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Cellphones Businesses The Almighty Buck Wireless Networking

Verizon Droid Tethering Comes At a Hefty Price 555

Posted by timothy
from the unlimited-and-5GB-are-not-the-same dept.
Pickens writes "Tom Bradley reports in PC World that the new Motorola Droid smartphone will cost users $199.99 with a 2-year contract, with an additional $30 per month for the mandatory 'unlimited' data plan that has a monthly cap of 5Gb. Verizon will charge $50 for each additional gigabyte over the 5Gb limit on the unlimited data plan. Verizon has confirmed that tethering will cost another $30 per month for an additional unlimited data plan that is also limited to 5Gb. If you want tethering you will pay $60 above and beyond the monthly contract for service for an 'unlimited' 10Gb of data per month, and if you plan on connecting with an Microsoft Exchange email account you have to pay another $15 a month. 'Verizon seems to be doing everything it can to make the Droid as unappealing as possible by nickel and diming customers so that actually using it is not cost-effective,' writes Bradley. 'After all of the hype around Verizon's marketing efforts, and generally favorable reviews of the Motorola Droid, users that rush out to get the new device may be in for a shock.' Droid users will have to wait until sometime in 2010 for tethering. 'That service is on our schedule for next year,' says Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney. The delay is because 'the service has to be tested on the phone so until we know it works, we don't offer the service. It is not uncommon for us to introduce the phone and continue to test the service and offer it later.'"
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Verizon Droid Tethering Comes At a Hefty Price

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  • Tethering (Score:3, Informative)

    by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @08:57AM (#30031370)

    For all of us cavemen out there who still just use our cell phones to make phone calls:

    Tethering is using a mobile device to gain Internet access for another device.

    - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethering [wikipedia.org]

  • by jht (5006) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:09AM (#30031504) Homepage Journal

    This simplifies things a lot for AT&T (who still hasn't introduced tethering for the iPhone): All they have to do to get back on the high horse is come up with a better pricing plan than Verizon's and have the service available in the next couple of months. Even AT&T can potentially pull that off.

    As for the Exchange data plan - both Verizon and AT&T already do this on paper for smartphones, but that's the "corporate" data plan. On all the phones I've seen (for both networks) it doesn't actually matter - if your phone supports ActiveSync and you have a personal account it still works fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:09AM (#30031512)

    This is the same pricing scheme used for other smartphones under Verizon. This isn't news. $30/mo for data, $60/mo for tethering. Unless there is a special App on the Droid that is required for Exchange and Verizon charges $15/mo for that or you're using some hosting service for Verizon, there is no cost for Exchange. I certainly don't pay $15/mo for exchange access on my HTC phone from Verizon.

    Also outside of the iPhone, AT&T charges the same rates last I checked:
    http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/cell-phone-plans/pda-personal-plans.jsp
    Actually they're $5/mo more.

  • by cfulmer (3166) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:16AM (#30031568) Homepage Journal
    Part of the problem is that the US carriers use different technologies. Two carriers (AT&T, T-mobile) use GSM. Verizon uses CDMA. So, even if the phone weren't locked to the Verizon network, you couldn't take it to either of the others.
  • by SolusSD (680489) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:19AM (#30031596) Homepage
    If the "unlimited" plan is indeed limited to 5Gb, that is only 640MB/mo! I could easily surpass that any given month with my iPhone.
  • by rwrife (712064) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:22AM (#30031626) Homepage
    Verizon charges "corporate" customers an extra $15/mo to access "corporate" (aka Exchange) email. This is true with all of their smartphones and is similar in pricing to what ATT & Sprint charge. Personal accounts can access Exchange w/o any additional charges.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:23AM (#30031640) Journal

    No. Not any Exchange account, only the one that is provided by Verizon. Connecting to your corporate account doesn't cost anything extra. Other than getting the data plan.

