At the Carriers’ Mercy

This morning, I was greeted with news that AT&T may begin charging iPhone users for using FaceTime over 3G. Since I don’t have an iPhone, I wasn’t too upset with this news but what does grind my gears are the ramifications this potential action could have on all data users if it goes through. It’s ludicrous for a carrier to charge a customer for a feature built into a phone. This is a clear example of carriers using their power to overstep their boundaries…this isn’t the first time it has happened (ex. locking down off wireless hotspot capabilities to force users to buy pricier data plans) and it certainly will not be the last. Although this may sound like the ranting of a disgruntled tech enthusiast, I’m sure that many of you can relate to this topic and/or have echoed these same thoughts at one point or another.

Point: Being charged extra by carriers to use already purchased data should not be allowed.

We all have our complaints when it comes to cell network carriers. The bulk of these complaints range from pitiful coverage in your particular area (cough…T-Mobile…cough) to expensive cellphone [smartphone] plans. For the purposes of this rant, let me focus your thoughts towards expensive data plans. In this regard, carriers are seen as evil, greedy money grubbers constantly searching for ways to extract money from their loyal customers.

Clear as mud…

Charging customers for how they choose to use their purchased data plans does not make much sense to me. In fact it makes as much sense as buying a bottle of water, then paying an additional fee to drink, pour away, or lose the already purchased bottle of water. Why not let individuals blow through their data plans using FaceTime over 3G or tethering if that is what they choose to do? The data has already been purchased so the use of it should not cost extra.

The devices sold by cell carriers are built with features and capabilities that require data in order to work effectively. Carriers are sometimes known to customize the looks and specs of their devices; this is usually the extent of a carrier’s involvement in the manufacturing process. In most cases, they are not pumping R&D money into OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) to have them produce phones and tablets with video calling, tethering capabilities, or any other potential data using feature. Since carriers are not responsible for these features being present in the device, they should not be allowed to charge extra for the use of them or strip the device of those features. The only case I can see where a need would arise to charge for certain forms of data usage would be when unlimited data plans are being used. Carriers have a limited bandwidth and if everyone had unlimited data and constantly used that data (worst case: torrenting files all day, every day over the network), network speeds would be choked and we would be brought back to the days of dinosaurs dialup speeds. The extra charge implemented on select forms of data usage or offering different kinds of unlimited plans would allow carriers to better regulate bandwidth use and prevent choking of the bandwidth they have at their disposal.

In other countries outside of the U.S, purchased data can be utilized in any way. Below is a comparative table displaying rates and data allotments with some U.S carriers versus others around the world.

U.S Carriers

International Carriers

It looks like carriers in other countries are doing things properly…at least when it comes to data plans

Bottom Line:

Smartphones and tablets are becoming more powerful and necessary by the day. This fact coupled with the focus of our interactions shifting from our immediate, physical circles to the far reaching, digital world around us means that we will naturally begin to consume more and more bandwidth as time moves on . What makes this natural progression/ evolution of interaction frustrating is that network carriers can see it taking place; however, instead of embracing it, they seem to be moving in the exact opposite direction. Contract terms, cancellation fees, and similar plan offering across the board already place us at the mercy of the carriers. Every decision and change made towards data plans and usage policies will affect us…probably more so in the future than now. Only time will tell whether U.S carriers will embrace the dynamic shift towards heavier data use, making necessary changes to plans and usage policies or continue to be restrictive and controlling over how customers use their purchased data. As an avid smartphone enthusiast, I would hate to not be able to use all the features present in my phone simply because my carrier decides some features should be paid for.

Yea…I know…First World Problem

Do you think some control needs to be taken away from the carriers and put back into hands of the manufacturers? Whatever your thoughts are, let us know below.

By: Chisom Agada

Source: Vodafone UK data plan, Three UK data plan, Telstra AU data plan

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Editorial


Full Time Engineer, Oil and Gas Industry Full Time Tech Enthusiast...Part Time Blogger Favorite Sport: Soccer


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