4G with data-caps: pay for a month, hit your limit in under an hour

Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg, who wrote an outstanding paper on the law and 3D printing, has a new paper, this one on 4G networks with data-caps, and how weird it is to advertise that your network is a) very fast and suitable for video; and b) that you'd better not use it for data-intensive applications. He sez, "Wireless carriers have started to push their new 4G networks. The carriers say that these new networks are amazing, and will allow you to do more, faster, than ever before. What they do not tell you is that you will not be able to use the new 4G networks for very much. That is because the wireless carriers (with the exception of Sprint, which offers truly unlimited 4G connections) have imposed arbitrary limits on their 4G networks. For the average user, this limit is set at 2 GB per month. As a result, just about everything that you would use the 4G network for will put you over your limit. At full speed, you will hit a month's worth of caps in under an hour. In that time, you might be able to download half an HD movie to watch for the rest of the month."

This unfortunate fact is the result of a combination between fast 4G networks that deliver a lot of data and low limits on how much data you can use. The 4G speed means that you hit your cap even faster than you would on the existing 3G network. How much faster? Well, Verizon advertises its 4G network can deliver top speeds between 5 and 12 Mbps. AT&T claims it can deliver 6 Mbps. At those speeds, you will hit your monthly limit in less than one hour.

Of course, you may not think about your connection in terms of how long you can use it at full blast. Instead, you might think about it in terms of what you can actually do with the connection.

Under AT&T and Verizon’s 2 GB monthly limit, you could download half of an HD movie from iTunes before hitting your limit. Alternatively, you could download two 45-minute HD TV shows. If you shot some video you wanted to share with friends, you might be able to upload 2 ten-minutes videos. Keep in mind that any one of those things would essentially use up your data cap for the month, so you would not be able to do anything else with your smartphone (like get your email or get directions) without going over the limit.

Arbitrary Data Limits Make Wireless 4G A Waste of Money


  1. I will never understand data caps, even from a business perspective. Data is about as cheap a resource there is, and screwing with customer loyalty will always hurt you in the mid-term. Will MBA’s ever be able to see past the immediate gain?

    1. No. Maximize short-term profits, exercise stock options, and then bail before the ship starts sinking and they can blame it on you. But even if they DO blame it on you, you’ve got a heck of a severance package! That’s the corporate american way!

    2. how cheap is data (aka bandwidth) to a provider? i didn’t think it was that cheap. Upgrades to their servers and towers can’t be that cheap. 

      1. Data infrastructure is not cheap, but that’s why they, you know, charge people money to use it. The reality is that all the wireless providers have underinvested in their infrastructure relative to their marketing promise, and would prefer to continue along this path.

      2. there are studies, the actual price of bandwidth is something like 0.005 CENTS per megabit

    3. Nice comment bro!
      Why is it always blame someone with education. I have an MBA and I think arbitrary data caps are bad for everyone… consumers, business, etc. It is a shock but most of the people I went to school with think the same (except for that one guy who now works for ATT, me may the one to blame).

  2. A waste of money – well, that’s very dependent on what you use your smartphone for. There ARE other uses for smartphones besides video, and those uses would also benefit from a faster connection. While I definitely think a complete re-think of data caps would be useful, it’s fairly ignorant to think that the only use of a fast connection is for video.

    1. We got a 4G phone (HTC Evo, with Sprint) because we wanted to use it as a wireless access point at our house. Our only other option was dial-up with AT&T, and we were so over that, after 5 years of dead slow internet.

      1. Yeah, I’ve got an EVO 4G myself, but the connection and coverage is terrible, and even when it does connect, it’s really not all that fast. It’s a great 3G phone, though, for its time. I certainly would not want to have to rely on a WiMAX connection for my main internet connection at home.

    2. While I agree that there are many things you could do with your data, wireless carriers are advertising heavily the fact that you will be able to download movies, upload video, and do other bandwidth intensive things.

      If they are advertising a service that puts you on a monthly contract for an amount of data you can easily burn through in less than an hour, that’s more than a little ridiculous, it’s criminal. I’m waiting for the data wars to begin, and class action lawsuits on false/misleading advertising to hit the major carriers.

  3. I overheard someone talking with a mobile service rep. All I could do was shake my head and motion to hang up.

  4. What is overlooked here is that smart smartphone users often just switch to wifi to download, whenever they can. The other day my phone wasn’t downloading anything, and I scratched my head until I figured out my in-home router needed a reboot. 3G and 4G are for when you’re not near wifi!

