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Cellphones Networking Wireless Networking

Data Hogs: the Monsters Carriers Created 215

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-a-car-analogy dept.
jfruhlinger writes "A recent study claimed that the top 1 percent of mobile data users eat up half of the available bandwidth. But assuming it's true, who's at fault? Stats show data usage has increased radically with each new model of the iPhone, and similar phenomena are in place for Android phones — all of which are gleefully sold to the public by the same people who complain about 'data hogs.' Isn't this the equivalent of a car dealer heavily promoting Cadillacs, then complaining about poor fuel efficiency, then charging a ton for extra gasoline?"
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Data Hogs: the Monsters Carriers Created

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  • yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dropadrop (1057046) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:58PM (#38642778)
    I think the idea is to slowly promote an idea that caps and traffic shaping are good for the vast majority of customers.
    • Re:yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

      by imahawki (984044) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:18PM (#38643098)
      The reality is though, they are cracking down on the top users but giving NO benefit to people who use 50MB a month. Those people used to subsidize high data users which you could argue was unfair. But now that people are being cut off or paying for actual usage over a certain point, the bill for people using much less should drop!
      • You must be new here. Companies NEVER play fair like that.

      • Re:yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:38PM (#38643464)

        In most other industries, high volume users end up paying the major part of the bill and subsidize low volume users, even as they benefit from bulk pricing.

        Coal, gas, electricity, and even food. Bulk purchasers get a discount, but having them in the market assures an infrastructure which can handle thousand of other customers easily. The little customers pay proportionally more, but probably would pay even more with the bulk purchasers absent from the market.

        The Carriers should charge a cheaper rate per megabyte for bulk data users. They shouldn't cut them off. They shouldn't charge them progressively more the more they use. They should actually give them discounts. Buying the next tier up should be cheaper than watching your data usage trying to live under the line.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That only works in the functional industries because they improve infrastructure to match demand. In the non-functional industry of telco/cable they refuse to improve infrastructure.

          I would assume this happens because electricity, gas, food, coal, etc. are "necessities" (at least in a modern society.) As such this will probably tip over once internet tips from luxury to necessity.

          • Re:yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

            by icebike (68054) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:59PM (#38643780)

            But the thing is, when the lights dim, or the Air conditioning goes out you KNOW there is a shortage.

            But we have no idea of the actual tower loading percentage of the cell companies. In my west coast area, dropped calls are a rarity, and I can pull 3G data all day long, and never notice any interruptions. So is there a shortage or not? Certainly not here. Maybe some other places.

        • The Carriers should charge a cheaper rate per megabyte for bulk data users. They shouldn't cut them off. They shouldn't charge them progressively more the more they use. They should actually give them discounts. Buying the next tier up should be cheaper than watching your data usage trying to live under the line.

          Too bad they don't do this. Such as: $x for the first 0-200MB, $y for the next 200MB-1GB, and $z for $1GB and up, where $x > $y > $z. That way everyone is encouraged to use only what they need instead of like the current plans, where users are encouraged to use as close to the maximum possible. With graduated fees per megabyte, the heavy users still have to pay the maximum possible for all tiers below them but no matter the user, the marginal cost for a megabyte will never be some insane amount lik

          • by residieu (577863)

            I'd be fine with this assuming the prices were reasonable. The proverbial grandma logging in weekly to check email and look at her photos should be paying much much less than she is now. An "average" user who uses significant data but never hits the current caps should pay about what he pays now, and these "data hogs" should pay more, but not exponentially more.

            And we should have a variety of tools to help us track our usage. Show us both the data usage and the current bill (and maybe a projected bill if we

        • Re:yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wisty (1335733) on Monday January 09, 2012 @06:54PM (#38644574)

          You don't understand - Carriers make money for overselling. They want you to buy 1GB a month, because they don't think you'll use it. If you do, they'll complain that you are using too much, and "hogging" data.

          What they really want is to charge you for a 1GB plan, then charge you extra if you actually use it. Carriers want to upsell people to plans they won't use, and feel cheated if people use what they bought.

      • but giving NO benefit to people who use 50MB a month

        FALSE! They're getting a free cap! ;-)~

      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        Even when this whole thing started, Verizon dropped customers they suspected of "torrenting", how did they determine this? Your montly data usage of course, so if your moving large chunks of data across their network, you got banned along w the torrenters. There was a class action in regards to this a while ago, and suddenly we started seeing new "data cap" plans.

      • It's a metered resource. This is like the electricity company complaining about the aluminum smelter using more power than the vacation cottage. All they have to do is charge for bandwidth and let the highest users pay their fair share. Oh, right. Then they'd have to upgrade their network to meet demand instead of giving the board of directors multi-million dollar bonuses. The ENTIRE point of caps and throttling is so they DON'T have to invest in the network.
      • Re:yeah (Score:5, Informative)

        by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @01:11AM (#38647890)

        I finally figured this out last fall when Comcast came down on me for going over their cap. "This is the first I've heard of any problem. Can I pay a higher rate to have a larger data allowance?" "No. Absolutely not. And if you go over 250 gigs in any of the next six months, your account will be closed and you won't be able to apply for service with Comcast again for 12 months." I pondered that for a while. It just didn't make sense. They're offering a product. I like their product. I like it so much I'm willing to pay additional money to get more of their product. They refuse to let me pay for additional product.

        THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO PAY FOR THE DATA YOU TRANSFER. THEY WANT YOU TO PAY FOR DATA THAT YOU DON'T TRANSFER.

        I don't think enough people have had that light bulb moment yet.

        The cable company's favorite customers are grandparents paying for 250 gigabytes of data every month and only firing up the computer once a week to look at the latest pictures of their grandkids. They use maybe 0.1% of their allotment and that's the way the cable company likes it.

        I bought a game this month that was 22 gigs. That's almost 9% of my data allowance. I pay $55/month for my internet connection so it cost me an extra $4.84 to buy that game thru Steam. These days, 250 gigs is nothing for people who actually use their tubes.

        Cellular data plans are even worse. In Q4 2010, Verizon started an advertising campaign telling people all of the wonderful things they'd be able to do with a 4G connection. Then they rolled out service with 5 and 10 gig caps. You couldn't do ANY of those wonderful things with a cap like that. Download HD movies? Sure. One at a low bitrate. Then you can't use that 4G data connection for the rest of the billing cycle. The funny thing is this action has had the effect of locking in the very customers they don't seem to want. Old-timers with unlimited data plans were able to keep those unlimited plans and roll them over to 4G phones. Not only that, my unlimited data was only good for the phone, not tethering. That had a 5 gig limit. Now it's unlimited across the board. Oh, and I've noticed that, rather than offer larger data plans as they roll out media-centric mobile devices, Verizon is chopping the pricing plan into smaller and smaller slices. And they keep changing what they offer like they're trying to fine-tune it. Right this very moment (it could change any second), they're offering 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, and 12 gig data plans. And $10/gig for overages.

        I suggest everyone make a point of using 99% of your "allowance" every single billing cycle. Run that shit right up to the limit every single month. Maybe that will skew the data enough to make data providers come up with a more logical billing method for consumers.

        It's like some sort of corporate schizophrenia where the policies being implemented are completely disconnected from what marketing promises and the reality of consumers.

        • by Magada (741361)

          It won't skew the data. It will just make them drop the caps even lower. Frankly, unless and until competition is allowed again, you're screwed.

    • I'm glad they're doing it so frigging badly then.

      Consume at too big a rate? We'll just stop you from consuming at all. Until next month when you probably do the same thing.

      Likewise, we'll impose caps so low that they affect 95% of users just so we can claim we're stopping the 1%.

      Brilliant! (if viewed through monopoly supplied monocle)
  • by rfioren (648635) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:58PM (#38642788)
    The top X% of any distribution is always going to consume some "large" number Y. I bet the top 1% of income earners earn 80% of all income. The top 1% of book readers probably read 80% of all books. And I bet the top 1% of slashdot posters live in 80% of all basements.. it's just basic math. Whenever there's a distribution.. well, some people will do a lot, and some a little.
  • To be fair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mr1911 (1942298) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:59PM (#38642802)
    Who would have guessed that consumers would actually use their data plan?
    • Seems I've heard that somewhere before ...

    • by hedwards (940851)

      And I suppose before long people are going to expect to be able to actually get a signal. Fortunately for AT&T nobody signs up with them that actually intends to use their phone for anything other than WiFi.

    • You call that fair? We should all feel sorry for these companies which are facing high demand for their product, but can't make a profit off that demand and continue to charge the other 99% of users who pay for bandwidth they'll never use.

      There ought to be a law allowing these guys to sell unlimited plans, but only to people who agree they won't go over the cap!

    • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:23PM (#38643214) Homepage Journal

      Who would have guessed that consumers would actually use their data plan?

      I'm more surprised at how many users don't use their data. I know a few iPhone 4 users who pay for the highest AT&T cap but don't use more than 250mb a month. Have never used more than 250gb in any month.

      If the telecoms are going to start charging more for people who use a lot of data, will they start charging less for people who don't use anywhere near the amount of data they're paying for?

      My family plan, with my wife and daughter and me, allows for like 1200 minutes or something. We probably don't use more than 400 or 500 minutes. Why don't I get a rebate? If I go over 150gb on my DSL connection, I have to pay an additional $10/50gb. The month that I was on vacation and used 0 gb, I still payed full price.

      Telecommunications needs to be a highly regulated utility. I really don't need to pay someone who is going to work so hard to develop new ways to get me to pay more for less.

      • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:42PM (#38643524)

        this means "I don't watch netflix on my phone, or if I do, it is over public wifi, and not the cell network."

        1 netflix movie is over 500mb transfer, even on a tiny device like a phone. If you watch even 1 movie on the phone per month over cellular, you are a "data hog".

