Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's An Unpopular Opinion
Well, by "you all", I meant more than you individually.
Telcos get crapped on when they underinvest, as AT&T did between the iPhone launch and 2009. They have lots of dropped calls and slow data, and earn a bad reputation.
Then Telcos get crapped on when they DO invest, and stay ahead of rapidly growing data demand. People say "There's no capacity crunch. That's BS." Well, there IS a crunch, but you just don't feel it because they are building out networks like crazy.
Telcos may be dicks. But to criticize them in both of the two fashions above makes the critics also dicks.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's An Unpopular Opinion
"Are there other markets that have unlimited mobile data where it causes huge problems, or is it metered everywhere?"
Well, even Sprint is unlimited, right here (if you're in the USA.) So that's part 2 of your question.
For part 1:
Perverse consumption doesn't have to lead to catastrophe.
Assholes leaving taps running in public bathrooms just means wasted water. The local utility won't actually run out of water as a result. But it's still perverse waste.
One result is that public bathrooms have often upgraded to either spring-loaded or sensor-based taps. It makes it harder to wash your hands, but it cuts back the waste. It's analogous to metering or caps.
But on the cellular internet side, if you're looking for a global catastrophe because many people have perverse behavior with unlimited data, you won't find it. It just manifests as dropped calls, slow data, or lost packets to the rest of us. So we get our Uber request in a little more slowly.
Not every bad thing is as swift, binary, and consequential as a guillotine. A slow sawing at your neck is also a negative.
Why the heck would profit-oriented businesses be spending billions on expanding their network capacity if capacity were not a major challenge? It absolutely follows.
And if congestion is not *currently* a huge problem where you are, it is merely the result of years of this kind of investment.
You know, you are kind of damning the carriers if they do, and damning them if they don't. I mean, AT&T fell behind on capacity growth when the iPhone data traffic surprised them, and had real a capacity crisis for a couple of years - so everyone shit on them. In response, all carriers doubled down mobile capacity investments...now you all shit on them saying there is no capacity crunch. OK, maybe not, because they raised their demand forecasts, and built out more capacity. But at peak loads, we are still constrained. And demand continues to grow.
"And that's simpler than knowing you have unlimited data?"
No. Never said it was. I said it was simpler than a meter like the gas station or your electric.
I also said unlimited data gives perverse incentives, and people will leave the tap running like people do in public bathrooms.
"True, I would hardly ever even consider using 16% of my monthly data to get an app. Not everyone has big data plans, because not everyone wants to pay for them."
Good on you. Many people have shifted data use to Wifi, which is one of the correct ways people respond to incentives. They try to use the cheaper network instead of the expensive one. I personally call this an economic success story...but the telcos may not because they don't bill for the wifi use.
"Fully metered would be worse than tiers, but that doesn't prove that tiers are better than unmetered"
No, I used a three step logical argument: 1- "unlimited" causes perverse consumption. Zero is a number that does strange things, in this case, stimulates wonton demand with tremendous waste built-in. We should avoid this kind of waste, so unlimited is not a good model. 2- If we need to put on limits, ample Tiers are better than metered. 3- The moderate competition in the industry should mean that some of the surplus generated from not wasting will go into the consumers' pocket.
Re: Re: Re: Re: You just can't have unlimited data on a limited network
"Excluding the smaller players, the wireless companies are the telcos, are they not? So they're paying themselves."
No. They are paying other telcos. Look at my example. T-Mo, with no fixed infrastructure, pays many other Tier 1 carriers for transport. Of course, for the big two, they can do more of their own backhaul, but even AT&T and Verizon will find themselves buying backhaul from local and regional telcos like CenturyLink, or others.
"So, rather than constantly upgrading their cabling, they should just bury a bundle of high capacity cabling"
OK, but much as you may hate them, the telcos aren't that stupid. They DO bury cable with capacity planned for the future. It's just that until year 2000, there was no concept that a cell tower would need this much backhaul, so that whole installed base of towers is copper-connected. Copper does cost a lot, so just an adequate amount was buried for the envisioned growth of voice traffic.
Of course today they would only bury fiber if a new trench is dug.