    1. Yea, but if you’re just downloading over wifi, then you don’t need 4G. They advertise 4G as all these fantastic things you can do while just walking down the street, or on a train, or wherever, even if you don’t have wifi….but you can’t actually do them.

    2. No, you are missing the point that if I am paying for more the 3g/4g service on my phone than my home cable connection then I should be able to use it as much as I want to. Also, when my “unlimited data” plan is capped at 5gigs and cost 60% more then my cable internet its impossible for you to make a case that they are not screwing their own customers. 

    1. The piece is written funny. They put a link to the guy’s previous paper at the top of the story and the link to this subject’s paper at the bottom.

  5. Point taken about the limits being silly but really, it makes 4g useless? 3g speeds are, say, 1 mbps and 4g is around 5Mbps. Using the maths this means 3g users hit their limit in about 5 hours.  That is for a whole MONTH!  No reason to buy 3g, might as well use 2g…

    1. I don’t think people are realizing that while you hit your cap in 1 hour with 4g, you’re still getting the SAME amount of data in that one hour. So with a 3g that 1/2 video would take you 4 hours to download. What’s the benefit of that? The cap for data is the same.

  6. I support data caps because bandwidth is not an unlimited resource.  I think it’s wrong to think about the relationship between a faster connection and data caps like this because it doesn’t say the whole story- you should not be downloading HD movies at 4GB a pop on your phone, for multiple reasons.  4G being faster than 3G is a good thing because it means you can do the stuff you were already doing faster and more reliably.  

    1. I’m torn on this. For land lines, I’m a firm believer that if I’m paying for a particular speed line, i should be able to utilize that line 100% of the time at 100% of the advertised speed. With wireless, I do understand that capacity planning is tougher because of moving clients. A concert in central park is going to cause congestion, both on the network traffic and on human traffic, and there’s not a lot that can be done in a situation like that but hope that one can get ANY sort of bandwidth at that point.

      1. Sure, in certain circumstances, bandwidth is limited for wireless. But why should the potential for congestion in a concert or other crowded venue mean that I can’t download what I want when I’m in the middle of nowhere and the only person on that particular tower? Make the towers limit speeds when there’s congestion — that happens already. When there isn’t, what’s the point of data caps? And even when there is, if everyone decides to upload video from the concert, it doesn’t matter if they have data caps. Data caps limit your average bandwidth, but say nothing about instantaneous usage, which is the real problem.

      1. Yes, bandwidth IS limited. There’s a theoretically limit on how much data you can cram into the air. It’s not a series of tubes exactly, but there is absolutely a hard limit.

        1. There is no hard limit.  There may be a hard limit given a certain technology.  But there is no theoretical hard limit, apart from, say, the number of quarks and neutrinos in the universe?

          Given more sensitive technology, MORE data can saturate a given frequency.

          And if you read Contact by Sagan, you might recall some really cool plot tricks about polarity, overlay and compression of signals.

      2. How do you figure?  There’s a limited amount of bits per second a cellular tower can send/receive.  There’s a limited amount of megabits per second your home router can send/receive, and if you think about the Internet as big group of massive routers there’s a maximum amount of mega/giga/terabits per second that can be pushed around through them.  

        At my University, people have bandwidth caps.  Not because they want to limit how much data people can get, but because it’s entirely possible for one person to saturate the entire campus’s bandwidth and they should not be able to do that indefinitely.  How is it an unlimited resource?

      3. Bandwidth is a limited resource.  4G bandwidth is about 5 Mbps.  What you are probably referring to is throughput.  This is what is referenced by the 2GB cap. Which some would argue is not a limited resource, because if you speed is X, then the maximum throughput you can use is X * time = Y, therefore they shouldn’t limit Y, because it’s already limted by X and time.  The question is, the network can’t handle 100% of the users using 100% of their maximum speed 100% of the time.  So how do you get people to not use it in that way?  Well, the only sane solution that most people will understand is to limit the total throughput.  You could try limiting the whole network to something that everybody could use full blast 100% of the time, but then it would be too slow to use. 

      4. Well, it’s limited in the same way electricity is limited. At any particular place and time, there’s only so much than can be effectively delivered in a useful way. That doesn’t mean a data cap is the best way of handling it, though.

