceed customer satisfaction -- actually performing to RETAIN their clients and treat them as "valued" customers instead of behaving in ways that treat the consumer as a "captured, dime-a-dozen prisoner" -- (if you don't like it, oh well -- there are 10 others behind you), then I would understand their griping. Until then, it is the consumer on whose "side" I will stand. Technology has marched on...smart phones carry the bulk of the market...and wireless companies TELL you...the consumer...what you must have -- not the other way around. They also relish sticking it to you should you exceed limitations. They tell you what phones you can choose from, what services they require you buy (whether you choose to use those services or not) for your phone of choice, a contractual agreement that imprisons the customer from exercising his or her right to stop patronizing a carrier when services are sub-standard -- who then collects "penalties" for their poor performance when that consumer is forced to seek better quality service elsewhere. Contracts that protect the carrier only...not any fair expectation of the consumer. That's NOT what "free market" means. You must perform. You offer the consumer more choice, more reasonable rates, better service/selection than the next guy. If you don't...you are not fulfilling your obligations and the customer takes his money elsewhere. When you don't fulfill your obligations, and a customer walks, you lose business. When you lose business, it gives you an incentive to improve what you have to offer because, if you don't, you can't compete with others who will and do. If you can't compete, you no longer have a business to manage and profit from. Simple.

partner_mark
partner_mark

Y'know, I immediately have a problem with this. Let's take a look at a little history. Remember when text messaging was simply included with your plan? As soon as the carriers discovered that a significant number of people were using it, they figured out they could be making significant money with it - and please don't tell me that text messages were a major bandwidth problem, I'm an IT professional and know better. I'm sure that data usage has jumped significantly in the last few years, but considered this, when AT&T wanted to "4G" all they did was update and upgrade their data pipe to their towers and tweak their equipment a little (more or less). My point? If bandwidth at towers were such a major problem, why did they only update their towers AFTER their "4G" came out? And on Verizon, their 4G runs on a different wireless system entirely, if their "airways" are getting congested then their customers moving to 4G should open up the 3G spectrum significantly. Only the data pipe from the tower would be congested, but that's not what they're saying, they're saying that the airways and the band is getting congested.

N4AOF
N4AOF

People are used to "unlimited" data at home, no one is going to be really satisfied with the kinds of limits and pricing that mobile carriers are talking about today. As one example, Verizon currently has customers getting 2GB/Month, 4GB/Month, and unlimited data, all at exactly the same monthly fee. The overpriced and badly choked data plans we are seeing offered now won't totally stop the sale of tablets, but these plans will seriously limit any mass migration to tablets -- largely because the only features that tablet manufacturers have been advertising have been web based. If tablet manufacturers tell people "Buy this because it is great on the web" and then when they go to the store they are told "Doing what they showed in the ad will cost you and extra hundred dollars a month or you can choose to just use your tablet the first two or three days of each month" how many sales will there really be? The one thing these overpriced choked data plans WILL do to the tablet market is create a great supply of "Nearly New" used tablets available for sale as soon as people get their first or second bill for data overages. The carrier arguments against unlimited data are partially valid - they really cannot meet the demand that they themselves created for unlimited data. On the other hand, their argument that some unlimited data customers are consuming more than their "fair share" of available bandwidth is total nonsense. (The same nonsense spouted by some cable internet providers.) If the so-called data hogs are such a small percent of users, then their usage has an equally small impact on network capacity. Mobile data is not going to reach its potential until there is an effective infrastructure to provide adequate capacity. Unfortunately both the hardware manufacturers and the service providers have been selling the public a false image of mobile connectivity that is nothing close to reality.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Until Dad gets the bill, then no more movies or you tube on the phone. Maybe your paycheck is unlimited, mine isn't and I will have to cut my minutes for sure.

gusmackey
gusmackey

This is the classic case of bait and switch, all of the advertising from all media carriers is the amount of data that is available and how fast it is. If you look at the most of the mobile apps they are data driven. So now that they finally have a fast network, they now want to limit it???s usage down to a trickle. With Verizon just about everything that you do with a smart phone requires a data connection. At this point they (mobile carriers) may only be good at driving customers away. The price point for the amount of advertised, available data needs to be adjusted to a realistic amount (that???s a hint to increase the data amount). Mobile carriers promote the amount of data you can use but they don???t??? want you to use it.

rcameron1
rcameron1

It doesn't stifle mobile use/innovation, but it sure doesn't help... It is not an all or nothing question.

