Opinion: Wireless Data Plans Can Bankrupt You

Om Malik on Broadband: Mobile Data Can Bankrupt You

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I count myself lucky that T-Mobile has reasonably priced data plans. In fact, it’s probably the only reason I’m still a customer. Other providers charge outrageous amounts for data plans. It’s like they don’t want people to use their data services (and consequently, buy new phones that have cool new data features). It makes no sense to me.

For example, AT&T Wireless recently launched their speedy 3G UTMS wireless data service. For a mere $25/month, you can use all the data you want, but only from the phone. If you connect to a PDA or a laptop to use the phone as a wireless modem (you know, do something actually useful), you get charged by the byte. Or, you can pay them $80/month for unlimited access. They have similar plans for GPRS on Smartphones and PDAs. Verizon and Sprint are no less draconian with their data plan pricing. If you want all you can eat wireless data on a PDA or a laptop, you pay through the nose.

I’ve talked with people who work at AT&T Wireless, and asked them why there was such a discrepancy between data transmitted to the phone, and data shared with a PDA or a laptop. To the network, the bits are the same. He talked with some people in the wireless group, and the only answer he could give was that they like the higher profit margins on the data plans.

When are carriers going to start getting it? T-Mobile does. You can get unlimited web and email with their T-Zones plan for $4.99/month. You can use the phone as a modem with a PDA or laptop. They don’t care. And besides the fact that I’m a loyal customer, I evangelize T-Mobile to all of my cell phone toting friends, for exactly that reason. And I’ve convinced at least a dozen of them to sign up. T-Mobile basically has an unpaid salesperson in me, because they can meet my desire for cheap wireless data better than the competition.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? If I ran a wireless carrier, I’d be thinking about it…


One thought on “Opinion: Wireless Data Plans Can Bankrupt You

  1. Andreas Erben says:


    I think this should be amended.
    I doubt that this information is still valid.
    T-Mobile differentiate between several plans, T-Zones itself is free, but I have my doubts that it still can be used to access the internet world “outside” of T-Zones.


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