        1. This was my point.  The cost is front end loaded; increasing the ability for the network to carry traffic doesn’t break down on a “per GB” basis, it breaks down on a “per GB per second” basis.  A cap is not an effective way of dealing with bandwidth problems any more than rolling blackouts is an effective way of dealing with electrical supply problems.

          1. By conflating the electrical grid and network usage you implicitly suggest that charging people by the megabyte is the best way to handle this problem.  Better than an arbitrary cap, right?

        2. But what is the analogue to fuel in your example? What is the incremental cost of delivering an additional megabit of data? Surely the electricity cost to power the wireless network isn’t driving the cost, look to Europe where fuel is more expensive; they have less of this tomfoolery happening.

          1. Energy is one input, and a non-trivial one. But, yes, one of the challenges of upgrading data networks is that you reach a point that you are maxing out the equipment, and you need to upgrade the infrastructure. And that’s not cheap. There are still plenty of cell towers whose backhaul is still just a T1 blazing away at 1.5Mbps.

            I still have my grandfathered unlimited AT&T data plan, and I rarely come close to 2GB in a month, but one of the reasons for that is that the data performance sucks, so attempting to do things that would use that much capacity is extremely painful. If I had a reliable 14Mbps connection, you’d bet I’d use it for more stuff.

          2. I used 2gb this month. I too am on a grandfathered unlimited plan. My crime: letting my kids watch PinkyDinkyDoo over Netflix. Maybe twice. In a month. Oh, and g+.

    2. Electricity delivered by the mains is not an unlimited resource, either, yet most places consider brownouts to be the sign of a failing infrastructure, not a rational response to consumer demand.

      1. You also pay for the amount of electricity you use and don’t get a flat fee.  Your analogy is hopelessly flawed.

        1. So? That’s just the payment model. Lots of ISPs charge for data in exactly the same way as electricity: You pay for each unit of data. There’s no reason the wireless providers couldn’t do the same.

    3. Nicholas, care to support your claim that “you should not be downloading HD movies at 4GB a pop on your phone, for multiple reasons.” with oh, a few reasons? Evidence would be great, but reasons will do.

      1. I can provide no mathematical or ethical proof for why you shouldn’t; I just think it’s both a bad idea (slow, phones have little storage and are not particularly useful for watching HD movies) and an unlikely use case (Netflix on the phone?).  Someone might argue that it’s for the desktop but in that case it’s basically tethering, and if you tether extensively you should probably have a better data plan.  
        Basically, it’s a phone, the data plans are reasonable, and I don’t think that downloading HD movies on a phone is reasonable.  Or likely.  

        1. My phone’s perfectly acceptable for watching stuff. “Little storage”? We have gotten blase when 14-ish GB is “little storage.” I’m not going to get the full Lawrence of Arabia experience, but for passing some time while in flight, it’s fine.

    4. Bandwidth isn’t unlimited, but the price the carriers pay to provide it has been dropping a lot faster than the price per bit consumers have been paying. 

      I’m not against data caps, but I think they should be reasonable ones. Companies are still thinking in terms of Megabytes, when data has shifted into the Gigabyte range. If you’re going to advertise the fact that you can download an HD movie in 4G on your phone (regardless of whether or not you should), then you had better provide the bandwidth to do it. It’s that, or don’t advertise it as a feature.

      Current the cost of the “feature” of downloading an HD movie is that you can’t use your bandwidth for anything else.

      1. I quite agree with you here.  Verizon’s 4G advertising does seem to revolve around the super fast downloading of large content (movies, etc).  This is quite misleading to the consumer regarding the capabilities of the connection (i.e. yes it /can/ do it, but LOLOLOL you will regret it).

        I also agree that the caps are too small, but there should still be caps. The tech probably couldn’t support every 4G user pulling 15GB a month, but even then everybody isn’t bursting at once. The nature of most modern network and computational resource is that we oversubscribe the fuck out of it, because we can. These networks could definitely support 5 to maybe even 10GB a user without dying, but then they couldn’t charge those lovely $10/gig overages.

        @facebook-9032933:disqus referred earlier to the fact that our Uni (I happen to know him IRL :P) has hard usage caps per 7 day period.  However, they are soon switching to a sliding scale system.  In that sort of system, you are simply throttled once you use a certain amount of data (ex. 10MB/s for the first 10GB, 2MB/s for 10-15GB, 500KB/s for 15-20GB, etc).  We’re performing this throttling on a LAN of ~25,000 network devices with a small appliance, surely a cell tower could do the same.