DrDale
DrDale

And to think I just bought a new Galaxy S Tab thinking I'd have unlimited access. . . .

gak
gak

Normal ISPs had solved that ages ago. They limit either volume or bandwidth. If the US carriers cannot limit the bandwidth, there are 3 options: they will figure out how to do that; somebody else will figure out how to do that; the migration of the center of everything, including the mobile revolution, to Asia will somewhat accelerate.

pjboyles
pjboyles

AT&T and Verizon gave you the taste for unlimited data. They got apps expecting unlimited data. Your addicted now. Now they want you to pay, pay, pay. If they provide instant access to usage data statistics and methods of managing data usage maybe. I don't see them investing in that when they can exploit their users. In reality unlimited data doen't hurt us and isn't an issue for them. They can tune sharing the pipe at peak times so that all people get an equal speed pipe allowing everyone to share the pipe. You see the pipe is there all the time if it is used or not. People only notice when usage goes high and their share of the pipe is reduced. So instead of 1024Kb/sec maybe you only get 128Kb/sec. But they want you to pay more so they can make more. All this is a method to generate additional profits. It has nothing to do with bandwidth hogs or unlimited data. They have the technology today to manage and shape traffic. The ability to throttle your portion of the bandwidth at peak times and open it back up off peak times. The best thing you can do is vote with your dollars and "say keep your poor service and money grubbing." Go to someone with service.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but mobility is an international trend. The actions of US carriers won't deter its expansion on other continents, or in countries already ahead of us.

deICERAY
deICERAY

It doesn't matter; by the time this conversation is over, there will be newer technology and this will be moot; just settle down and wait until we are all issued our implanted tracking/buying/data/behave-yourself-or-else chips. This is just a small bump on the inevitable slide to slavery. Polyarchy Rules!

daffydwilliams
daffydwilliams

Just starting to see the US go the way many of us overseas have already had to deal with. Hopefully it will mean more effective or efficient programming. Also designing the program to work well without an "Always on unlimited" feed will benefit everyone in the long term. As users have apps etc that will suit their infrastructure realities and great programming that works with a different paradigm also benefits the programmers both financially and technically. If for no other reason the always on and always connected at present also costs society in unexpected ways. e.g. power generation using not so green solutions to provide the network resources and also user recharging.

pfyearwood
pfyearwood

I am a user of prepaid cellphones. I have an LG420G from Tracfone because I like the prepay system for voice. Using their BOGO minutes and the way they add each set of 90 days on to the previous days, I am now paid up for 460 minutes of air time to be used over 450 days of service. I know my usage by looking at the display. I have a Pentech P7040 with ATT GoPhone because the internet with Tracfone is restricted to what they let you access. ATT is wide open. It is just like using your system at home. By using *777*3# SEND you get your data balance and what you don't use in 30 days, is rolled over if you renew. I buy a big batch every few months and then the minimum to keep the account active. I also just got a Samsung player and use WIFI around hot spots. I am personally pleased to see the end of unlimited data. I see too many people with their noses in their gadgets when they should be watching the world around themselves. What I would like to see is the end of unlimited voice. The streets would be safer since people would not feel obligated to talk on their phones 24/7 just because they can. Paul

bpress
bpress

The whole argument about Unlimited Data is a scam. You have to build a network to handle peak traffic. If you limit a heavy user, that user will still use what little they have when everyone else is using it, at the PEAK times. Phones, electrical grids, roads, sewage (Notice a comonality developing here) all have to build for when they are used most. Limiting users will help nothing but the carriers wallets.

ManoaHI
ManoaHI

In the US, not that long ago, what was there? Some Windows, some BlackBerries, most did mail and a bit of browsing. But it was largely centered on the enterprise. When the iPhone came out, it made sense to have unlimited plans and it didn't look like it was going to go far when the prices were $600 for the phone and $99 for the unlimited data plan. So what was shortsighted of that? Nothing. Then something that AT&T did was, start subsidizing the phones. Then Android appeared and the whole smartphone market exploded. Everything jumped from, possibly a million people, to many orders of magnitude more. Other providers got on the bandwagon and then this left the enterprise (for a while) and was in the hands of the average everyday user (grandparents, students, everyone in between). This caused the first shift to tiered data plans. Furthering the issue is that tablets came on line, more larger usage. But then something else happened, many places (restaurants and coffe shops) let their customers get free WiFi. This probably miffed the wireless providers, but they got you when you were not around a WiFi location. The hard part is that people started falling in love with their devices and that was it, captured market. Has the price increased stopped the growth, not a bit. The market bore the prices and people were willing to pay. Some people watch their usage, so that helped a bit. I was one of those original iPhone buyers; I bought it on the second day (I arrived back in the US on the second day after two decades of living abroad - went directly from airport to Best Buy to get three free Razor with three AT&T lines, then went to the Apple Store and gave up one of my Razor lines to the iPhone when purchasing the iPhone). Unlimited plans, sweet. Never had the inkling that it would get to the levels they are now, never saw the subsidizing on the horizon.

dcolbert
dcolbert

http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/19/verizon-quarterly-revenues-q1-2012/ That was a rise from a two billion dollar net LOSS, and most of that gain was driven by smart-phone adoption. If their networks can't handle the data volume, put some of that money into more aggressive infrastructure upgrades. Stop selling the PIPE... make the pipe as inexpensive and all-you-can eat as possible - turn it into a commodity and make people realize that they can JUST have a MiFi connection for all their devices and take it with them where ever they go. It is a short-sighted focus on near-term profits that will hold back innovation and adoption and keep people tethered to cable. I average about 2GB on my smartphone per month, because I've been actively making sure I don't develop habits that will be hard to kick once unlimited goes away. I've seen the writing on the wall. I average about 20gb/Month on my cable connection. All that traffic could be going through Verizon, and Verizon could be finding OTHER ways to profit from that traffic (Google+ and Facebook don't seem to mind what pipe I come in through) - or they could be driving me to find less expensive connections to do my REAL surfing on. The more business I do through them, through their networks, the more opportunity they have to monetize it.

