EVDO Isn't A Third Pipe: Sprint Follows Verizon Wireless With 5GB Caps

from the thanks-for-nothing dept

Well, this is unfortunate. Every time people want to pretend that there's "real" competition in the broadband market beyond DSL and cable, you hear them talk about 3G wireless services like Sprint and Verizon Wireless' EVDO. Of course, Verizon Wireless caps its EVDO service at 5GB/month -- go over that and it will cut you off. Sprint, however, remained customer friendly and having sold people "unlimited" plans, stuck to that plan and let folks use EVDO as much as they wanted to. I'm one of those customers, and have been a big fan of the service. When I travel, I use it constantly. It's convenient, reliable and more secure than WiFi. While it's not often, on heavy travel months, I almost certainly pass that 5GB barrier. Yet, now, according to Gizmodo and Phonescoop, Sprint is implementing its own 5GB cap. You can make all sorts of arguments about why it needs to do this -- or point to the fact that (eventually) it will have a WiMax network available (though, not for a while). But, in the meantime, a bunch of us were told that we were buying "unlimited" service. 5GB is hardly unlimited, and it's rather ridiculous to go back and change the deal after the company had already sold it to us. Either way, any time someone suggests that EVDO is a "third pipe" competitor to DSL or cable, remind them that it's an extremely limited third pipe with rules that change with almost no notice.

Filed Under: bandwidth limit, evdo, third pipe
Companies: sprint

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  1. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 21 May 2008 @ 10:27am

    Devil's Advocate

    I'm going to speak on behalf of the carriers here, since no one else is!

    Firstly, some of you don't seem to understand that this discussion is ENTIRELY about the USB or PCMCIA data subscriptions for laptop computers. This is NOT related to any data plan for your phone (ex: the HTC Mogul in post #1). But those plans are also limited (other ways) in the fine print.

    Secondly, if you bought the EV-DO service to be your primary Internet connection, and you are a medium user, you will probably exceed 5GB. The target market for this is someone who already has another Internet connection at work or home, and uses the EV-DO for mobility only, OR a light Internet user with no other connection, like grandpa in his RV who only checks e-mail and a few web pages.

    The EV-DO network, though fast, does not have the capacity to handle many active Internet users on each tower, thus they need to limit how much data each user can send. Caps are the correct approach to a constrained capacity situation. In fact, the carriers should have been smarter and sold 1GB plans for ~$25, 3GB for ~$45, etc. That would have given many partially nomadic people a suitable plan, and given them a better option than Wi-Fi.

    The problem is (was) that Verizon and Sprint chose not to make the limitations clear in their original marketing. They chose to call it "Unlimited*", and who reads the fine print?

    So my defense of carriers is pretty weak, but my argument is that they made the mistake years ago by misrepresenting the plans as 'unlimited'. What they are doing now is actually the right thing.

    For those of you who think Sprint will suffer because of this, tell me, do you think thousands of Verizon Wireless EV-DO laptop subscribers changed to Sprint when VZW announced their 5GB cap a year ago?

    If you use one of these services, BTW, you can do what I do. I have firewall software on my laptop which I ONLY use when I'm on the cellular network. The ZoneAlarm settings are configured to block all Internet traffic except the few applications I actually want to connect. This allows Outlook, web, and IM, but blocks pings, windows updates, and other traffic that is either useless or can wait until I get on REAL broadband.

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