"they only want to run enough cable capacity to cover what they immediately need"
Nope. Wrong. They just do a cost/benefit analysis, as any profit-minded business would do. And consider this normal case:
You build a cell tower with copper infrastructure from the local incumbent carrier 500 yard away. The nearest fiber run is 2 miles away. Do you bury copper for 500 yards to meet expected traffic and growth, or do you trench the 2 miles to run fiber for any possible future eventuality?
The choice is clear and obvious. People should not armchair quarterback this shit without understanding the real history, facts, challenges, investments, and capacity planning of the industry.
"I don't think I need to give them any allowances for being so shortsighted."
There were just not that many people prior to 2000 who envisioned the mobile Internet as it is. Few businesses would have invested in fiber to the tower at that time, especially given the much higher cost-per-tower capital expense.
Re: Re: You just can't have unlimited data on a limited network
"That's an easy thing to fix: stop running laughably puny pipes to the towers. 20mbps is ridiculously small."
And THAT is really f'n easy to say when it's not your job. It turns out that it is NOT an easy thing to fix, and an entire industry sector is dedicated to solving the backhaul challenges.
Best, of course, is fiber to the tower. But most towers aren't so lucky to be near a fiber run. So the fiber can be extended, but that's expensive trenching -- which is being done for many towers.
Next best is to pay some telco to backhaul your tower. For example T-Mo pays AT&T all over the country. But that is not cheap, and you can guess how great the AT&T service is for T-mo.
Next best is point-to-point wireless solutions, using directional beams. Dozens of technologies have been used here, from Free Space Optics, to wimax, to millimeter wave, in-band, out-of-band, mesh, yada yada. The problems here are throughput is a function of range, and throughput can be degraded by fog, rain, birds, etc. And latency is introduced. And if the signals have to hop multiple towers in a chain or mesh, some towers have to carry multiple towers worth of traffic and become a bottleneck. In cities, sight-lines, multipath and interference are a huge problem.
Sorry. Not easy. Not at all. You can't armchair quarterback this shit. Building a network is actually very hard. And keeping up with data demand is also hard, as AT&T was kind enough to demonstrate when they first got the iPhone in 2007. We don't have to shed a tear for the carriers. They take a big pound of flesh to do the job. But don't tell me it's easy.
Also, not cheap. So, carriers are CONSTANTLY upgrading their tower backhaul, and it costs money. They do it primarily because data demand is growing...which is why we pay more if we use more data.
Re: Re: You just can't have unlimited data on a limited network
"Except the plan is to remove landline unlimited data too"
A different subject (not entirely, but more or less).
"And if Congestion is a problem, Zero-rated high bandwidth apps wouldn't be a thing"
Here's how that works. The carriers want to make money per MB. People are already using Pandora, Spotify, and Periscope.tv. When they do so, they are using non-optimized feeds of such, and the carrier is cut out of the revenue stream.
If the carrier zero-rates, say Pandora, then they work with Pandora to distribute it into their phones, they work to "optimize" the data rate (read: make it shittier for you), and they take a rev share on the ad revenue for Pandora in return for the distribution. Thus, even though "zero rated" they make more money on that Pandora service than they would if they had done nothing.
By promoting Pandora, they also limit the user's desire to try another service, say Spotify, which isn't optimized. The net effect can actually be a reduction in data traffic, with a share in the music service's revenues. So, it shows how even if "congestion is a problem", zero rating can be a thing.
BTW, I'm not arguing in favor or against zero rating here. I want to stay focused. I'm just explaining to you how it makes sense to some carriers, and is unrelated to congestion.
No argument with what you wrote. Overage fees are, and have historically, been exorbitant and punitive. It's like they are punishing you for guessing wrong.
Data is cheap, on a per MB basis. You said it, I agree. And it's getting cheaper. (But it's not free. And free does weird things to math, and demand, and consumption -- as Techdirt writes about often.) So if a user goes over their tier, they should be charged some reasonable rate for the overage.