andrew232006
andrew232006

The amounts of data transferred for most applications are minimal. Combine that with wifi networks that are almost everywhere and I rarely have to worry about my data plan. I can browse the web and watch youtube without worrying. My only concerns are downloading large applications which I do at home and netflix.

apachecav
apachecav

True Capitalism is on its last legs thanks to Socialist idiots over the last hundred years. So what we have is a utility that has no real competition. (Regulation has created such a high cost of entry that no one can afford to start up their own cell service). They set the rules and charge their prices and the only option we have is to stop using them. My business relies on this kind of communication so that isn???t an option. They create a level of expectation, drive out any real competition and then price and service fix creating for themselves huge profits. I have no problem with a company making profits, I have a large problem with companies using government regulation to create a shadow monopoly. (The only way a monopoly can exist by the way) ??? It is called Crony-Capitalism??? over 200 years ago we had another name for it, it was Mercantilisms??? we fought a revolution with England over this kind of stuff??? If they want to end unlimited data plans then end all regulation on this industry and let real capitalism take over??? You want to see grown metrosexuals cry in their lite beer this is one way to do it???

The Cars Forever
The Cars Forever

Getting rid of unlimited data plans is unfortunate but not entirely unexpected. I understand that wireless carriers are businesses and if they are not profitable we will lose them and end up with fewer options. What is concerning is the short sighted business models that put them in a situation where they cannot meet recent agreements and customers are expected to accept it. This is especially true when each wireless provider website and store is constantly pushing data consuming devices despite stating they are having issues keeping up with demand. What many of the discussions on this topic seem to forget is that data use has not plateaued. Think about the amount of data used by cellular devices just a couple years ago compared to today. As Internet access became more ubiquitous, more and more data rich apps were developed and these features are increasingly promoted by the wireless providers. Now that customers are more fully using the abilities of their devices, the providers cry foul and want everyone to restrict use. Anticipating that unlimited data plans were likely to end, I have been monitoring data usage with several tools on a handful of Android users for about six months. Interestingly, the provider's data use is always higher than any metering tool by up to 20% (most users show a difference of about 5%-10%). It also doesn't help that data usage from the carrier is reported about 24 hours late. This means that if a user experiences a high use day they may not know to stop using data and end up with a surprise overage. Customers are now expected to become data managers and be able to divine what applications and features will push them over the data ceiling. Newer Android devices have the ability to limit data use for e-mail attachments and application updates. Unfortunately this doesn't help with streaming audio, video or updates from application sources like the Amazon Marketplace. What would be optimal is the ability to automatically stop wireless data use when you hit your threshold as opposed to letting you cross the threshold and then charge large fees. Unfortunately for consumers, preventing allowing accidental overages doesn???t make business sense for the carriers. If we are going to have our data restricted, give us better tools to prevent overages and/or make the overage fees less expensive.

AlPGoSU
AlPGoSU

This isn't just a wireless data issue. Nothing in this world is truly free or unlimited - data, healtcare, money, time - you name it. Somewhere somebody pays. We all need to know what the real cost of our consumption is in order to make informed decisions - and pay a fair share for what provides value. Without understanding both sides of the coin, we're left chasing our tails.

dcolbert
dcolbert

On the EXPERIENCE or on the INFRASTRUCTURE? Do we figure out ways to make the experience thinner, sacrificing features and experiences to limit bandwidth consumption? Imagine what the web would be like today if that had been the case with the evolution of Internet traffic. Google would be doing a lot better with Chromebooks, and end users would be hopelessly tethered to thin, client/server computing where all their apps and data resided somewhere other than their own personal machines. It seems like consumers and professionals are still largely ambivalent to the idea of broadly adopting client/server models of computing. We've been talking about the Cloud revolution and SaaS for several years now - and most business data still gets created in a local copy of Office and most IT Datacenters and their engineers are still buying bare metal severs and building their machines, either physical or VM, on that - not collocated in some JIT hosted site where they spin up a new server, or add or remove metered CPUs or memory depending on your needs and demands. Thin computing translates to a loss of control, both of physical aspects and of costs, and I think people intuitively know this. If we had taken this approach with traditional wired infrastructure, we might all be happy paying $150 a month for a 56k ISDN line and a 1mb connection would still be several thousand dollars a month. Instead, we've driven the technology to the point where 4G *wireless* connections can deliver 30mb up/down. Do you know how fast you can hit a 4gb cap at 30mb up/down? Why have the speed? It is having a Ferrari you can only drive to the end of your driveway before it runs out of gas. The difference is that traditional models of providing bandwidth competed with one another to deliver the best speeds on unlimited pipes for the best price - and this spurred TREMENDOUS competition in this industry. I believe the Wireless providers are in collusion to prevent this kind of infrastructure competition and innovation. They like their business model just the way it is, conservative and non-competitive.