        When the carriers proclaim "you can get live sports coverage and watch movies online with our blzing fast $cellgeneration service!" I feel they lose the right to complain about people doing exactly what they advertise.

        Now, if you are pulling over 10gb a month transfer, that is excessive, even for streaming media.

        The exception would be cellular tethering devices used for primary internet. A special package should be set up for that.

        Really, the problem here is overselling capacity in a batshit crazy fashion. You can oversell capacity, and do it sanely. Such as actually metering actual network utilization over time, and oversell by perahps 10 to 20%. Instead, these carriers are pathologically allergic to improving their infrastructures, and pathologically oversell their capacity, to the point where they think using more than 100mb in a month is "heavy use". News flash: if you have lots of apps installed on your phone, simply enabling the autoupdater will push you over that pathetically small limit.

        Carriers need to establish what "heavy use" is, not compared against current system load, but against average intended use statistics. Eg, using 2gb a month for watching 3 netflix movies should be considered "high end" of "normal", and not "excessive." Excessive would be watching a movie every day. (30 days in a month x 500mb per movie == 1.5TB transfer.) They should then either restrict smartphones, total numbers of dataplans sold, or FUCKING IMPROVE THEIR NETWORKS, so that network instability doesn't occur from "normal use."

        Theyneed to stop headplanting and redefining terms with self-referential metrics.

        • Re:To be fair (Score:5, Insightful)

          by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:59PM (#38643768) Journal

          if you are pulling over 10gb a month transfer, that is excessive, even for streaming media.

          So I can't watch ONE movie a day? Because that would be like 15gb.

          • by Ichijo (607641)

            if you are pulling over 10gb a month transfer, that is excessive, even for streaming media.

            So I can't watch ONE movie a day? Because that would be like 15gb.

            If you choose a 2.2 Mbps stream (high quality SD), a movie is about two gigabytes. You can watch five movies with a 10 gigabyte cap.

            • by wierd_w (1375923)

              But is that really the smartest stream rate for a mobile cellular device? At that stream rate, you are gonna saturate your phone's data connection. It really is quite abusive to saturate your pipe.

              When I expect to go on a trip, I set the stream rate to the lowest setting. This drops picture quality a whole lot, yes, but keeps the playback from constantly rebuffering from motel wifi being terrible with a shared pipe, or from bad cell coverage. When not expecting to go on a trip, I set it to use medium qua

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:00PM (#38642806)

    A US friend of mine boasts of going into the hundreds of gigs on his mobile plans, because he can, when we in Australia are stuck on 1, 3, maybe 10gb plans at the most. As a user of one of those 'data hogging' iPhones, it certainly uses more mobile data than my previous nokias (1-2gb now, compared to a few hundred mb) that's a ridiculously huge scale difference between the increase of the iPhone in natural use over phones before it, and those who'd *bittorrent* from their phones just because they can.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:20PM (#38643130)

      we in Australia are stuck on 1, 3, maybe 10gb plans at the most

      I really don't get why carriers in the US don't use this sort of a model. I am on a 1.5 gb plan with optus, and it is more than enough for my phone, and for my laptop (I use my phone to wifi tether). There isn't ever really anything that I want to do using my phone that will use up more data than that.

      If I want to update drivers or files, I generally do it at home, not on the move. The only thing I really use data for is email/browsing on my laptop, the phone is also email or the occasional map when driving. Aside from that, I do all my serious stuff at home. It isn't because of a low data plan, it is simply because if I am out and about, the last thing I am thinking of is torrent files, distro updates or any other data heavy application.

  • Taking a cue from (Score:5, Insightful)

    by future assassin (639396) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:02PM (#38642826) Homepage

    >But assuming it's true, who's at fault?

    Oh its the Internet users. Its always the 1% that are the hogs and the poor Internet providers must provide data caps to make their oversold lines work for the rest.

    Cry me a fucking river. Maybe just maybe don't sell your packages when you now your network wont handle them.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's largely correct, but a huge amount of that traffic isn't the subscriber it's various scams. I'm not sure what the numbers are presently, but a few years back most traffic was spam and various malware communiques.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:18PM (#38643086)

      what's the alternative?

      Build out some network bandwidth, then divide it by the number of subscribers you have, and charge them for their slice of the whole.

      Make sense?

      I doubt you'd agree when you get charged the hundreds of dollar per month that would cost you. Besides, its a bit daft to think that every subscriber uses 100% of their bandwidth 24/7, so why not oversell it? After all, if I use 10% of my total bandwidth, there's no reason why you can't allocate that to 9 more subscribers, thus bringing the price down to 1/10th of what it was.

      So obviously overselling is ok, but what level is reasonable for this? There's a tradeoff between the price of the network, shared out amongst all subscribers, and the bandwidth you get. Most people don't use much bandwidth - your average mom and pop will use it to surf a little, read emails, etc and use 1Gb per month max, so if you assume all your subscribers are like that, the service should be dirt cheap.