      1. My networking professor and two IT bosses seemed to think otherwise, but feel free to correct me with actual reasons and stuff.  I know I simplified things a bit- because people generally don’t understand networking- but the ideas that apply to the bandwidth cap at my University do also apply to the Internet at large.  

        1. 4G standards not only move data faster, they also use spectrum more efficiently. So I could move 2-3 Mbps/MHz before on 3G, and 15Mbps/MHz now on 4G (approximately right, says wikipedia), and I have the same number of users and range of frequencies available.

          If data rate and spectral efficiency both go up by a factor of 5-7, and number of users stays about the same, then I should be able to use my data rate for the same number of hours as before without affecting the network, not the same number of bits. And really, you can do even better if you continue building more towers/making cells smaller.

    5. I could just point out if they took some of that billion dollar profits each quarter and invested more into their network, it could be. Fact is caps dont affect most people, just power users. I understand most people will look at it and say meh what do I care, but that doesnt mean what they are doing is right. 

  7. Based on my experience with Clear 4G any speeds over 2 mbps is a damn lie, and with Clear data caps didn’t matter as you never had hope of reaching them given the regular service outages.  So, I see no problem here.

    1. Also true of T-Mobile. The mere idea of “watching a video” on my HTC G2 with them makes me laugh; it takes ten minutes to sync a calendar. I pretty much only use my phone for that and for a half-meg spreadsheet that takes a minute to open. Not to mention the fact that the 4G coverage area is “nowhere near here”.

  8. I wouldn’t say that makes 4G useless. Would you rather a webpage take 5 seconds vs. 1 second to load? I think the result is pretty clear.  While you may not be able to watch Netflix movies all day over your cellphone’s data connection, that doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless.  Not only that, but 4G brings down the latency quite a bit too.  So while you may still just be surfing the same old pages you did on your 3G connection, you will be doing it much faster.

    1. There’s a lot of stilted truths happening among the data cap defenders – I’ll pick this one – ‘watch Netflix movies all day on your phone’? That implies you could watch even a single Netflix movie w/o immediately reaching your cap.

      I would only be interested in 4g for large files & video chat – the data caps will have to go – if they don’t I’m going to wonder about price fixing…

  9. One other thing to keep in mind if you’re switching from a 3G to a 4G phone:  if you already have an unlimited data plan, DO NOT do anything, or allow your carrier to in any way change your plan!  They can’t force you into a plan with data caps, but they CAN try to hookwink you into making “upgrades” to your plan that would essentially take away your unlimited bandwidth (upgrading your phone to become a tethered laptop modem for example – AT&T just tried that with me).  And so long as you don’t switch carriers, you should be able to continue to receive unlimited bandwidth coverage – that is, until they decide to discontinue the practice altogether.

    1. There’s something else they can do: Come October, AT&T will begin throttling the top 5% of data users.

  10. No sense in using this technology if its costs and limitations are bizarre.  

    I am switching off my iphone when my contract expires and getting a tracfone.  I will do my internet activities on a laptop. Until the cell networks are fast, reliable and cheap to use, I’m going to stick with the tried-and-true, not to mention inexpensive, land-based network. It’s just growing pains right now and the telcos are passing the pain onto the consumer. So I’d rather not participate until it’s safe.

  11. Is this the same AT&T that is claiming the T-Mobile merger (buying the competition) will not hurt the consumer, or cellular innovation?

    Ignoring customers needs, and instead nickel and diming them in a smoke and mirrors game of overage charges. When does that ever work out long term for the company? Oh yeah! When they are monopolized!

  12. Welcome to the Information Superhighway. Too bad you’re only allowed to travel a quarter mile.

  13. Why does this industry have capped & throttled plans instead of tiered ones?
    They’d make more money *and* not saturate the bandwidth.By tiered, I mean something like: 1st 5GB=$0, next 10GB=50¢/MB, next 10GB=$1/MB, beyond=$2/MB (don’t get hung up on those numbers: I’m just making them up).

  14. And this is why I’m with Sprint.

    Been with them almost 9 years now. While they’re not the absolute best company, they’ve been great to me, given me probably a total of a year’s worth of free service (back when I was on my $30/month plans), and they have truly unlimited data connections.