andrew232006
andrew232006

As with every IOs app, someone has made and deployed it before most people even consider it. And there'll be a dozen apps that do the same thing soon enough. Also, my carrier text messages me when I reach 90% of my monthly cap.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I loved your point: ""Doing what they showed in the ad will cost you and extra hundred dollars a month or you can choose to just use your tablet the first two or three days of each month" how many sales will there really be?" Apple are the kings at this sort of thing. They show really flashy ads telling you how slick and cool their tech is but there's always some sort of disclaimer at the bottom of the screen in teensy tiny text telling you, "by the way, you can't do this anywhere you like. Oh, and it won't be this quick. Or this easy." How long before producers like Apple fulfill your prediction? Once you're on that slope it's easy to keep sliding down it.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Here is the thing with tablets. I reviewed the new Samsung Tab 7.7 with 4G LTE, and you know - it added a level of function I wasn't actually prepared for because of the mobile wireless. One day I was at Firestone getting my tire fixed, and I realized I had the tab and it had mobile wireless, so I checked out Netflix. The only problem was that I didn't have earbuds. So I could either annoy people around me or find some place isolated. The only isolated area had so much road noise I couldn't hear the tablet. So - yeah, I think there is a use justification for mobile wireless making tablets more versatile and useful. BUT - most tablets are fine with regular old WiFi right now - because they're coffee table PCs that people mostly use lounging on a couch or in bed. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to simply replace my wired connection with a wireless connection that offers the same or superior speed, plus the mobility to use it where I want it, how I want it, with what devices I choose, at an affordable price. If the wireless providers worked that out, I think that the majority of tablets that sold would have mobile wireless - and that is a HUGE increase in subscribers. If they can't figure out how to invest the profits from their current subscribers to increase the bandwidth of the infrastructure to increase their future subscribers - it seems like the wireless providers have an untenable position. They're going to choke growth. Subscriber rates will level, their ability to improve their infrastructure will be crippled, and they'll fall into a vicious cycle of not having the resources to grow because they haven't had the growth to fund resources. That sounds like a great opportunity for someone else to develop a competing technology and steal their market. I know WiMax was supposed to be that ticket, but just because it hasn't happened YET doesn't mean that something like it won't eventually solve this problem, while making the current carriers non-players.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

My wife is not a heavy cell user & doesn't have interest in smartphones, so now that we're kicking Verizon to the curb, I switched her back to a prepay and I've bought a Google-offered unlocked Galaxy Nexus to run a no-contract T-Mobile plan on. Even buying the phone outright, our annual mobile bill should be cut in half with this setup.

tbmay
tbmay

I mean, I like the idea of unlimited data as much as anyone. But you and I know better than your average Joe out there that doesn't understand technology, nor cares to, that infrastructure upgrades have to be paid for. Plenty of business failures to point to as examples of web advertising based businesses and such There is an expectation with the public that the "Internet" should be dirt cheap...and they are entitled to all they can eat. That model has never been sustainable...even if the public...and geeks...think it should.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

Good luck with that: There are only so many radio frequencies available--what happens when T-Mobile and Verizon both want to use the same channel at the same time in the same place? Do they just both use it and walk all over each other's signals, or sue each other for years and years and, in the meanwhile, neither uses it? Sorry, this is literally a textbook case of a resource that cannot possibly be shared successfully without some kind of centralized authority to decide who gets what. Are there problems? Sure. In fact, its the worst system in the world... except for all the others that have been tried up to this point.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Those of you with unused time / data should sell it off to the bandwidth hogs. :-)

tbmay
tbmay

Most tech professionals should have some sympathy for the concept of the fact that people don't value unlimited anything...especially if it relates to data-related things. There's a tendency for all free goods and services to be undervalued and over-consumed.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Most ads for consumer hardware show users doing frivolous things. One recent one from MS shows two people stranded in an airport, using their mobile device to watch what's on TV at home. I wondered why they weren't using the toy to change flights, get a rental car, reserve a hotel, or otherwise get out of the airport. But it's not just technology vendors. When was the last time you saw an auto ad that didn't include the phrase 'Professional driver on closed course', or that show skidding cars? (Seriously, who wants to buy a car that skids?)