      Until you get someone who comes along and basically abuses the system by keeping it on 24/7, streaming torrents or running a video webserver. These people skew (or should that be screw) the carefully planned subscriber/bandwidth ratio which basically means everyone else is subsidising their use of the network, to the detriment of everyone's use of the network.

      • by future assassin (639396) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:33PM (#38643374) Homepage

        Nothing wrong with overselling and many companies can do it right but when your greed doesn't want you to reinvest the profits into the system its just easier to point the finger at those who use what they paid for and call them hogs. As a consumer I don't give a flying fuck that I'm causing your system issues when I use what I paid for. I'm not a charity...

      • Re:Taking a cue from (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kasperd (592156) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:52PM (#38643666) Homepage Journal

        its a bit daft to think that every subscriber uses 100% of their bandwidth 24/7, so why not oversell it? After all, if I use 10% of my total bandwidth, there's no reason why you can't allocate that to 9 more subscribers, thus bringing the price down to 1/10th of what it was.

        This would work great if they made throttling to actually match the principles you describe, and then advertise the lines as such.

        For example they could advertise a line as 100Mbit/s maximum speed, 1Mbit/s average speed. As long as you stay below 1Mbit/s averaged over a week, you will get your 100Mbit/s. If your average over a week goes above 1Mbit/s though, then your maximum speed will start decreasing. Once your weekly average hits 2Mbit/s your maximum speed will have decreased to 1Mbit/s, which is sure to get your weekly average down again.

        They could improve it even more by allowing users to put their traffic into different QoS bands, and ensure that they provide incentives for users to use appropriate QoS bands for the traffic they are sending. I think the following three QoS classes would make sense for most users.

        • Default QoS. In this class you get to transfer as much data as specified by your subscription. It is intended for webbrowsing, email, and most other more or less interactive usages. The providers should guarantee that there is capacity to give you the bandwidth you paid for in this class.
        • Latency sensitive QoS. In this class you only get to transfer one third of the amount of data specified by your subscription. It is intended for VOIP, action games, and other applications where latency is the important factor. On the routers this traffic needs to go into a special queue. That queue should be short since this traffic is very sensitive to latency. That will increase packet loss a bit, but for some latency sensitive applications packet drops are less of a problem than increased latency. Since this class by design should never ever use more than one third of the capacity of any link, packet drops should be rare anyway.
        • Bulk QoS. In this class you get to transfer as much data as you want, it doesn't count towards your usage, and you don't get throttled for using too much. OTOH traffic in this class is not guaranteed at all. It only gets what is left over when the above two classes have gotten what they need. This would be useful for downloads lasting hours or days. Probably most traffic in this class would be bittorrent.

        I think a classification as described above would give users sufficient incentive to use the proper class for their traffic, and providers don't have to pretend to know better and reclassify the traffic.

  • Doin what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:02PM (#38642832)

    Doin what? Until you answer that you're just spinning wheels.

    Is there some kind of spam sending virus out there? That would make sense and you could hope they'll fix it.

    Are they spending a lot of time at websites? More than 10 or maybe 15 years ago now, Akamai fixed that, maybe the mobiles need that?

    Is it one specific app, like google maps?

    Is it tethering people trying to run an entire disaster recovery site over a phone?

    Does it really matter? Supposedly 1% of the population, that being teen girls, made up most of the call volume at one time. So?

    How does their battery survive this intense use? My new android phone barely lives thru the day with light use, so they must be living on a charger?

    Why are they "monsters"? What a weird way to describe human beings. That means I should use my leet skyrim skills and cast an ice spear at them, right?

    • by vlm (69642)

      Oh and another one, are they actually using apps or is this apps that are updating? I used to always dread seeing Battle for Wesnoth update on my ipod touch because here comes a third of a gig each update. Are there any apps out there bigger than wesnoth? I know the xplane flight simulators are a bit on the large side.

      Could it be a phone that is broken and continually downloading over the air updates over and over and over and over?

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Oh and another one, are they actually using apps or is this apps that are updating? I used to always dread seeing Battle for Wesnoth update on my ipod touch because here comes a third of a gig each update. Are there any apps out there bigger than wesnoth? I know the xplane flight simulators are a bit on the large side.

        Could it be a phone that is broken and continually downloading over the air updates over and over and over and over?

        There are plenty of apps bigger than 300MB.

        GPS apps for starters - it's the

      • There are a couple of medical and anatomy apps whose updates are pretty big. I generally don't update them until I'm home because trying to do so bogs the poor little phone down on my crappy 3G connection and I'm usually running around, not just dinking with the phone.

        So, I suppose you could spend your day updating apps, but why not do that at night when you're not using the thing. It's not like iPhones really multitask well....

    • If the users are gobbling the data by tethering to computer(s), the phone probably is living on a charger. I ran like this for a while for my home internet.
  • Hehe. (Score:5, Funny)

    by powerlinekid (442532) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:02PM (#38642834)

    Occupy Verizon?

    • by syousef (465911)

      Occupy Verizon?