  • by ericrost (1049312) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:27AM (#30031666) Homepage Journal

    The data plan is, in fact, unlimited. I go over 5 GB a month on my current Verizon phone regularly. This is no different. Tethering specifically has a 5 GB limit which is stated in the contract for it. There are also readily available hacks to make tethering work on an Android phone.

  • Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:5, Informative)

    by asdf7890 (1518587) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:29AM (#30031690)

    That was tried in the UK with ADSL providers advertising "unlimited" broadband. They got around it by reclassifying exactly what is unlimited - it is now "unlimited access" so at any time 24/7/365.25 you can have access, but it isn't unlimited bandwidth.

    Sue all you like - they'll find a loop-hole somewhere and the only people to really gain will be the lawyers.

    The only real way to fix the current advertising problems is to educate the general public to not fall for stupendously unrealistic claims in advertising - unfortunately the general public seem somewhat immune to the effects of such education probably because critical thinking doesn't appear to be fashionable.

  • by AndrewNeo (979708) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:36AM (#30031772) Homepage

    They can't enforce it, people tether with Verizon phones now without tethering plans, and there are already tethering apps for Android. Also, Exchange is only extra if you're a corporate customer.

  • Wrong Information (Score:5, Informative)

    by noc007 (633443) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:41AM (#30031818)
    This crap has been circling the web and it's not completely accurate. With the $30 [verizonwireless.com] and $45 [verizonwireless.com] data plans for smartphones, you get unlimited data for the phone itself [vzw.com]. If you want to tether, it's an additional $30 for the $30 plan or $15 for the $45 plan and will allow you 5GB of tethered data and unlimited on the phone. In any case, if you want to tether and be within their TOS, you need to pay $60. It's still possible to tether without the extra cost and their software, it's just not within their TOS

    The difference between the $30 and $45 data plan isn't documented well and leads to a lot of confusion. I fault VZW for not getting this strait. All the $45 gets you is access their WirelessSync service and supposedly allow you to do Exchange ActiveSync within the TOS. The $30 plan CAN DO Exchange ActiveSync, but it's supposedly not ok within their poorly documented TOS and every VZW employee will tell you that you need the $45 plan if you're going to do Exchange ActiveSync.

    If you do use a lot of data on your phone, VZW can cancel your data account according to their TOS. I've used >5GB/month without a peep from VZW and any additional charge on my bill. It has been said in HoFo, if the data usage is extreme by VZW opionion, they could consider that your must be doing something that's violating the TOS. If VZW was smart, they wouldn't do much canceling since they're launching a bunch of Android phones and saying streaming YouTube and music is ok, which obviously will soak up a lot of bandwidth.

    I suggest that Pickens and the article author do some fact checking before publishing assumptions and hearsay.
  • by obi1one (524241) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:43AM (#30031832)
    Strange, this [consumeraffairs.com] indicates that verizon got in trouble for this exact practice back in 2007 and was supposed to stop.
  • by limaxray (1292094) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:43AM (#30031838) Homepage
    I'm convinced PC World has it out for the Droid and has only been carrying negative articles about it. This article is particularly misleading. First of all, the unlimited phone data plan IS unlimited - it's the tethering, WAN card, Mifi, etc plans that are limited to 5GB a month. Just head over to the Verizon website and check out the fine print. Now the catch is if they think you're tethering without a tether plan (which is really easy to do) they'll charge you for tethering. So if you use 10GB a month of phone data (which, lets be honest here, is not realistic using just your phone) they'll hit you for tethering.

    Next, the $15 a month for Exchange is if you're an enterprise customer. I'm not really sure what that means - if they host the account for you, or handle some extra securtity stuff, or what - but if you're just average Joe user with your own personal account, you won't need to pay it. There is no problem using Exchange with the regular personal data plan.

    These facts can easily be confirmed by checking out Verizon's website, but the boys over at PCWorld are too busy making out with their iPhones to do any fact checking.
  • Re:Free market (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#30031872)

    This is a highly deregulated industry...

    Which allows collusion, continued high prices and lackluster service.

