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

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  1. identicon
    Freddie, 20 May 2008 @ 7:06pm

    Wow, there's a smooth move!


    The company that is bleeding money & loosing customers from both ends has just decided to release all of it's "unlimited plan" customers from their contracts without ETFs?


    Now I just have to research who else supports my HTC 6800 Mogul phone & I'm gone!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    TIMiNEM, 20 May 2008 @ 7:39pm

    such is life in wireless communications...quick sell as many people on a new plan or service then rip the rug out as soon as it begins to no longer benefit the carrier. The only major company to not pull this jazz is T-Mobile...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    josafa, 20 May 2008 @ 7:41pm

    Me too, sweet!, but my Sweet is the Kick in the butt to sprint when soon to expired my contract is going to be. Sprint, you know what? I don't really need cell phone since I am not in busines or have a lot friends. My comunication? I have a Sony MYLO with included SKYPE software that I can connect it through wi-fi IN any HOTSPOT, and I have plenty around where I live. I will pay $30 dollars "annualy" to SKYPE and I can call any landline or cell phone within U.S.A and Canada for a year, and save me a lot of money. My Internet? same thing, my laptop with built-in WI-FI I can connect it through the HOTSPOTS too. Now I can say to me, SWEET!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Brian Hayes, 20 May 2008 @ 8:41pm

    Bite, Bleed, Pay

    I have no option but EVDO. Just three miles from the supermarket, there's no DSL or Cable just an south of Silicon Valley! I'm lucky to find a tower I can barely use with extra $300 amp and antenna.

    It's been said for years that com billing is puffed with fees to serve rural families but never did firms execute improvements. Current merchandising is the status of features not the delivery of conduit.

    Warning: The future of communications is the history of transportation.

    Soon like any package, com items will require a fee, a tax, and a delivery date -- wrapped and pleasantly traceable.

    Read twice.

    For each few blocks in major cities, all the Press Releases point to improved features. Yet on millions of monthly bills, fees and rates are paid for restricted, weak or diluted delivery. We know contracts and services are being ramped and diluted every day. It's easy. It's called lunch.

    It's Condo Collusion as I see it. China, Lagos, Athens, Madras; districts around the world are complaining about poor spectrum allocation! They all know the services are only downtown; maybe districts, and follow venue. Now Americans will soon find that the urban neighborhood or the building where they live will be "feature restricted" soon.

    Darn it. Haitians and French can march in the street. We merely wallet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    pat, 20 May 2008 @ 8:52pm


    is there any recourse for these companies? like sprint who advertise "unlimited" but cut it off? like false advertising or something? some way to get a class-action suit perhaps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Wolferz (profile), 20 May 2008 @ 9:00pm


    or AT&T... Despite all the BS whining about AT&T wireless the reality is that they do not do this kind of thing. They have been offering an unlimited data plan for over 4 years now and guess what? The only thing that has changed is the price has gone down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    somedude, 20 May 2008 @ 9:10pm

    there is recourse, changing a deal like this means you can terminate your contract without any early termination charges.

    for a company that's losing customers, this is an odd way to go about things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Brian Hayes, 20 May 2008 @ 9:14pm

    What's 5GB?

    How do I find out when I should shut off the service or eat?

    It's tough to find out at what point the rate penalties kick in.

    Are there bandwidth police, penalty warnings, referee whistles, flashing orange lights?? Can I ask my bank to cap payments to a com vendor?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Michael Long, 20 May 2008 @ 9:48pm

    Unlimited? No.

    Unlimited? No. Follow the asterisk that points to the fine print on nearly any wireless data plan or service agreement and you'll see that you have access to "unlimited" emails, web pages, and the like, but not "unlimited" bandwidth, and certainly not unlimited downloads or P2P.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    john, 21 May 2008 @ 4:23am

    gimme a break

    they are having to change their ways because the idea wasn't perfect.. Don't think DSL or Cable haven't changed things. They do it without telling you and frankly try to hide that they are doing it.

    Example.. internet connection speeds keep getting faster. Why? they don't let you download anything. Drawing a webpage at 10Mb isn't any faster than 3mb. They have upped the speeds to 10Mb but when I try to download large files in access of 100Mb I get throttled to speeds so rediculously low (because they are reseting the modem) my aircard is faster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 21 May 2008 @ 5:31am

    Carriers I Know

    Most of the carriers, as far as i know, and IANAL, but when they change the terms, they have to tell you in writing and then there is a period where you can terminate your contract without any charges.
    So, as long as there was nothing in your contract limiting you to 5GB, you can use unlimited everything and unless they send the change to you in writing, they cannot limit you without breeching the contract that they wrote up .. without consulting you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Dom P, 21 May 2008 @ 6:06am

    Reality-move to Europe/Asia

    Prices are actually going up, 30 bucks per month for limited data (shared with more devices so probably slower) Sprint will be sharing this infrastructure with WIMAX so even slower performance with new devices...this is a mess. 5 years ago, I paid 15 per month for Sprint data.....and it was the same speeds as today....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    chris (profile), 21 May 2008 @ 6:39am

    Re: recourse

    no. the FCC is owned and operated by the telecommunications industry. you are allowed to cry about your situation, but not too loudly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    tc1uscg, 21 May 2008 @ 6:50am

    You WERE paying for "unlimited"