      That would require that they get off their backsides and change the signs. They've been sitting on those backsides for months now. It's just too much effort to get up, man.

  • Nice car analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:03PM (#38642850)

    Yes, it is like selling a fuel-wasting car and then forcing the consumer to purchase fuel from you and only you. And advertising the fuel inefficiency as a feature. And rationing the fuel and switching from unlimited fuel to rationed fuel... ok maybe the analogy breaks down somewhere around there.

    The carriers want their cake, that is selling phones with data-heavy features that people love, and they want to eat it too: i.e. not expanding their network with all the profits they are making in order to handle the load from the phones they just sold. Greedy bastards. The solution would be to create some genuine competition instead of the cartel-like operation we have in the US right now, but the barrier to entry is so high that is next to impossible. Maybe some government regulation might even be in order (much as I usually hate such things), given that these companies often have what amounts to a government-granted monopoly on certain EM spectra.

    • Re:Nice car analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:22PM (#38643188)

      Yes, it is like selling a fuel-wasting car and then forcing the consumer to purchase fuel from you and only you. And advertising the fuel inefficiency as a feature. And rationing the fuel and switching from unlimited fuel to rationed fuel... ok maybe the analogy breaks down somewhere around there.

      I have a better standard /. car analogy. WHAT IF my local car stealership's service dept intentionally had only one mechanic to make all warranty and recall repairs, so as to boost profits, so car service was excruciatingly slow, but as a PR move to avoid hiring more wrenches, they "discovered" that 1% of car owners made up to 90% of service appointments (because they have a lemon or whatever)?
      So now we can control the car owners as such:
      1) they might be one of the 1% high users so they better shut up instead of complaining about slow service, or they might get cut off from all contracted service, or something similarly illogical.
      2) we can get the users blaming each other for making service appointments instead of blaming the company for not hiring more wrenches.
      3) The stockholm syndrome victims will blame themselves or their fellow drivers or anyone other than the stealership who is ripping them off
      4) The guys on /. will complain, but since there is a govt controlled monopoly / confuseopoly, I guess they're just screwed and will have to bend over and take it anyway.

  • by paiute (550198) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:03PM (#38642860)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle [wikipedia.org]

    1% uses 50%. Does the top 20% use 80%?
  • 3G Modems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:04PM (#38642874) Homepage Journal

    According to the stats, 3G Modems account for 26 times more data usage than the baseline (iPhone 3G), and nearly 10 times more data usage than the next biggest consumer device (iPhone 4S for downlink). "3G Modems" don't count as phones, at least not in my book. That would either be tethering, running a phone as a wifi hotspot, or a dedicated hotspot device.

    So these are probably people that don't have broadband service and use 3G for the home connectivity, or people that constantly travel. My uncle just set something up like this a couple weeks ago - they have no other options for broadband at their home, and even had to use a DSS dish as a signal reflector to be able to get 3G service because they are so remote (the dish was my idea, seemed to work good).

  • by edmicman (830206) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:06PM (#38642908) Homepage Journal

    Today's data hogs are tomorrow's average users. What do you expect when *every* new electronic device is coming out connected to something (watches, cars, refrigerators, you name it in addition to the usual standbys), carriers are pushing smartphones and advertising fast new networks and new apps? You have smart TVs and a half dozen connected set top boxes just in the living room. Netflix comes on everything. The industry is pushing always available all-you-can-consume content, then at the same time complaining that people are consuming too much. Sigh...and then you get "solutions" of tiered traffic and data caps and throttles. But what happens when the early adopters of today become the normal users? Is every person who watches Netflix streaming or downloads movies and TV from iTunes or Amazon or streams Pandora the 1 percent of data users?

  • When the average cost to transfer a gigabyte of data is below 5 cents - http://business.financialpost.com/2011/02/05/how-much-does-bandwidth-actually-cost/ [financialpost.com] - I don't buy all these complaints from carriers about customers using huge amounts of data, especially since the typical "unlimited" (heh) data plan costs $30/month. At that rate, a customer would have to transfer 600 gigabytes of data in a given month to equal the raw cost of that bandwidth to the carrier.

    Now, admittedly, that is based on the raw cost

    • by dougmc (70836)

      When the average cost to transfer a gigabyte of data is below 5 cents - http://business.financialpost.com/2011/02/05/how-much-does-bandwidth-actually-cost/ [financialpost.com] - I don't buy all these complaints from carriers about customers using huge amounts of data, especially since the typical "unlimited" (heh) data plan costs $30/month. At that rate, a customer would have to transfer 600 gigabytes of data in a given month to equal the raw cost of that bandwidth to the carrier.

      Now, admittedly, that is based on the raw cost of bandwidth, and, of course, other factors come into play in figuring the cost of delivering that data ...

      Just for the record, the link you provided talks about wired bandwidth, not wireless bandwidth. If you're providing wireless bandwidth ... you have to pay for the wired bandwidth up to your cell phone tower, and then pay for that tower and all the bandwidth (and this is actual bandwidth here -- "a spot from X MHz to Y MHz") it uses.