  • Re:Free market (Score:4, Informative)

    by Builder (103701) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:55AM (#30031958)

    The simple solution for most stuff is Browser ID strings and in some cases, MAC address prefixes. I know that in the UK, I could convince the O2 cloud to let me surf the web using wifi from my laptop on my free iPhone bandwidth simply by changing my laptop MAC address and browser ID to be mobile safari.

    I'm not sure how they would detect other apps, but as soon as you fire up a standard browser, it would be pretty easy to spot if you haven't changed this.

  • Re:Free market (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmauro (32523) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#30031986)

    In a deregulated industry will keep prices high if the barrier to entry into that industry is high as well. For cell phone providers the barrier to entry is really high since it costs millions to buy spectrum and billions to buy and install cell towers.

    Yea, you can lease time from the already installed towers, but again it's really expensive and since those who run the towers also provide end-user service so they can dictate the terms to the renting providers and don't really care if you lose money or not.

    It's not like the original ISP days were there were 1,000 of ISP all offering dail-up service. It pushed the price down to like $4.95 a month since they actually had to compete on price. At that time most ISP actually bought their telephone services from secondary CLECs who bought their service from ILEC (Verizon, SBC, etc) who used some pricing rules set by the ILEC to take advantage of the unique nature of ISP call traffic. The large Telecoms have since changed the rules and fought tooth and nail to prevent that situation from ever happening again and have largely won at this point.

    In Europe, Japan and South Korea they actually regulations that prevent selling locked phones, long term contracts, and to force reselling of connections at reasonable prices. As such those markets are much, much more competetive that a deregulated US market since it's realitvely easy for customers to change providers since they actually have a choice and more importantly a MEANS to change.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#30031994) Journal

    No, no, lemme break it down.

    • Nationwide access: Unlimited Verizon calls; 450 minutes otherwise. $40/mo
    • 1000 Text Messages/mo: $15/mo
    • 5000 Text Messages/mo: $20/mo
    • Nationwide Access with messaging: Unlimited Verizon calls; 450 minutes otherwise; unlimited text messaging. $60/mo
    • Data: $2/MB
    • Droid data plan (mandatory, 5000MB): $30/mo

    Data is cheaper in bulk, but I probably won't us that much data. I'd certainly use more than 15MB if it was both cheap and convenient; the web browser on the Droid's better, I can download MP3s from Amazon, and I may not always have Wifi access, so I might find 1GB/mo at $6/mo reasonable. However, as I can break 800 text messages easy and the difference between 1000 and Infinite is $5, it's likely I'd be paying $60 + $30 now(!), nevermind my $60/mo bill somehow costs me $80/mo.

    Looking at my bill, I pay almost $15/mo for data; 2mb of data, and $10 for owning the VZNavigator app. As the Droid will give me a mapping utility that should replace VZNavigator, plus unlimited data, I should lose that $15... so my bill should drop to $72 plus the $30 ... $102/mo.

    By the way, 1112 text messages, plus 336 within Verizon's network, plus 86 picture messages. That 1000/mo for $15? Not doable. It's either $40 + $20 for 5000, or $60 for unlimited. Yes, it costs the same to get INFINITE texts/pics as it does to get 5000.

    Well I'm getting the Droid, and I'm definitely abusing the data plan.

  • by rhpenguin (655576) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:59AM (#30032000)
    Well, I am in Canada. I'm on Telus. I have an unlimited data plan that actually is unlimited and it costs me $45/mo. I easily use 25GB of data a month (tethering included) and still just pay that $45 fee.

    Good plans are out there, you just have to find them. Canadian carriers don't make it easy.
  • by B33RM17 (1243330) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:03AM (#30032028)
    there are a couple apps out for Android that allow tethering, all free. PDAnet is the most accessible, as it allows ANYONE with an Android based phone to use it as a wireless modem over USB.