dcolbert
dcolbert

And in that spirit, everyone who enjoys the quality content that Tech Republic supplies them on a weekly basis will be sending their Pro member subscription fees in shortly - because Tech Republic has infrastructure fees to pay. The servers that host this content don't pay for themselves, after all. Who can expect them to just provide this level of content and diversion for free, right? See what I mean? The site you are on is a successful example of that model. Every time you turn your television on and watch "free" OTA TV that is an example. Tech Republic offers excellent value-added experience that is worth the Tech Republic Pro subscription price - but advertising is what pays the bills and keeps all of us geeks with a happy place to argue over thins like this. There is no reason why Verizon couldn't monitize their pipe in a similar manner. Heck, Google OWNS the Internet, and they're giving it ALL away. Sell me, and give me unlimited Wireless access. I'll make that deal with Mephistopheles - and so will a hundred million other subscribers, and by the end, the executives, board of directors, and shareholders of Verizon will all be enjoying a big ol' Scrooge McDuck money bath. The problem is that they can't see that far. They're worried about losing their "obscene" profits on SMS messages. But I could be wrong. ;)

apachecav
apachecav

We keep finding new ways to digitize and differentiate cell phone signals one form the other, do not confuse regulatory double speak with science. Technology needs will always drive solution to problems at a far more efficient rate than government control can seek to cap usage???

dcolbert
dcolbert

Speaks to the basic fallacy of the carrier claims on this issue. The vast majority of users do NOT exceed or even approach their monthly bandwidth allotments - yet their allotment just disappears. The carriers are effectively admitting that they have capacity to burn - as long as customers are paying for it. It really is a scam - but I love this idea, Palm. They'll never do it, of course.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I was trying to select a popular tech example and Apple unsurprisingly came to mind as it is their slick advertising machine that won them their current place in our tech world. You see this more in cosmetics. I swear, the numbers get more ridiculous every year... "95% of people preferred this post..............[tiny white letters] based on a poll of the 20 people in my own IT department that like me. 1 of which is a joker." I wonder - if people are too dumb to get out of the way when a random pratt with a survey tries to stop them from shopping to ask a load of marketing questions do we really want to listen to their opinion and have them be the measure of how good a product is? :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

That advertising alone needs to be the sole revenue generator, or even their primary one. But it is silly to think that raising prices and reducing traffic is the best way to increase their business. The problem is this: The demand exists, and there are lots of alternate methods of getting the exact same product for far less money. If Verizon were selling an upscale restaurant experience against Cable's "Golden Corral, all-you-can-eat" buffet, maybe I'd buy it. But the problem is that they're not. The connection is a commodity. Wireless is not enough of a value-add to justify the added expense and limited bandwidth caps. They WANT customers using THEIR networks, but they're DRIVING customers to the networks of OTHER providers by pricing their service at such a premium. The rarity that Wireless Service Providers have that allows them to charge premium is how transportable a personal connection is - and that IS worth a premium. I'd pay more for an unlimited wireless broadband connection to the internet than for a wired one. But I wouldn't pay twice as much for five times less monthly capacity for it. That is ridiculous. Neither will most consumers. They're hurting their own growth. If I owned a cable service, I would live in fear of someone at the big wireless providers realizing that if they priced it nearly the same and offered the same bandwidth speed and no caps - I'd be out of the ISP business. But I'd hope they continue to ignore this and drive business my way. http://www.google.com/onceuponatime/tisp/install.html ;)

tbmay
tbmay

If techrepublic chose to shut down tomorrow, that would be their business. In fact, I couldn't complain too much if Google decided to stop giving me free gmail. Also, completely switching your core business to something that assumes advertising alone will pay the bills would be a pretty scary thing.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

...that such technology would need to exist, be totally-proven, and utterly ubiquitous before we can give up regulating the airwaves with central authority. But it doesn't presently exist, so it isn't proven, and also, obviously, isn't anywhere near ubiquitous (since it doesn't exist.) Call me when it is all three of those things, and then we can talk about helping FCC commissioners write up resumes to find new jobs. Until then, you're living in an Ayn Rand pipe-dream.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

.....was built around expected need with some extra thrown on for growth and unexpected peak bursts. At the time I designed it there were many managers who looked at it and said "this seems a bit overkill" (it was, and deliberately so). The point behind the design was to lask a number of years to repay it's investment while serving the needs of everything I could predict and a little more (because I'm only human). Whilst this didn't appear to be cost-effective at the time I built it I wasn't playing the short game. So far my network design is several years past it's predicted expiry and has served its needs admirably. My company has gotten more than it's money back on the investment because I spent the time analysing our expected use and planning for a touch more. By playing the long game we have certainly had a much more cost-effective network here. Many things went into my calculations but the most relevant to the mobile operators example would be the expected lifecycle of any given technology. To my mind, operators should plan their networks for just higher than average use with expansion over the estimated lifespan of the tech - then do it all again with the next tech. Their design needs to include effective ways of mitigating extreme peaks so that all users get acceptable minimum service during those times. I dare say while there will be a slight difference in our opinion as to where 'average' and 'high' use thresholds may fall, we're probably on the same page here. I want to see ISPs and mobile operators take a longer view approach to their networks as in my experience it does pay benefits. Businesses are rife with short-termism and time and again it catches them out with the consumer of the service paying the price. Immediate sales figures for the next period seem to be the principal driving force in today's business arena (and my business is no exception, I'm sad to say). Over subscription of services has no excuse. Allowing more users than you know you have capacity for is just plain wrong and is driven by naught but greed. I'd rather operators close subscribtions temporarily until they build in more capacity or until they manage to get agreement from their users to change the nature of their services. I pay for unlimited data with no peak throttling so why is it right that an operator can suddenly turn around and massively throttle my connection (or even drop it altogether, as they have on occasion) when they choose as they find they have no capacity to cope with what they've sold without fists obtaining my agreement to change the nature of my service? Should an ISP be suddenly able to increase your contention ratio or drop your connection speed just because they've oversold their service? We just accept this BS and leave the operators unchallenged all too often. The simple rule is: Don't sell what you don't really have. With smarter, longer term, network design, our operators could cope a lot better than they currently do and now we've had a decade or so of solid trends for data services and mobile tech growth operators should now have the data they need to plan appropriately. So, to reiterate your final point - "...there are huge inefficiencies in the design" Couldn't. Agree. More. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

