Unlimited data plans are, in my opinion, critical to the continued development of smartphone applications and utilities. Take a look at Android, for example. All of our data is stored online. We sync with Google hundreds of times a day, and while that doesn’t consume much data, everything else we do uses a little bit more. It all adds up to a lot depending on who you are. In it’s current form, plans like the new AT&T data plans are counter-productive. 2GB of data every month is, frankly, insulting. That being said, Reuters is reporting today that Verizon is looking to a tiered data structure, without an unlimited tier at the top.
Average data consumption increased to 298 MB a month in the first quarter of this year, from about 90 MB a month for the same period last year. That’s a gain of approximately 230 percent in a year, according to research by Nielsen Mobile.
Obviously an increase like this means that in order to accomodate that traffic, infrastructure and support costs would have to increase as well. The issue from a carrier perspective is that this infrastructure is apparently only to handle the six percent of the smartphone market that consume half of all data used. The “average” smartphone user does not consume more than 2GB a month, and it is argued that a tiered data plan would actually benefit many of those users with lowered cost. Where does that leave that six percent? Out in the cold, apparently. Verizon (the only carrier neglecting to participate in the Big Android Barbecue) has already announced that with the deployment of a tiered data plan, an unlimited option would not be available.
Obviously this does not make many people happy, and I suspect this is one of the many reasons a Verizon iPhone is not on the table anymore. Plain and simple, no matter what smartphone you use, data is important. Adding to you daily, or hourly in my case, tasks would be to see how much data you have consumed. The process would limit smartphone application developers, and likely push them away from making server-side entertainment delivery platforms, like Netflix and Hulu.
Since this is already deployed on AT&T, and while there is no active date or price points available, speculation is rampant that it is only a matter of time before the other carriers adopt a similar standing. Personally, I hope this is not true. As a T-Mobile customer, I much more appreciate their data plan, where the speed decreases incrementally based on individual usage. This plan works well for me personally, and I have yet to have any problems. I also have used more than 2GB of 3G data in a single day, so obviously a tiered data plan would limit me significantly.
It seems like bad news for consumers and developers alike. How do you feel?