In theory, unlimited 3G data plans sound like a great deal. You can talk all you want, you can send and receive as much data as well. You can stream videos and listen to music over the cloud to your heart’s content. But the reality is that consumers tethered to unlimited 3G data plans are never going to use all of that data.
Unlimited talk for a set price means the ability to use up to 44,640 minutes in a 31 calendar day month. Not a bad deal for the cost of an unlimited plan, which can be found for as little as $30. On the surface, it sure beats paying for 5,000 minutes, but do you ever use 44,000 minutes in a month? Do you even use 900 minutes?
For consumers, unlimited data means unlimited everything, as there are applications and services you can use on a smartphone to work around any artificial limits to talk and text functionality, such as Google Voice, Skype, or Talkatone. The savvy user only needs the data; but 3G is a slow, constrained, approach to the information superhighway.
Download speeds for 3G are incredible slow; you might get 3 mbps. Upload speeds are typically one third that of download speeds, so 1 mbps is actually pretty good. If you are one of the few individuals who are lucky enough to gain access to unlimited 4G coverage, speeds are not that much different; 11 mbps is a great download speed, 5 mbps is a pretty good upload speed.
Compared to what companies are making offering traditional Internet, which consumers can then opt to broadcast through Wi-Fi, unlimited 3G is a great deal for companies. Chances are you are only going to use, maybe, 20 or 30 gigabytes of data, at best. By then your company has “throttled” you down to 2G or even 1G service, to ensure your service is never going to cost more in resources than they have allocated for. On the surface, I think I am getting over on the company because I do not have the traditional 5,000 minute/5 GB data/1,000 text limits in place, and I am only paying $45, as opposed to paying $80 a month. The reality is that, for the $45 I spent upfront, I only cost the company $5, and they get to invest the other $40 a month in other expenditures. The company is not covering the cost of the phone, I paid for it outright, and the only real costs to the company are legacy infrastructure, marketing, and human resources costs.
In other words, these plans are designed in a way that a consumer could never make full use of them. When technology corporations are encouraging everyone to live their digital lives in a cloud, therefore reducing dependency on traditional WiFi, they come out ahead. Companies can then ditch expensive technicians at $20 an hour, because consumers have replaced their expensive computers with cheap tablets, smartphones, and hybrid computers. Technicians who were dispatched to repair service for only one consumer can now fix equipment at cellphone towers that are servicing as many consumers that can technically use up all of the available bandwidth at one time. Consumers inevitably fall behind on their monthly payments, and the companies can resell the same phone number to another consumer after a month of inactivity.
Eventually everyone will be an unlimited plan and telecommunications corporations will be raking in more revenue than they have in a very, very, long time.