I don't build my networks to be able to handle PEAK load times at maximum performance. I build them to deliver acceptable performance during AVERAGE load times. It isn't cost effective to do otherwise. In a heavy use situation things slow down for a few minutes, for example, after a power outage when I get a rush of 1000 users all logging back into all of their systems. Here come the calls, "Things were going great, and then we had a power outage, and now I'm logging back in and things are running slowly." My systems didn't even see the power outage - only the end-user's desktop. But suddenly my authentication systems are handling 10 times the usual simultaneous traffic all hitting the same servers (various levels of authentication). Yeah, I get that - but... I think you're off base, too. During the peak periods, they may not have enough bandwidth, but during MOST periods, they have extra capacity that isn't being utilized at all. I know *that* much about how my networks and systems are designed, too. During the worst peak periods, resources are pegged. During average use, I have a comfortable margin, during low use periods, even with maintenance and upkeep taking place, most of my enterprise is sitting idle and not utilized at all. The point then, is that there are huge inefficiencies in the design.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I think some brilliant young capitalist will see that barrier as an opportunity. Google would LOVE to figure out a way to get the entire world connected 24x7. Facebook would too. Facebook has more accounts than the United States population. 20 years ago, the idea of an online service with that many accounts was "impossible". It wasn't altruistic goals that drove Mark Z. to break *that* barrier. It was market-driven, capitalistic greed. Regardless of what you think of Facebook, I think it is inarguable that Facebook has made us a more connected society in a way that was previous difficult to imagine. Mark Z. thought it was possible, and he overcame a bunch of obstacles to make it happen. I think we have the brain power out there to deliver this. I think the problem is that the incumbents don't want to see the status-quo changed.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm talking broadly about the reason that a mobile device called a smart-phone *exists* in the first place. So that you can do what you want or need immediately, conveniently. The non-data example was intentional. Remember, at one time people thought, "If I need to make a call while I'm travelling, I'll use a pay phone for $.10." Now you need to have a Cell Phone because a pay phone is as hard to find as the Loch Ness monster. It changed society. Verizon built their company on this change that is actually one of those rare times that the phrase "paradigm shift" is appropriate. Now they're a mature, stable company with a built in model they are comfortable with, and they're terribly afraid of the next change that is coming. It'll come eventually either way, and they're in a great place to guide that shift in a way that benefits them. Or they can be the *target* for an aggressive upstart company that figures out how to gut THEIR model and profits while delivering a new model that is superior. Look at the Wireless Telcos coming in and gutting the model of the traditional telcos. They were young, hungry, risk-taking, and understood that they had a technology that would shift the balance in their favor. That technology is out there for mobile broadband data - even if it hasn't been invented yet. When it does, their minute-based voice communciation model via wireless tower is dead. That is what they're most afraid of, and it will probably happen. But they want to squeeze oil from their dinosaur as long as possible.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

"Because we haven't even figured out just WHAT we might be able to do with a global wireless high speed mobile internet that is affordable for mass consumer adoption - but it is PROBABLY mind blowing. " Global wireless net access is somthing that would transform many communities and certainly would change forever the way we consume services like news, entertainment and access to business networks. With low cost hardware the human race as a whole could benefit greatly. Other than the obvious tech problems with wireless access on such a grand scale, there is one massive barrier to this utopian vision - the carriers themselves. The companies holding the keys to the castle on this one wouldn't be able to effectively monetise such ubiquitous access. No company could. As such, nobody will push towards the creation of such a thing. This barrier is beyond our control. In capitalist societies we have deemed for so long that the market will drive change. The market will regulate itself. The market is all. Well, the market isn't selfless or visionary enough to go out and do something that's good for everyone - participants in 'the market' are out only for themselves. We created the monster and now we just about stop it from burning the castle down but no more. And that, sadly, can stifle innovation far better than any limits on wireless plans. :(

