The Limits of Unlimited 3G Wireless Broadband

The internet is all around you, flying invisible through the air, clawing silently at your eyes. Oh, and your wallet. New ‘3G’ cellular data services from Verizon, Sprint, and Cingular are top notch, technology-wise—seriously, we love the ability to have highish speed internet wherever we can get a cell phone signal—but the pricing is a bit out of hand. Wireless nerd Glenn Fleishman takes all three to task specifically for their used of the term ‘unlimited.’

See, if you’re using the new wireless services in the way the phone companies prefer—slowly and sporadically—they can cram lots more subscribers into the finite amount of space they have on their towers. So if you sign up for unlimited 3G service (‘BroadbandAccess,’ from Verizon; ‘Power Vision,’ from Sprint; or ‘HPSRMALODA,’ or some shit, from Cingular), they very well may shut you down if you use it all the time. You know, unlimitedly.

That’s dumb, because the cell companies have a couple more years to get us addicted to anywhere-always internet before some crazy Son of Wi-Fi comes and obviates their whole scheme.

The Surprising Limits Of ‘Unlimited’ 3G Service [Mobile Pipeline]


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  1. Archetypal says:

    I do wireless data for a living, and you’re right that characterizing these services as unlimited is stupid. I can defend why they impose a limit from a purely bandwidth, infrastructure, and technology standpoint, but I can’t defend the marketing spin. The “unlimited” in these offerings is almost criminally misleading.

    I looked at AT&T Wireless’ UMTS service when it was announced last year, and only browsing from a phone was covered in that “unlimited” plan. According to the TOS, once you tethered the phone to a laptop, you would be paying $.001 per kilobyte. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize it’s in the neighborhood of $1/MB.

    WiMAX is already here in Seattle, at least for businesses. If it ever takes off for real, I can’t see a value proposition in the way the carriers are doing 3G right now.

    Still and all, I would have liked to use my 3G phone for a VoIP device. It just seems like it would be ironic somehow.