      So this isn't exactly a fair comparison.

      • Just for the record, the link you provided talks about wired bandwidth, not wireless bandwidth. If you're providing wireless bandwidth ... you have to pay for the wired bandwidth up to your cell phone tower, and then pay for that tower and all the bandwidth (and this is actual bandwidth here -- "a spot from X MHz to Y MHz") it uses.

        So this isn't exactly a fair comparison.

        The citations may not be fair but the GPs argument is still valid: blaming data hogs is just an excuse. We can even use the above numbers as an upper bound. Even if the construction and maintenance of wireless networks were 100 times as expensive as their wired counterparts, the cost still isn't justified. Yes, wireless networking certainly has its challenges, a lossy medium with limited throughput being one of them, but it certainly doesn't justify the current US pricing structure. Why must we pay for

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who cares about total usage? What is the percentage of the network that is being used? If the network is 10% loaded and 1% of the users use 80% of the 10%, who cares? If the network is 100% loaded, then I might care.

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Good point.

      If the network is 80% loaded, why are they so slow building additional towers.
      Most people in urban areas can't remember the last time a new tower was added any where near them.

      We are never going to get a true picture of how scarce or plentiful bandwidth really is until the FCC forces tower loading data out of the hands of the carriers. You want to build a new tower? Fine. Tell me your current tower loading in that area.

      Until they cough up that data I'm suspicious of any bandwidth shortage claims

  • Lost All Respect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by camperdave (969942) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:08PM (#38642950) Journal
    I've been first time shopping for a cell phone. It has been a nightmare. You can't pick a phone and then pick a plan. You have to pick a plan, then pick one of the phones that that particular provider carries. It's completely backwards. I don't (to use a car analogy) pick a fuel provider and then choose from the cars they sell.

    I've lost pretty much all respect for the telecommunications industry. It should be cut in half, separating the provisioners from the content providers. One company runs the cable and another provides the tv channels. One runs the wire, and another provides the dial tone. One runs the fiberoptics, another provides the internet. One provides the cellular network, another provides the phones for it.
    • by vlm (69642)

      It should be cut in half, separating the provisioners from the content providers. One company runs the cable and another provides the tv channels. One runs the wire, and another provides the dial tone. One runs the fiberoptics, another provides the internet. One provides the cellular network, another provides the phones for it.

      How would that create a confuseopoly where the megacorps can screw over the customers using their monopoly power and the laws they purchased thru election campaigns?

      Its futile, like trying to find a more moral and ethical business plan for vampires or mosquitos or leaches. The way to win is not to play the game.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      One provides the cellular network, we provide our own phones by buying them like we do computers at the store.

      Fix't that for ya. The company that provides the cellular network should sell to MVNOs that all share a frequency and compete viciously on service and price, while allowing us to stick their SIM in whatever device we deem fit to use.

    • You're completely right. Just do what I've always done, buy your phone unlocked from the manufacturer or Amazon or something and then get a contract from a cell provider.

      • Except that you can't do that. If you buy a T-Mobile 3G phone you can't use it on AT&T later. If you buy a Sprint phone you can't use it on T-Mobile and so on and so forth.

        Every single 4G implementation requires a phone that only works on one network.

        So you are faced with either paying $500 for a phone and being able to switch to another network before 2 years is up but selling your phone at a steep discount or you get the subsidized phone and are locked in for several years paying a $200 termination

    • I realize this does not directly address your point, but its at least tangential...

      Look into prepaid. There is a lot more competition for prepaid phones (and much less taxation) than there is on contract phones. For example, virgin mobile has a bunch of android phones in the $100-$200 range and $35/month gets you 350 minutes plus unlimited text and 3g data. Plus its month to month so if the carrier succumbs to competition and reduces prices, you can take advantage next month instead of 2 years later when

      • For example, virgin mobile has a bunch of android phones...

        Fail! I want to walk into a Samsung store, or an HTC store, or a cellphones-R-us, to pick out my phone. Then I'll meander across the mall to the Virgin Mobile.

      • by BrynM (217883) *
        I second this. I've had a prepaid T-Mobile account of some sort for years. It works great. I have a full-featured android phone and it's a fixed price from month-to-month. Best of all: when I decide I don't want it, I can just stop or change prepaid plans. When I decide I want a certain phone, I buy it unlocked and T-Mobile has no say in it. I think people who willingly put themselves into plans with wacky-overage bills, limited choices and cancellation fees are "unwise" (to put it nicely).
    • by icebike (68054) *

      I've been first time shopping for a cell phone. It has been a nightmare. You can't pick a phone and then pick a plan.

      That's not exactly true. Go into any carrier, look at the display, pick the phone you want, tell the salesman, then they will tell you the cost of the plan options.

      If you have no carrier preference, go to Best Buy, Carphone Warehouse, Car Toys, or Walmart and buy the phone you want and they will
      sell you a plan from a carrier that supports that phone.