    Now if only their 4G didn’t get totally annihilated whenever I go inside a building… stupid 2GHz band.

  15. pardon my ignorance but what’s the point of watching HD video on a tiny little screen to begin with?And what video is so crucial that it needs to be watched immediately via streaming? Aren’t there much more important things in life than streaming video on demand? Who’s the one making us think we want this to begin with?

    1. more than just watching video, but…i like watching video while im waiting in long lines or waiting for my number to be called, or sitting in my car waiting for other people to hurry up doing whatever they are waiting for. sure it is small…but sometimes even a laptop is too much to lug around, and my phone has a good size screen. waiting

  16. The ridiculousness of the caps and AT&T’s top 5% penalty is that they are ostensibly trying to solve the problem of congestion at peak times by limiting total usage. If I download a HD movie on my phone at midnight when there’s almost no network traffic, there’s no harm and virtually no cost. But regardless, I get put in the penalty box. It’s as if you were trying to solve the problem of rush hour traffic by putting a limit on the number of miles you can drive in a year. There are technical solutions for the congestion problem, but it’s clear that the point is to undo expectations about data usage, in order to create more pricing tiers to make more money per user. In short, you are being scammed.

  17. If cellular networks were truly concerned with optimizing the use of limited data bandwidth, they’d offer “anytime data” with free nights and weekends, to encourage use when the network’s under less stress.

    But they’re not, so they don’t.

  18. I wish I could explain why this makes me cackle like a mental patient. It’s such obviously, blatantly misleading advertising that you skip right past anger and frustration and land square on “BWAAHAHAHAHAAMYHEADSGONNAEXPLODELOL”.

  19. what really irks me, is when im connected through wifi for calls (tmobile)…it counts against my minutes…i am on an unlimted plan…but it still pisses me off that they would charge me for using my resources that takes pressure off of their network… they should give me a discount, I am gonna hold my breath now

  20. My plan is 4GB.  I’ve never used more than 1GB.  If you actually use your 2GB in 22 minutes, buy a bigger data plan.  Yeesh.

  21. While phone companies advertising HD video downloading is definitely a bit false given that data caps really aren’t made for that kind of throughput, I have a relatively fast HSPA+ connection here in Vancouver and my 500mb cap is plenty. 4G, or HSPA+, or whatever you want to call faster-than-3G networks are, at least in my experience, measurably faster than 3G, and that makes them worthwhile from my perspective. This argument is a bit much.

  22. LTE isn’t 4G – Not even close.

    LTE  = Peak download rates of 326.4 Mbit/s for 4×4 antennas, and 172.8 Mbit/s for 2×2 antenna, Peak upload rates of 86.4 Mbit/s for every 20 MHz of spectrum using a single antenna.

    4G principles for throughput are :
    A nominal data rate of 100 Mbit/s while the client physically moves at high speeds relative to the station, and 1 Gbit/s while client and station are in relatively fixed positions, A data rate of at least 100 Mbit/s between any two points in the world. 

    1. You are correct that was the original definition of 4G, but the power of marketing took over and now HSPA+ and LTE are called 4G.  But peak data rates are really worthless by comparison too.  Nobody will reastically do 4×4 MIMO and 20 MHZ spectrum so it doesn’t do much good to talk about those numbers in practical use.

  23. This is why I don’t have a data phone. I want an iPhone, but with two of us, the cost would be stupidly high. I just can’t justify paying so much for a phone that comes with limits on their “unlimited” plans. Besides, the only reason I’d get a phone capable to doing any of that was to actually do things like check maps, watch youtube clips, and whatnot. 

  24. Some people are missing the basic point: they sold their systems based on claims of “unlimited”, and all the wonderful things you could do with that “unlimited”, including developing and permitting the installation of software (and remember, every carrier determines what you can and cannot get on the Android Market) that would challenge their secret definitions of “unlimited”,  then  once customers were hooked into a supplier, out came the varying definitions of “unlimited” that are limited, and the discontinuation of plans that even had the “unlimited” appearance. It’s pure bait and switch, transparently so, and on different levels, and I’m surprised the whole bunch of them aren’t in court being ripped into tiny shreds. The fact that in the fine print somewhere they negate their advertising promise should be absolutely no excuse. to pull such an obvious scam.

    But we continue to lie down and let corporations screw us at every turn, including buying our government, so we deserve exactly what we are getting.