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I disagree with your statement that "The carriers are effectively admitting that they have capacity to burn" although I do see why it would look like that. Mobile carriers, just like ADSL or cable providers, have massively oversubscribed their networks for the products they sell. They bank on users having a 'normal' pattern on behaviour that they can largely predict and don't, as some people on this thread rightfully point out, build for the heaviest use they expect to see. The extra capacity they 'sell' to the average users is simply a comfort blanket to stop these users worrying about what service to buy - whether that user is on limited or unlimited doesn't matter a jot as the situation is currently the same either way. To a carrier/provider why build your network for the maximum (or even top 15%) of the traffic you'll see when you'll only see it occasionally on your network? It's far more profitable to build the network for the 'average users' and build a litle on for heavy users then just slow it all down during peak times, blaming the heavy users and pirates for why the service you paid for isn't being delivered at the levels you were promised. ISPs and mobile carriers should be ashamed of themselves. they have failed to plan their capacities correctly and frequently fail to deliver the services the users are paying for in good faith. Even on limited data plans you suffer this issue and it's not the people on the unlimited data plans causing this problem. For carriers to actually have the bandwidth they are selling they'd all have to limit all their users heavily and reduce the size of their user base. THAT would certainly stifle mobile innovation. As this would also stifle carrier profits there isn't a cat in hell's chance they'll do this (or, indeed, invest the right amount of cash in infrastructure to server their users effectively).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Minor quibble - "wait until you get HOME to talk to your mom " Aren't voice minutes measured separately from data transfers? "the idea is that we're supposed to be able to record items in real time and share them ... That is one of the BENEFITS that the carriers push about a smart-phone." Agreed, assuming you think the carriers are pushing this for any reasons other than their own best interests. Again, it's easy for me to kibitz; I'm a completely unaffected bystander.

dcolbert
dcolbert

That is what these devices are *made* for. Heck... don't take that call in the Starbucks, wait until you get HOME to talk to your mom about the family reunion. That is the thing. You MAY be right - but the whole justification for a mobile device is to have what you want or need immediately. It seems silly to make a device that is supposed to un-tether you from the devices that you can't take with you and then say, "but you can only use it a little bit, and you shouldn't use it for this, or that, or the other thing." Doesn't it? It defeats the whole purpose. Keep in mind, the device also TAKES the video and pictures - and that may be what they're talking about - someone who records something and doesn't UPLOAD it until later. Again, the idea is that we're supposed to be able to record items in real time and share them on social media sites so people who couldn't be present can attend vicariously. That is one of the BENEFITS that the carriers push about a smart-phone. Only - well, you should wait until you get to a WiFi signal to upload that big video, because you really don't want to squander your data-plan on that, do you? The fact that bandwidth demand on wireless carriers is blowing up and "stressing networks" is something that should be *encouraged*, not discouraged - and making it more expensive and more limited isn't the right way to make that market continue to grow. Then there is convenience. I just took the video, I can quickly click on it, select share, and send it to Facebook. Or I can wait a few hours, drive home, remember the video, and either connect to my WiFi and upload it directly from the phone, or copy it to my PC via USB or other method, and upload it from there. Sure, this can be done - in fact, I do this all the time. But it is a hassle. It takes more time, more steps, more thought and planning. Sometimes this can be a good thing, "Man, I'm glad I sobered up after that wedding party before I considered uploading THIS video to Facebook!" But more frequently it is just a hassle and impedes getting it done. "Did you upload that video of the employee awards to the social media sites and blogs?" "Oh darn! I forgot, I was waiting until I got back to the office and had a WiFi connection. I'll do it now." "It has been two weeks, Jones - never mind, don't bother. We're going to make Smith the new director of social media."

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm just pointing out that until Utopia arrives, there are other, less costly options for getting content onto a device. Some cell phone provider is currently running a series of TV ads, Various people (a little girl in a play, a new high school graduate, a German-accented boss) complain about someone who didn't download images of them because that person 'wasted' bandwidth on something else. I want to scream at the set, "Down load the damn video / photo / whatever on your computer and then upload it to the phone! Better yet, view it on the computer's larger screen! Isn't that how you would have done it three years ago?" The phone's expensive bandwidth isn't the only option, and deciding what is information is needed NOW and what can wait until you get home is a decision-making skill many seem to have lost.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is irrelevant to me. I don't care if the cost is artificially high; I just know it's higher than I'm willing to pay. Unlike others, I'm willing to vote with my wallet. But it isn't just the monthly service charges; I don't view the hardware as a good investment, even at the providers' subsidized price. There are plenty of things I'd rather do with $200. And as I noted earlier, I've turned down company phones several times. Short of travel emergencies, I just don't feel any need or want for this class of device, even when it's provided at no expense to me. The cost of 'pay as you go' hit the point where this late adopting Luddite did finally exclaim, "Boy, that's too cheap an insurance policy not to have one on the road". That was a $50 outlay for hardware and $25 every three months; that's not even a tank of gas these days. Road trips are the only time the phone gets charged; I just don't want it otherwise. If the unsubsidized price of a 'smart' phone and a couple of gigs monthly reaches those numbers, I -may- upgrade. Or not.