    • Which is why I buy the phone separately and then continue to use the same provider I have been using for >10 years.

  • Really.

  • No you pay the same as others but try to use a US data plan there and then it's rape time.

  • by Relayman (1068986) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:10PM (#38642982)
    "A recent study claimed that the top 1 percent of mobile data users eat up half of the available bandwidth." No it didn't. It said that the top 1% download half of the total data downloaded. There's a big difference.
  • Not really phones (Score:4, Informative)

    by b0bby (201198) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:12PM (#38643020) Homepage

    If you look at that study, it appears that 3G modems are the real culprit - unsurprisingly, since they can be used as a broadband replacement in areas where landlines aren't available. It's not really the phone users who are the heaviest, probably the people using a 3G dongle with a router. I quote:

    Uplink data volumes:
            3G Modems (various): 2654%
            HTC Desire S: 323%
            iPhone 4S: 320%

    Downlink data volumes:
            3G Modems (various): 2432%
            iPhone 4S: 276%
            Samsung Galaxy S: 199%

  • 1. Morons started advertising "unlimited" downloads. They never should have done that. You can't offer unlimited of something unless it is OK if most people actually take the maximum possible amounts. Because if you advertise something as unlimited then the people that need unlimited come to you.

    2. Then they continued to try and use the word unlimited while they limited stuff. NO. Lying is not allowed.

    3. They need to be honest and advertise three things: A "Peak Speed" for first x data/month. B

    • by kasperd (592156)

      They would rather keep everything nebulous and get clients by who picks the better advertising campaign instead of better service.

      As long as they can get away with dishonest advertisement, this is not going to change. If dishonest advertisement is legal you need to change the laws.

  • Does this mean Occupy is gonna have to protect the internet from those corporate finance types using up all the downloads?

  • I remember back on 2003, when I worked at a company developing mobile applications (in BREW if you are interested) and everyone was talking about what would be the next big thing in mobile, the operators were looking for other sources of revenue and were betting that the money will be in selling aggregated services (meaning selling other things than calls). One of the big things was data, and they used to check data usage very closely and were very happy about it. back then I coded a simple ringtone downlo
  • The correct analogy is selling all you can eat meal plans and then complain that a few of them eat too much. If you insist on Cadillac and car analogies, it is like selling unlimited free fuel and then complain people actually drive up and fill up lots of fuel.
  • by icebike (68054) * on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:29PM (#38643336)

    Almost all the phones out there, including iPhones and Androids and even Windows phones have the ability to open a socket and leave it open until it times out (15 to 18 minutes later) to detect when there is something to send, (an email arrived, a message, etc). Apple use the Microsoft method and expanded it big time in their push technology to prevent polling by several apps for multiple email accounts, etc. Google, Apple, Microsoft all support some form of this for email, calendar, and messages.

    Unfortunately, the Facebook crowd can't live with out knowing instantly when someone updates a page in some dank part of the inter-tubes, and therefore many apps poll. Bandwidth has become so reliable that nobody bothers deploying push technology if they can avoid it. People want instant weather, news, stock quotes, etc, and its just easier for these software developers to poll for this data while the phone sleeps in your pocket.

    Add to this carriers tracking your phone's position [nytimes.com] without your knowledge. Several carriers sell this service to their customers for tracking family members. Then there is the whole Carrier IQ debacle [washingtonpost.com]. Its hard to know how much data this really pushes, but I suspect it is small.

    But most of the traffic is stuff that customers specifically ask for. They want the Facebook updates. They want the weather. And they insist on using pop mail accounts that don't support IMAP Idle [wikipedia.org] and therefor have to poll for messages every few minutes.

    Server side services, search, SIRI, are also growing in popularity, but again this is by user request. You don't have to strut around asking what your calendar looks like instead of tapping an icon.

    So I don't thing the Carriers are guilty here of much beyond offering what their customers want in terms of connectivity.

    The problem here is that the Carriers realize just HOW MUCH the customers want this, and are currently in that phase of their business plan where they are milking it for all they can, pretending there is a bandwidth shortage, and applying caps and tiers to maximize revenue. I suspect it is mostly to prevent calls via Voip from being cost effective, and to hold down those people who tether an entire household to a single 3g phone. We've seen this all before. Just about the time the bitch level raises high enough to attract regulatory attention things will become free again. Just like long distance calls. Just like text messaging.

    Its a passing phase. As soon as LTE is as widely deployed as 3G today, carriers will stop selling minutes and just sell you bandwidth, and you will make calls over the net. Voip and sip will go from being virtually banned to mandatory.

    Then prices will come down as tiers will expand, and they can launch the next phase of artificial shortages and over charging for what ever feature is next to strike the fancy of consumers.

  • Traditionally, the cell companies have offered unlimited nights and weekends. They could use the same concept for mobile broadband. Periods of low network utilization should not count against the caps. This would encourage people to shift their data usage to the off-peak times and that in turn would save the carrier money by eliminating the need to add capacity.