    Or if you're a bit more tech savvy, like me, you can root your phone (which is just plain beneficial anyway) and install the free Wifi tether for root users app. It works like a charm, kinda sucks battery tho :-P
  • Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:2, Informative)

    by stupid_is (716292) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#30032060) Homepage

    That was tried in the UK with ADSL providers advertising "unlimited" broadband. They got around it by reclassifying exactly what is unlimited - it is now "unlimited access" so at any time 24/7/365.25 you can have access, but it isn't unlimited bandwidth.

    Not so - the ASA don't care as long as you can demonstrate that the vast majority of your subscribers aren't impacted by the cap and that you mention clearly that a fair use policy applies. See here [zdnet.co.uk], here [plus.net], here [theregister.co.uk], and especially here [thinkbroadband.com]. Extract from ASA ruling:

    The ASA noted all the ads made clear that a fair-use policy applied to the service and the level at which the allowance was set. We noted the information provided by Vodafone demonstrated that only a very small proportion of their customers had exceeded the fair-use policy limited and that action was likely to be a request to moderate their usage in the first instance. We acknowledged that the vast majority of customers used only a small amount of the available allowance and concluded that the existence of a fair-use policy did not contradict the claim "unlimited mobile internet".

    Sue all you like - they'll find a loop-hole somewhere and the only people to really gain will be the lawyers.

    Agreed - they're all bastards

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:13AM (#30032148)

    Actually there's no hard-and-fast standard for capitalisation of the abbreviation of "bits" and "bytes". There's an IEEE recommendation on the subject, but if you follow it, you should only use "B" for bytes of unspecified size, and "o" for eight-bit bytes. Thus there's a hard core of technically literate, but perverse, souls who favour the lower case, for consistency with the SI units.

  • Re:Tethering (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:53AM (#30032742) Homepage

    Most likely there's an error in the summary. It is more likely:

    "An extra charge for Verizon to provide an Exchange server for you."

    This is how AT&T works. It's something like $10 extra if you want an Exchange server account provisioned for you by AT&T, but I have no problem using Google Sync with my AT&T account.

    Also, AT&T's tethering plan is the exact same price as Verizon's - $60/month (total on top of voice plan) for 5GB.

  • Re:Tethering (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:57AM (#30032804) Homepage

    Tell me how this is "taking a giant crap" over an iPhone killer?

    Extra charge for a provider-provisioned Exchange server? Yup, AT&T has that too. I'm 90% positive that non-provider-provisioned exchange servers aren't blocked by VZW (they aren't with AT&T).

    $60/month total for a 5GB tethering plan? Same as AT&T. (Note, last I checked, there was no official support whatsoever for iPhone tethering.)

    FYI I am an AT&T customer, and left VZW two years ago a very unhappy customer, but the summary is unjustly misworded to paint VZW extremely negatively when in reality their data pricing is no different than AT&T. (Which is an improvement, VZW's data pricing used to be AWFUL compared to AT&T.)

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:18AM (#30033112) Homepage

    T-Mo and AT&T both use GSM and are pretty good about SIM-unlocking their phones. (In general both will provide a SIM unlock if you've been a customer in good standing, meaning bills paid, for 90 days.)

    That said, there are enough differences between the bands they use that I wish you luck in using a T-Mo phone on AT&T or an AT&T phone on T-Mo, unless you enjoy the pain and suffering of EDGE data. I do not know of a single phone on this planet that does UMTS in all three of the bands used for it in the USA.

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:24AM (#30033198) Homepage

    Anything less than tri-band GSM is unheard of. Quad-band GSM (All 2.5G bands in USA and Europe) is pretty common.

    Tri-band UMTS is rarer, but now to achieve compatibility with all providers you would need quad-band UMTS. (2 for AT&T, 1 for T-Mo USA and 1-2 Korean or Japanese providers, 1 for the rest of the world) I have yet to see a quadband UMTS device.

