Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

Summary: With mobile data being capped away from the existing 'unlimited' model, often at 500MB and subsequent, sizeable chunks with increasing charges, could you survive with a lower capped limit?

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TOPICS: Mobility
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The answer should really be "yes", with no argument. But let's not turn this into another one of my half-arsed essays...

Just before upgrading to my new BlackBerry contract (I sent the Torch straight back, opting instead for a far more productive, less fun (and weighty) Bold 9700), I was fully aware my new contract would no longer cover unlimited mobile data access.

Considering the perceived amount of data I churn through a month - including over 100 emails a day spread over two email accounts, attachments downloaded, Facebook and Twitter (photos and media included), uploading content, updating and downloading mobile application and through browsing various mobile sites, it turns out I don't use all that much.

When I signed this current contract for 24 months, after taking absolutely minutes to come to a rational, logical and well-thought out decision; balancing the tariff, minutes, data limits, monthly costs and contract length, I signed on the dotted line.

But the only data bundle option I could go for, really, was the 750MB data limit per month, which just so happened to be thrown in automatically with the £30 line rental and £5 BlackBerry bolt-on per month.

Looking back over the last six months, I calculated my monthly usage.

Only 85MB per month on average. Who needs unlimited mobile data access when 100MB a month at a cheaper rate would suffice? To me, 750MB is lot of data per month, and I am a 'heavy' user of my phone, even though the aforementioned data usage shows that in reality I am not.

As Charles Arthur at the Guardian pointed out a few months ago, the average user on my network, O2 only uses 200MB a month. Taking into account the poor 3G coverage in the UK though O2 had the monopoly on the iPhone and subsequent 3G/S for years, it isn't bad going.

But while 97% of O2's customers used less than 500MB per month, a staggering 0.1% of customers used over 36% of the total data consumed by its entire user base.

Why? It's those pesky file sharers again, ruining it for the rest of us. Granted, this is the first gripe I've had with file sharers and pirates, regardless of the fact that it doesn't affect me directly nor the vast majority of O2's customers.

But not everybody churns through less than 100MB per month. The key, as one student employee of my local phone store told me, is that BlackBerry devices which are growing ever more popular with the Generation Y uses network compression; scaling down 90% of all bandwidth over the network. I can't prove this, but I'll take his word for it.

Other considerations to take into account such as the capable network speed of your device - whether it is 3G compatible tied in with whether you can receive 3G speeds in your area. But also, the prevalence of Wi-Fi access, and again whether your device has it plays a part too.

But in most cases, the Generation Y do not need Wi-Fi as a necessary complement to a cell smartphone. Yes, there will be times when you want to watch a video on YouTube on your device, but more often than not it can be sent as a Facebook link when you're back at home on your home broadband connected computer.

I think in this case, when customers revolt because something with unlimited length or depth gets clipped to a finite amount, it pays long term to give customers more than they need - or at least think that.

AT&T offer a $25 per month plan to access a 2GB capped data limit, and a $15 per month plan which offers a significantly lower cap of only 200MB. But I would jump at the chance for each month to buy an extra two beers with the ten bucks I'd gain back.

Nobody uses 2GB of mobile data bandwidth; unless you are indeed file sharing from your cell phone or download your entire email mailbox onto a non-BlackBerry device in one go. But their home broadband must be slower than roadkill playing chicken in the traffic.

[poll id="34"]

Topic: Mobility

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23 comments
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  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    I was using a Blackberry 9700 for a year before I upgraded to my new Android phone. Smartphones like Android and iPhone use more data by their very nature. However, in my first month, even though I am still in the honeymoon stage, I still only used 220MB. We have less stringent data plans here in the US, but I could easily live with a capped plan of 1GB, even with tethering to my laptop or my planned tablet purchase.
    Scott Raymond
    • Tethering

      @Scott Raymond It makes a huge difference. Some mobile data plans include tethering, but frankly I've never seen anyone use it - even on trains. Occasionally you'll see mobile-branded dongles - even I have one just in case I can't get wifi, but rarely use it.
      zwhittaker
      • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

        @zwhittaker I use Tethering regularly when I travel. On job sites mainly.
        hayneiii@...
      • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

        @zwhittaker

        I used to tether my BlackBerry via Bluetooth, so you would never "see" me use it.

        Since Starbucks went free, I have a terrible time using it.
        I bought a Verizon MiFi. It is faster and more stable than the free WiFi at most coffee shops, certainly better than Starbucks, and it works in most places that I travel.
        ClarenceD
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    I have a 70MB data cap on my phone (the plan is 18 months old), and for some reason I was given a variant that didn't do 3G on the network I am on (Optus), so the only time I've gone over my data allowance was the first month, when I doubled it and was billed a hefty amount as a punishment.

    Having said that, if I had a 3G phone, I would probably go through internet a lot faster than I actually do.
    douglasac10
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    If only this were the case for desktop computers, laptops and perhaps even iPad like devices.

    Remember: Wi-Fi at home/work/airport (via a wired ISP) helps consumers reduce their cellular data usage.
    scott2010au
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    "Why? It?s those pesky file sharers again, ruining it for the rest of us. "

    file sharing is not possible with iphone except for jailbroken phones.

    Youtube video, one of the default feature of most of 3G handset, is about 2Mb/min. One 4min video a day and you already have consumed half your allotted 500Mb.