dcolbert
dcolbert

*enough to justify the expense*. That is exactly the problem. It is kept artificially expensive - and bandwidth caps are just one method by which that is implemented. I had a Cell phone in 1987. I was 17. Lawyers, Doctors and Drug Dealers had Cell Phones there. If you were 17 and you had a Cell Phone, it was a safe bet you were not either of the former. I was none of the 3, but I certainly received the kind of profiling the 3rd would because of my phones. My future in-laws suspected I was a drug dealer when I first met them because of it. I've watched, nearly from the start, as the industry held back adoption of this technology by keeping the technology artificially out of the reach of average consumers. The broader and more affordable they've made it, the larger the rewards they've enjoyed. I understand that build out was expensive and like any technology, there are price premiums to be paid for early adopters. But the quicker you can make your product have mass consumer accessibility, the *better* it is for your industry. You're an outlier on LATE adoption, Palm. Some people *never* bought into television, or land-line phones. But at some point, most people go, "Man, it is so cheap now and offers at least some benefits I can leverage, I might as WELL do it". I'm not a massive consumer of home bandwidth, and we consume 20GB of data a month on average. Wireless companies think that wireless Internet users can get by with 4GB or less. That isn't the case. They're basing their models on what consumers are doing with the limits of the devices they THINK they should be connecting with. They're not forecasting, they're not displaying vision - they're seeing their whole world in the current box they are already in. There is no ambition or direction - they're content with the status quo.

dcolbert
dcolbert

But that is going to limit broadband wireless access to IT professionals and the technically savvy. That is tremendously limiting your potential market. I'll refer to the models that Palm and Windows used on their embedded OS platforms. Both really focused on "enterprise, business class" consumption of their PDAs and early smart-phones. They actually distanced themselves from consumer, leisure markets on purpose in order to be perceived as "business class" devices. Their products were expensive and arguably crippled in ways that enabled productivity at the cost of widespread consumer application and adoption. Then the iPhone came out and revolutionized the SmartPhone market, and the Windows CE line and Palm became insignificant in a matter of months. As a matter of fact, the current plummet in RIM is a legacy of this move. When you structure your model like this, to appeal to "business class users" and require high technical barriers to entry - you may maximize initial profits - but in the long term, a broader market is a better goal to pursue. What people are pulling down from their phones is limited not because of the technological limits of the devices or method of connection. It is limited because of artificial caps and other roadblocks put in place by the Wireless Telcos. This is about market demand. Nearly every consumer in the world who has a wired Internet connection would dump it if they could get the same level of service and speed from a wireless device that they could take anywhere with them, if the price were right. It is a superior solution - but it can serve the same need, with benefits. If this *were* the case, the usage pattern of wireless would change. People would use a MiFi hotspot as their sole Internet connection at home and on the go. They would hook up all their increasingly connected consumer devices. Their blu-ray, their game-console, their refrigerator - whatever - would all go through their wireless connection. They would let the kids stream Netflix cartoons over the in-car, MiFi connected LCD screen when they went on trips. They would use the connection when shopping to price compare. They would download movies and music. All that business, all that traffic, would be stolen from the billions of dollars people pay annually for their traditional wired connections. There is a precedent for this. How many people have dumped traditional wired telephones to solely have mobile phones? Isn't this a problem for the traditional telcos? The same disruptive technology that allowed the Wireless Telcos to change the model for the Bells could be just as disruptive for Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Roadrunner and... well, the Bells, again. :) Just because it CAN wait doesn't mean it should HAVE to. The cellular phone and the Internet were revolutionary for society. During both of those periods lots of people dismissed those technologies saying, "Why can't things be done the way they always were". Because we haven't even figured out just WHAT we might be able to do with a global wireless high speed mobile internet that is affordable for mass consumer adoption - but it is PROBABLY mind blowing. And right now, this short-sighted view of the wireless ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile is holding that revolution back. Ultimately - there is a market demand - a HUGE one, for this kind of thing - even if no one *knows* it yet. Someone like Steve Jobs who is visionary and has the drive to deliver it is going to change the world. I'd like to see that time come sooner, rather than later.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not; certainly not enough to justify the expense. I don't support several organizations. I've declined a company phone several times as a waste of resources, since I get called at home only about once every 18 months. I look up addresses and directions before I leave the house.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I keep in contact with several organizations through email and having it mobile so I can keep up to date through out the day is invaluable. Before I had my smart phone I had to block out time while I was at home for email which affected my family time. I can also quickly get answers to questions immediately instead of waiting until I get to a computer to get the info. I look up address on maps, navigate to places I have never been, etc. If you are any type of data consumer I would bet money you would quickly find a smart phone invaluable.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I as disinterested as a bystander can be. I have rock-bottom pay-as-you-go plan, a phone that only gets charged before a road trip, and used for voice calls only. From this vantage point, it looks like much of what people are pulling down to their phones could just as easily be downloaded to a computer first via traditional methods (cable or DSL), then uploaded to the phone. I submit this should be the method for most entertainment content. It's a question of priority and triage: what information do you need NOW vs. what can wait. Just this idiot's opinion...