  25. I’ve got T-mobile’s Galaxy S 4G and prefer my movies on a screen bigger than the palm of my hand, especially when I’ve got to hold said screen for the duration of the film. Anywho, my plan states 4G speeds up to 2GB and then, after that, some other “regular but fast” speed. Given that I try to remember to switch to Wi-Fi at home and keep my Katy Perry consumption down at work, I can my plan works just fine and generally (not always) seems pretty darn fast. My “unlimited” broadband is just that and experience is satisfying. I know they advertise people watching action flicks on their phones but why would you do that? I guess it’s good they don’t show kids jumping into lakes with it, too.

  26. I’ve got T-mobile’s Galaxy S 4G and prefer my movies on a screen bigger than the palm of my hand, especially when I’ve got to hold said screen for the duration of the film. Anywho, my plan states 4G speeds up to 2GB and then, after that, some other “regular but fast” speed. Given that I try to remember to switch to Wi-Fi at home and keep my Katy Perry consumption down at work, I can my plan works just fine and generally (not always) seems pretty darn fast. My “unlimited” broadband is just that and experience is satisfying. I know they advertise people watching action flicks on their phones but why would you do that? I guess it’s good they don’t show kids jumping into lakes with it, too.

  27. One thing to keep in mind, too, is that “phones” (i.e., the slab smartphone form factor) are not the only thing eating off of this plate. Tablets, which are much more reasonable as workstations and media viewers, will be using the same infrastructure.

  28. Off topic: In what universe can 2GB be reasonably considered to be half of an HD movie? A single-sided single-layer regular DVD holds 4.7GB and/or ~2 hours of DVD-quality video. A single blu-ray disk holds 25GB on each of 2 layers.

    1. Discs are not as compressed as streaming files. Common sizes for files ripped from DVDs are around 700 MB. I have a couple of Blu-ray rips that I made into ~4 GB h.264 files. Your point still stands, though. You can’t do anything remotely heavy on this on a regular basis.

      1. To get that much compression you’re going to have more loss. I know it’s unlikely to matter on a small screen, but people do tether and stream to larger devices. Regardless, calling an ultra-compressed file (made several times smaller than a standard DVD) “HD” is misleading, if not lying. If you take an HD movie and remove data to compress it down by an order of magnitude; down to smaller than a standard DVD, it’s not HD anymore.

  29. When my tubes got clogged by the Comcasm I switched over to my TMO 4G connection (rebroadcast over the wifi directly from the phone). It was fucking awesome, faster than Comcastic. I hit their unlimited limit in one night and got a notice stating that for the rest of the current monthly billing cycle I would be punished with slow tubes. It made me sad. I pay $100 a month for an unlimited data plan I expect unlimited fucking datas!!!

  30. Hey, at least they are only throttling.  Other companies will either 1) cut you off or 2) charge you something insane per gig overage.

    Also, it’s unlikely that modern cell contracts are /actually/ unlimited (as much as I wish they were).  I bet in the fine print somewhere it either says there’s a 5GB limit, or that it is unlimited “within reasonable usages” aka their discretion.

  31. Why should these users pay for 3g or 4g if they have to use wifi most of the time? If you tell Verizon to take the data plan off your account, they lie to you: “Smart phones require data packages.” This is bull. You could do most things with just wifi.

  32. Don’t forget, data travelling across the net is paid for over and over again – site owner pays host, host pays ISP, ISP pays other ISPs in either cash or peerage agreements (data for data swaps), consumer pays ISP. All for that same bit of data.

    This is why the likes of Akami can make a *lot* of money by putting their caching systems into service providers to cut down on external network access. Since the majority of mobile data providers make heavy use of caching, it actually costs them the most when new content is accessed for the first time, after that the cost is incredibly reduced to the point where your cap or metered access becomes a cash cow for them.
    Which is handy since traditional cash cows have been eroded away (voice and sms) in the price wars and with the way that technology scales they stand to make a lot of money out of data, especially since the majority try to be more than a dumb pipe and try to serve you content (which reduces their data bills since much of it is stored on their local networks, allowing them to keep more of your money for their profit).

    Want to hit back at miserly caps? Either move and tell them it’s because of their data tarrif or try to make 100% of your cap obscure content forcing the margin on that data down ;)

  33. ummm… does anyone really need this? My friends laughed at me a decade ago when I told them internet access on a cell phone would go big. I don’t think they realized that they themselves would be why.