  • by nvrrobx (71970) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:48AM (#30033580) Homepage

    Here in the US, the Droid is a CDMA/EVDO variant, which means it is only capable of operating on two carriers - Verizon Wireless and Sprint. Verizon can basically charge whatever fees they want, as they do have the largest 3G network in the US. Verizon works in remote areas better than any other carrier. Verizon also has the Droid device locked to their network.

    It is possible to buy an unlocked Motorola Milestone and use it in the US, but that would only gain you 3G access on AT&T Wireless and not T-Mobile. T-Mobile uses a different 3G band than the rest of the known GSM world.

    Remember, we don't have to protect consumers or competition in the US, only our large corporations bank accounts. I do wish we had Europe's model though. I noticed how great it was when I was in London for a few weeks.

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:56AM (#30033672)

    All they have to do to get back on the high horse is come up with a better pricing plan than Verizon's and have the service available in the next couple of months.

    Of course AT&T should cost less than Verizon. It's inferior service.

  • by aztektum (170569) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:04PM (#30034704)

    That's not quite right. Verizon doesn't provide Exchange accounts AFAIK. The extra $15 dollars is if you are on a business account. This comes from friends who are Verizon sales monkeys, but I Googled it too for you Citation Provided.

    $30 for personal data plan. You can Exchange all you like.
    $45 for corp data plan. You can Exchange all you like.

    +$30 more for tethering. For me, not worth it, since there is secured-wifi literally everywhere I go on a regular basis. YMMV

    Egregious, I say, but not exactly how the /. summary makes it sound.

  • by brandorf (586083) <brandorf@brandorf.com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:09PM (#30034790) Homepage
    Mod Parent Up. This is exactly correct, and exactly how service is set up for Blackberries on the Verizon network. The data plan is unlimited for data used from the phone, it's the tethering that has the 5gb limit on it. There are also ways around VZW's tethering fee, there are many programs available that can use the phone's own net connection as a proxy an allow tethering, rather than using the "official" tethering method. Such as PDANet for Windows phones (and Android, I believe) and TetherBerry for blackberry phones.
  • Re:Tethering (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:11PM (#30034820) Homepage

    There are four major ones, nearly everyone else is a reseller of the four.

    The four are split 50/50 into two technology camps: Verizon and Sprint use Qualcomm CDMA2000, AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM/UMTS.

    Of each of the technology camps, there's one "big boy" and one "small fry" provider. The "big boys" (AT&T and Verizon) have relatively expensive service plans, however they also have quite comprehensive coverage even in rural areas. The "small fry" have cheap service plans, but pitiful coverage areas. For example, T-Mobile users get zero coverage for 15-20 miles of highway west of Vestal, NY, including where I live and work (Owego). AT&T and Verizon, however, have very strong coverage in all areas around Owego, despite it being a relatively small rural town.

  • Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:5, Informative)

    by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert@chrBOHRom ... minus physicist> on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:53PM (#30035462)

    that's where class action suits come in

    Oh goody, so instead of the stress of a lawsuit with a huge telco, I wait 3 years and get a coupon good for "$10 off my next Verizon phone purchase", while the law firm makes $50M in fees and contingency?

    Color me unexcited.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:36PM (#30036930) Journal

    I am a Verizon Wireless customer. They make "horrible customer service" sound like something to aspire to.

    They haven't been able to get my bill "right" for months. Every single month there are random charges tacked on, that they cannot explain when I call. Until recently, they've cancelled these charges with good apology. But now?

    I have two phones suspended because they are lost. Originally, I was told I could suspend them indefinitely. Then I was told that I could only suspend them month-by-month. Then I was was told I could suspend them three months at a time. Now, they're telling me that I can only suspend 6 months per year.

    So I decided to buy out the contract. They're charging me for two months' service for two phones I don't even have. And they're charging me for an entire month of service for both of those two phones AFTER the contract has been cancelled!

    If you are ever, EVER tempted to go Verizon, RUN LIKE HELL OUT OF THERE. They make a pack of lying vultures seem friendly!

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