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Are Mobile Broadband Caps Going The Way Of The Dinosaur?

by Sean P. Aune | May 5, 2010May 5, 2010 9:48 am PDT

T-Mobile announced this past week that it would no longer be charging for overages if you go over the 5 GB limit on its data plans.  While this is a cause for some rejoicing, there is downside that the mobile carrier will instead throttle your speed.  How bad will it be?  Well, a sales rep for T-Mobile explained it to The Mobile Gadgeteer as, you will be able to do “light Web surfing and e-mailing, but [it] does not provide an optimal experience for data intensive tasks like video streaming, file downloading, or picture viewing.”  Still, e-mail and IM are two of the main things people do on their mobile devices, so if you can do that without paying extra, it isn’t a total loss.

sprintwimaxIt would seem that the cellular carriers in the United States can’t get to be as of one mind on this subject, though.  You have T-Mobile no longer charging for overages, and you have AT&T offering unlimited data for $30 a month on the iPad 3G version, and Sprint is offering unlimited data on its OverDrive device when you are on 4G.  While all of this is going on, you have Verizon talking about launching tiered data plans.

Anthony Melone, chief technology officer at Verizon Wireless, told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that, “as much data as you can consume is the big issue that has to change.”  He went on to say that the biggest hurdle right now is finding a way to let consumers know how much data they have used, “It’s one thing to say all you can eat is gone.  It’s another to have consumers worrying, ‘Can I stream this radio?’ That’s what we don’t want.”

To add even more to the confusion, the same article states that AT&T executives have made similar comments, but that just makes this whole discussion even that more muddled due to the iPad factor in all of this.

Which is it?  Are we moving away from data caps, or aren’t we?  In this day and age, paying $50 or $60 a month for 5 GB of data is pretty insane, if the companies want to move to a tiered system, at least make them more reasonably priced.  If you want to go the route of unlimited data with limitations like throttling, then do it.  Having all of the major carriers going in different directions is just going to lead to that much more confusion.  “Oh, I went over and you want another $100?  But I thought you just throttled my connection … oh, that’s a different carrier …”  Of course, this all assumes that every user out there also knows what the term “throttling” means in this case, but I digress.

I know that all of these carriers are in competition with one another, but it would just be nice to see some sort of cohesive decision when it comes to what consumers can expect from them.  Any way you slice it, it looks like the current system of “5 GB a month” being the cap is going the way of the dinosaur, now it’s just a question of what we end up with.

What say you?  Would you prefer throttled speeds over 5 GBs of usage, or do you want to go to a tiered system?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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