    One hour audio streamed is 14Mo for talk show, 4 times more for music. One hour a day of music is ... 1.6 Gb three time your alloted data.

    And it goes on and on and on.

    Most users only use their 3G phones to .. phone, browse a couple of minutes a day, and read their email titles. al reight, they don't need unlimited data plans, but do they actuelly need 3G altogether ?
    s_souche
    • As usual, Zack here assumed one thing,

      @s_souche... and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

      Yes I am sure there are those who perhaps use more than the average bear, and perhaps improperly like for file sharing, although over 3G why bother...

      But legitimate uses as you pointed out chew up quite a bit.

      So perhaps it is smarter to offer a limited plan to people like Zack who only use a little, and leave unlimited options for the more heavier users who use their mobile devices for multimedia.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • Examples?

        @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh Even though I use < 100MB a month, partly due to the fact that BlackBerry uses compression (so you could argue I do use a fair amount still, just on a different handset), unlimited is still open to abuse.
        zwhittaker
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    "Why? It?s those pesky file sharers again, ruining it for the rest of us. "

    file sharing is not possible with iphone except for jailbroken phones.

    Youtube video, one of the default feature of most of 3G handset, is about 2Mb/min. One 4min video a day and you already have consumed half your allotted 500Mb.

    One hour audio streamed is 14Mo for talk show, 4 times more for music. One hour a day of music is ... 1.6 Gb three time your alloted data.

    And it goes on and on and on.

    Most users only use their 3G phones to .. phone, browse a couple of minutes a day, and read their email titles. alright, they don't need unlimited data plans, but do they actually need 3G altogether ?
    s_souche
    • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

      @s_souche
      Excellent points. My data download usage requires that I have an unlimited data plan for my iPad. One way or another, a consumer will need an unlimited download data plan - if not for his smartphone usage than for his tablet or netbook data download requirements.
      kenosha77a
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    Nope. I just averaged out my monthly data usage over the past 6 months and came up with 645.72MB is used monthly. I do not "file share" or pirate. I stream audio, use facebook, and do some web browsing.
    JT82
    • Web browsing

      @JT82

      When you browse, what percentage on average is advertising? I would not mind a limited data plan, but I would hate that being used by someone ramming ads in my face. If you want to feed me ads, you should pay for at least some of the band width used for the ads.
      Economister
      • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

        @Economister They already do pay
        hayneiii@...
      • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

        @Economister Not sure really - I agree though, I should be able to have the option to "block" known advertising domains OR be able to reset my DNS server on my phone to use openDNS. I have an "unlimited" plan so I'm not overly concerned but if I am going to have ads rammed down my throat, the advertisers should start subsidizing bandwith fees.
        JT82
    • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

      @JT82

      I use Slacker Radio, caching nightly on wifi at home, zero cellular usage.
      ClarenceD
  • Well, for me it varies.

    I personally hate small screens, even screens the size of the Droid X. So I don't do much on my smartphone. I do check e-mails, do some social networking and some light web browsing. I probably use the Google Maps app a lot.
    Verizon estimates my data usage at 98 MB since the last billing cycle so I could probably comfortably use 200 MB just to give myself some wiggle room.

    Now the desktop is another matter entirely. I gave up cable and now watch/stream all of my television, movies, and music on my terrestrial LAN. If I were crazy enough to try to do this with mobile broadband, My usage would be something like 200 GB a month. By Verizon pricing I would be charged something like $1005 USD a month for my data. If my terrestrial LAN ever gets to those prices I will read more paper back books. ;-)
    mr1972
  • I survive on only 50MB

    I am currently use a Droid Incredible with Page Plus and the max data they offer is 50MB. Their overage is outrageously expensive so I cannot afford to go over.<br><br> Fortunately I have Wi-Fi at home and work and that covers 90% of what I use.<br><br><a href="http://www.justechn.com/2010/06/15/how-i-got-a-droid-incredible-on-the-verizon-network-without-having-to-pay-a-data-fee" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.justechn.com/2010/06/15/how-i-got-a-droid-incredible-on-the-verizon-network-without-having-to-pay-a-data-fee" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.justechn.com/2010/06/15/how-i-got-a-droid-incredible-on-the-verizon-network-without-having-to-pay-a-data-fee" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.justechn.com/2010/06/15/how-i-got-a-droid-incredible-on-the-verizon-network-without-having-to-pay-a-data-fee</a></a></a>
    ryanmc
  • RE: Can you survive on 500MB mobile data per month?

    Get a better phone, and you'll use more data. Blackberries are great for e-mail and messaging -- but are horrible for consuming media.

    If you get a decent smartphone, with a good operating system -- you'll never go back. On my Droid Incredible, I can catch the highlights from last night's games, check out my daughter's school concert on YouTube, and then stream my favorite radio station ... all on the train to work. Oh, and I can download apps from the store. You should really try Angry Birds -- oops, you're on a Blackberry, sorry about that.

    Bottom line: Get a better smartphone, and you'll use more data.
    afwriter
  • Blackberries are much more bandwidth efficient

    200MB will support plenty of Blackberry usage, due to the Blackberry server architecture - everything runs through RIM servers and is compressed. iPhone or Androids - tread carefully - they are bandwidth pigs. Nothing is compressed.
    Luke Skywalker