  • by buddyglass (925859)

    Isn't this the equivalent of a car dealer heavily promoting Cadillacs, then complaining about poor fuel efficiency, then charging a ton for extra gasoline?"

    First, the gas you put into your car isn't typically sold by the company from which you bought your car.

    Second, you pay per for gas on a per unit basis and not at a flat rate.

    So, no, it's not equivalent.

  • These idiots need to stop selling "unlimited" because there is no such thing. Even an all you can eat buffet isn't unlimited, it's limited to what you can eat. There is no such thing as "unlimited" anything, especially bandwidth. They need to specify maximum download rate, in terms of bytes per second as well as bytes per months. T-Mobile specifies their bandwidth is limited to 2GB per month (for my cheap plan) and I am very happy with that. Knowing that I have X amount of bytes is better than thinking the
  • They just want you to buy them, not use them, for Pete's sake. You're supposed to act like a virus and show it off to your friends so that they'll go buy one, too, and that's not supposed to leave you any time to actually play with it. Now back to work!

  • This topic comes up often, and it seems like the only thing people are interested in is having carriers stop using the word "unlimited" in their marketing. But for all the outrage, for the great majority of people doing the complaining, "unlimited" plans actually are unlimited from a functional sense. I'd much rather have carriers use a word that's up to interpretation than have them set strict limits which will then lead to outrageous fee hikes when normal usage moves upwards and that 2GB/mo "premium" pl
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:02PM (#38644688)

    Look, there is no throughput shortage, at least in fiber. Maybe some wireless spectrum is literally jammed packed and "golly we just don't have anymore or other spectrum we could use or any other alternatives... just running out folks!" .

    I'll let people who know comment on that ;)

    Somehow I doubt it's ultimately much different than the situation we have with fiber now.

    In general, throughput is not a natural resource like oil or gas for which the amount can be said to be finite in any meaningful way.

    We can create more fiber throughput at will, and whats more, we could being to use the copious, in fact, excess amount of fiber optic that exists now :

    Less than 50% of the fiber-optic lines buried in the U.S. are being used, up from about 3% a decade ago, estimates TeleGeography.

    from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704529204576256541491117496.html [wsj.com]

    A decade or so ago I happened upon a booklet (at B and N no less) that outlined, in extremely frank language, that the way for cable providers to increase their profits without having to create value or increase investment was to create an artificial "shortage" of bandwidth by establishing a tiered system of throughput for which access to the upper tier was subject to bidding .

    In this way, profits could be increased not through reaching more customers or even improving service.

    Is this different than what Enron was doing when they were blacking out the West Coast by creating a "shortage" of electricity? Is this not the same sociopathic personality types and the same "captains of industry" doing what they do best- lying, manipulating consumers and scheming to increase profits without adding value?

    Just so none of us forget how this scam works; from the Enron tapes: From:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/02/eveningnews/main620795.shtml [cbsnews.com]

    Energy trader: "Just cut 'em off. They're so fucked. They should just bring back fucking horses and carriages, fucking lamps, fucking kerosene lamps."

    And when describing his reaction when a business owner complained about high energy prices, another trader is heard on tape saying, "I just looked at him.

    I said, 'Move.' (laughter) The guy was like horrified. I go, 'Look, don't take it the wrong way. Move. It isn't getting fixed anytime soon."

    California's attempt to deregulate energy markets became a disaster for consumers when companies like Enron manipulated the West Cost power market and even shut down plants so they could drive up prices. ...

    Consumers like Grandma Millie, mentioned in one exchange recorded between two Enron employees.

    Employee 1: "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?

    Employee 2: "Yeah, Grandma Millie man.

    Employee 1: "Yeah, now she wants her fucking money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour."

    Another taped exchange between different employees regarding a possible newspaper interview goes like this:

    Employee 3: "This guy from the Wall Street Journal calls me up a little bit ago"

    Employee 4: "I wouldn't do it, because first of all you'd have to tell 'em a lot of lies because if you told the truth"

    Employee 3: "I'd get in trouble."

    Employee 4: "You'd get in trouble."

    "I'm just -- fucked -- I'm just trying to be an honest camper so I only go to jail once," says one employee.

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Its a lot different than fiber.

      Each tower is limited in the number of handsets it can concurrently handle. Its finite. And smaller than you might imagine.
      Each handset has to be dealt with every few milliseconds. (Are you there? Yes I'm here. Andy traffic for me?)

      Less than can be kept track of is the number of simultaneous calls and/or data transmissions that can be handled.

      Spectrum availability (radio frequencies) in a given area dictate how close towers can be built to each other. Towers cost money.

  • They should consider the plight of the gas station! Unlike the wireless industry, in the gas business, it's a sure bet that 100% of customers will use 100% of whatever they pay for every time. They'll even jiggle the nozzle to get that last half a drop! To top it off (so to speak), they don't get to charge $100/gallon (rounded up) if the customer goes a bit over. OH, and they're required to display the amount of gas dispensed and have the meter certified as accurate. And no contracts. If they're too expensi

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