    Jesus, people… pull the fucking plug already. Are we all so addicted to interaction with people we don’t even know? Is it really that important that your Twitter/FB friends know where you are every minute of the day? Don’t you have a couple of friends that you’d prefer to call to join you as opposed to a  blanket broadcast to folks who’s eye color you can’t even remember? Do you really need to feel famous on the ‘net? Do you really need this technological crutch that serves only to make you feel popular?

    No litany of questions from me will make you objectively consider why you frivolously trade data. You’ll merely come up with excuses, or become angry that I find such pursuits hypocritically trivial (I am, after all, posting here am I not?).

    Keep it up, though. I make my living with data. I’m going to retire quite comfortably while we all spend less time with the face across the room and more with the faceless personas across the globe.

  34. Sorry, but this article’s a load of tosh. If mugs are running around continuously downloading terabytes of data, it would just bung up the cell towers for everyone – the iPhone disease on AT&T you Yanks had. Ditto ADSL – exchanges have a finite bandwidth, and if some tool is torrenting masses of data, it just slows the connection for everyone. Caps are necessary because bandwidth is limited. And an hour of continuous mobile downloading isn’t bad for a month when most mobile sites and apps are done in a second or two. Maybe cable or fibre has enough bandwidth to allow everyone unlimited downloads, but until then, a few dozen gigs a year is sufficient for most folk on copper, and a gig is sufficient for mobile when there are free wifi spots everywhere.

  35. Nobody wonders what these huge data rates, being broadcast from a tower above your head will do to your body’s cellular structure after a few years? Every day, we’re becoming more exposed to more microwave energy that is not so far off from what you are using to cook bacon in your microwave.

    1. There is always Antartica or sub-Saharan Africa if you want to escape EMF, but it’s still there.

  36. First, I agree with the author’s premise.  It is a bit disingenuous for the carriers to say “look at how awesome the network is” and then give users every disincentive to use it they way they advertise. But what else is new? They’re in the business to make money.

    BUT, I do have to say that the author is exaggerating a bit too. For example, the author says:

    “At full speed, you will hit a month’s worth of caps in under an hour.”

    They key phrase is “at full speed” which you will never get unless you are about 1 meter from the cell antenna and you are the only user on that sector.  So, I get the fact that the author is taking some creative license to illustrate his point by saying you can use all your data in X number of minutes, but the reality is that’s not true either.  

    If Friend A told you they drove 100mph and Friend B told you they drove 10mph over the same distance, the distance doesn’t change — only the time it took it took to get the destination. Will your email download faster with faster downlink speed? Yes. But you’re not going to transmit any more data just because the network bandwidth increased.  The point is if your usage behavior doesn’t change, you are not going to see any difference from going from 3G to 4G.  Now you might say “gee, this 4G network experience is so incredibly good that I want to watch YouTube all day long every day and not go to work anymore”, but I expect that will not be the case for most people. The human factors of device design and UI are just as important in increased data usage, if not more so, than perceived network responsiveness.  In fact, there is probably more of a floor than a ceiling around network responsiveness. If the network is running slowly, then a user is much more likely to say “to hell with it, I’ll try again later” than they are to say “wow, the network is running so unbelievably fast right now I think I’ll download a video just because I can”. 

    I have both a smartphone and a 3G USB dongle for my laptop. I am on “grandfathered” unlimited plans for both but I track my usage every month anyway.  On my smartphone, I never come close to hitting the 2GB limit because there is only so much I can do with my smartphone. But on my laptop, I would exceed the 2GB usage cap every month. The type of device and what you’re using it for make a difference. You are simply not going to watch a full 1080p HD video on your smartphone.  When it starts to get tricky is when your smartphone is acting as a hotspot for your laptop.

  37. Data caps = BAD.  But why would anyone waste their available data downloading HD video to watch on a 3″ screen?

    1. Doesn’t have to be HD video. Watching Netflix on a 30 minute commute (like I have going to and from college everyday) will eat up your cap pretty quick.

  38. Exact same problem with regular internet in Canada. My account has a 14MB/s connection. It also has a 60GB cap per Month. Do the math. That’s about 0.014GB/s. 0.84GB/m. 50.4GB/h.

    So theoretically I can bust my monthly cap in 1.2 hours. Realistically it is longer than that as no one gets sustained speeds of 14MB/s, but even so one could possibly bust their cap in a couple of hours.

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