Unlimited Data Customers Report Fewer Network Problems Than Capped Users

from the unshackle-me,-please dept

Back in 2011, you might recall that AT&T and Verizon stopped offering users unlimited wireless data plans. Taking advantage of a lack of competition at the time, the duo worked in concert to shove users toward confusing, metered plans that imposed a usage cap, then socked users with overage fees upward of $15 per gigabyte. When users refused to migrate to these plans, both companies spent years making life as difficult as possible for these subscribers, AT&T going so far as to block users from accessing Facetime until they switched to these more expensive, metered plans (but who needs net neutrality rules, right?).

All the while, both companies repeatedly insisted that nobody actually wanted simpler, unlimited plans. That was until increased competition from T-Mobile (thanks in large part to regulators blocking AT&T’s attempted acquisition of the company) forced both companies to bring back their unlimited data plans. And while Wall Street has been whining for months that competition is preventing these companies from nickel and diming their customers, consumers generally like the return to unlimited data.

Case in point: a new study by JD Power and Associates indicates that unlimited data customers are consistently more impressed with the performance of their connections than their capped and metered counterparts. More specifically, users on unlimited data plans state that they experience fewer network problems of all kinds than metered users:

Unlimited data emerges as great equalizer for wireless network quality: Customers with unlimited data plans experience an average of 11 overall network quality problems per 100 (PP100) connections vs. an average of 13 PP100 among customers with data allowances. They also have lower incidences of data problems (15 PP100 vs. 16PP100, respectively); messaging problems (5 PP100 vs. 6 PP100); and calling problems (12 PP100 vs. 15 PP100). This trend holds true among both power users (100 or more network connections in the previous 48 hours) and lighter users (fewer than 100 network connections in the previous 48 hours).

That said, the study does proceed to note that this may be based, in part, on the “perception” by consumers that they have a better connection, not necessarily that the network is performing better. In other words, customer perception of a network’s performance may be shaded by the fact they don’t have to constantly worry about whether they’re about to go over their usage restrictions:

?Whether a customer has unlimited data or a data allowance on their wireless plan should not really affect their overall network quality, but our data shows that?consistently?wireless customers who are not worried about data overages have a much more positive perception of their network?s quality,? said Peter Cunningham, technology, media, and telecommunications practice lead at J.D. Power. ?This is a critical insight into wireless customer psychology for carriers who?ve been engaged in battle over unlimited data plans for the past several months.?

The meters used by fixed and mobile customers are notoriously unreliable, one study claiming carriers routinely over-bill consumer mobile data usage by between five and seven percent. Despite this, there’s nary an effort from any regulator here in the States to ensure that usage is being metered accurately, and that’s certainly not changing with the current FCC. And while it’s nice to see competition forcing these carriers to actually listen to subscribers, a wave of merger mania in the sector means that this competition — and the unlimited data resurgence it spawned — may not be sticking around for long.

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Comments on “Unlimited Data Customers Report Fewer Network Problems Than Capped Users”

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AnonCow says:

Not mobile, but on my home network (Spectrum nee Time-Warner) my sustained download speeds will triple when I am connected thru a VPN that bounces traffic off a server on the other side of the county than if I run the same download without the VPN.

I’m not a network expert, but I’m guess that they are using deep packet inspection and throttling. The VPN packets can’t be inspected and therefore avoid throttling.

AEIO_ (profile) says:


Triple the speed? That’s because those offshore VPN bits are smaller and greatly inferior to our fine normal US bits. I wouldn’t trust anything going thru those foreign servers; they probably have viruses all in their systems — you don’t actually know WHERE those bits have been. You’re just highly fortunate that those bits haven’t been sent upside-down yet, that’d fry both your router _and_ your computer.

Just ask the pharmaceutical industry about oversees manufacturing; *THEY’LL* tell you.

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