    Yes, your right.. you WERE paying for unlimited w/Sprint. So, they are changing the rules and if people don't like it, they will leave. Then, when Sprints churn goes back up, it will be "too bad, so sad". It appears that people are not leaving Verizon in DROVES to jump onboard with Sprints data service and thats YOUR (the media's) fault for painting such a grim picture about "customer service" that Sprint has decided that they will establish a cap. So, in July, you WON'T be paying for UNLIMITED service. You if you don't like it, then shut up and move to some one else. It's that simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Michael, 21 May 2008 @ 7:37am

    Well, I think it's rather stupid that carriers are doing this. Why do you offer an Unlimited Connection Card plan or plans that don't cause you to get roaming charges, but then terminate service on people who use too much data or roam too much. I think it's false advertisement. All the carriers are guilty. Verizon for charging overage charges for using more than 5GB on your connection card plan that's supposed to be unlimited; AT&T for disconnecting customers who roam too much and now Sprint who's putting a cap on the connection card plans and amount of minutes that you roam. T-mobile is guilty of it too. I have a friend who received a letter from t-Mobile saying they were going to disconnect him because he roams too much. I don't see how they can do that once you are locked into a plan with the carrier that says unlimited usage on a connection card or no charges for roaming off the companies network. They shouldn't have put it in your contract if they weren't going to offer it through out the term of your contract. Sounds like it sould be a 5GB Connection Card Plan instead of an Unlimited Connection Card Plan or plans that have no roaming charges unless you use over 800 minutes in roaming. They need to put it all in writing from the beginning. Once you've signed the agreement, they shouldn't be able to just up and tell you that they're going to disconnect you. I think that if they are breaking the contract that you originally signed...then they shouldn't charge you an early termination fee, but that they should pay the early termination fee to the customer, not just waive the early termination fee, since they are the ones who broke the contract.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Industry Analyst, 21 May 2008 @ 9:37am


    "...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."

    FINALLY!!! Somebody gets it. Bravo, Mike Masnick, for finally telling it like it is about 3G. EV-DO and UMTS and HSPA were NEVER to be a third pipe. Gullible reporters believed that every handset would have multi-megabit speeds and the operators and infrastructure guys didn't bother to correct that mistaken belief because it worked in their favor.

    I've been trying to preach that gospel for the last five years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Brian Hayes, 21 May 2008 @ 7:01pm

    USA's low rank

    EVDO speeds do not encourage splurging at media sites nor indulging movie downloads. There's a built-in restraint at the pipe. The new cap will likely restrict most customers to text sites only. Itunes, YouTube, eMusic, Unbox will be out of the question after July. Turning off Flash and Java too.

    For example, just one $3.99 movie rental purchase is 2G of the 5G monthly allocation already at $60. Streaming Public Radio will pop a 5G cap too. Sprint & Verizon should offer a Lynx browser download to protect users that are depending on the web.

    I'm surprised that defenders post the old "Love It Or Leave It" bumper sticker as a rational response. Arbitrary contract dilution is serious. Increasing fees in a damn odd American infrastructure is serious.

    I'm less surprised when corporate factors are spelled out to grab my sympathy, as if paid spin.

    It seems to me that unless we're number one and prove it, we shouldn't be happy that our pipes drain our budgets and keep most of us below the full experience promised in adverts.

    Until we're happy with our pipes and wires, diligence & bitching is a duty, ey wot?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Jon Baker, 27 May 2008 @ 9:15am


    So? You expected a corporate giant to play fairly? It's just what Barnes and Noble did - opened megastores all over the place with discounts on all books, then, after driving most of the local booksellers out of business, dropped the discount program.

    Amazon has so far mostly kept its discounts, but they are still competing with other online booksellers

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    ROC, 27 Jun 2008 @ 7:53pm


    Verizon gave it up a year ago or so after being sued by NY state's attorney general, and now, on Sprint's site this info is shown for an inquiry about available broadband plans:

    " With this plan and your Mobile Broadband Card or USB modem, you have instant Internet access wherever you go on the largest national Mobile Broadband network.
    This plan includes

    * Internet access on the largest national Mobile Broadband network.
    * 5 GB/mo. in total or 300 MB/mo. while off-network roaming. (1024 kb=1MB. 1024 MB=1 GB)
    * International data roaming may incur additional charges. Sprint reserves the right to limit throughput speeds or amount of data transferred."

    That off-network roaming limit could be a killer - when I use my Aircard, I have no idea when I am doing that aside from a slowdown in thruput.

    Rock and a hard place...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    andre racine, 10 Nov 2008 @ 12:07pm

    Killer costs on roaming after 5GB

    Nice of you to praise sprint but buyer beware. If verizon cuts ou off that is probably much bettwer than Sprint. I just received my bill for this month and although I did not use my air card that much, or at least I thought so, doing no more than reading emails at work and visting a few websites to download text documents my bill was an amazing $744 above my regular $59 monthly charge.

    I called Sprint and complained that if I had know I would have just went to a hotspot and bought a $10 daily charge with bongo. $744 for 1 month.... a little bit of gouging there. Needless to say I think EVDO has a long way to go to be affordable and I plan to get rid of it even if I have to pay the $200 disconnection its better than getting swanked with an $800 plus bill every month.

    Everyone out there be careful, SPRINT will not even warn you they just send you the bill at the end of the month and you have to beleive you downloaded 35G because they say so. There bill doesen't even detail the data amounting to that charge... just a roaming fee ---- $744

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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