I have no defense for carriers charging $15 for a 3MB overage, or even worse, the rates they charge for international roaming. In fact, I'd be the first to write an article saying it's rape.
a) congestion IS a problem. If congestion weren't a problem: - then they would not spend tens of billions of real dollars to build out the network. - then they would not be talking about (and buying) het nets, pico cells, repeaters, wifi offload, additional node b, new tower sites, DAS systems, etc. - then they would not spend billions for new spectrum at auction - then they would not be upgrading 3G spectrum to 4G spectrum. Upgrading 4G LTE to LTE-A, developing 5G technologies for the future
The premise "congestion isn't a current problem" is just wrong. I see it written at Techdirt, and elsewhere. How does that jibe with the TRUE things I listed above? Does it make sense to you that avaricious companies like the telcos are spending billions of real dollars on those bullet points, when there is no capacity problem?
Here's why "congestion isn't a current problem" is a myth that is often believed. It's because it's true in most places, at most times of the day. But for telcos, network planning and investment revolves around PEAK LOADS at peak times of day. That's just like highways, elevator planning in tall buildings, and many other things. The amount you invest (and therefore the cost) isn't related to the usage or demand at 3am, but rather at rush hour.
So, I'll agree that acting like 'all times are peak times' isn't correct...as long as you agree that congestion IS a problem, and drives carriers (and thus you and I) higher costs.
I remember. Tiers are quite wide tranches. And users tend to have somewhat predictable usage from month to month. Thus, we can choose the right tranche, and fairly easily fall into remaining below that cap.
The carriers and third party apps like Mobidia also allow us to track our usage, to make sure we know where we are in our tranche for the month. SMSes are now sent to alert us to 50%, 75%, etc.
As the market is today, do you REALLY do mental math when you are out and see an app in the store you want to download? Do you really think about whether you can download that 40MB app, or not? Of course not. Your tranche is big enough to handle it no problem. However, you may look at your monthly consumption from time to time, and decide to go up or down a tier.
That's just not so painful. If it were fully metered, like electricity, gasoline, or water...then you might have to think "Do I download this app here, or wait unti wifi?" Tiers meant that once you choose the right tier, your data is basically already paid.
I'm not sure they are deliberately degrading landlines, I think they are spending lots of money to maintain. I think you will find that customers on landlines are very profitable to telcos, because that buried copper is already in place, and other than maintenance, they are just milking that capital investment.
I can tell you that I am certain that telcos don't like the fact that landline subscriptions are shrinking. It keeps them up at night, worrying about how to stem the bleeding, or replace that revenue.
Now, are they trying to load more customers and services on the network, even while complaining that they are constrained. Yes. That fits into the part where I wrote (and you will agree) that carriers are "operatives who want to extract as much money from their customer base as possible." Limiting each users's demand also plays into their ability to add more.
That said, with a little more competition, the fact that users consume less data, and that it is shared among more users, SHOULD result in lower prices to you. Since competition is weak (but does exist) we only see partial results. That said, do you think that you use more data each year since 2007, or less. Do you think you pay more per MB used each year, or less? It's less -- much less. So you are capturing some of the "consumer surplus".
I do not "defend those corporations". Not by a long shot.
I defend certain business models, like charging more for using more.
Your comment re landlines, whether correct or not, is completely unrelated to the topic at hand.
I "keep repeating it" because I think readers here would benefit from a fair counter-assessment of the situation. It's fine to hate the telcos, but I suggest we hate them for the right reasons, and there are plenty to choose from.
Well, I know that this opinion is totally unpopular here, but I'm not always in tune with the editorial drum, so here goes:
Carriers are profit hungry, soul-less operatives who want to extract as much money from their customer base as possible. This is among the reasons they want tiered pricing. If they sell an unlimited data plan, then it should bloody well be unlimited.
OK, not controversial yet.
That said, I believe in tiered and capped data plans. Some of the reasons Jack Gold mentioned resonate with me, but I'm more focused on the effect caps and tiers have on data demand. The combined effect of thinking of data traffic over cellular as a scarce resource has a beneficial effect on the mobile economy. The following beneficial results follow:
- consumers don't treat it as free. Have you ever seen how people waste food at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Ever been in a public restroom where the water tap is left open? Seen a heated store where someone has left the door open, wasting heat? Or how people finish their drinks when it's a cash bar, but they leave half-filled drinks all over the room when it's an open bar? People waste when they don't pay the bill. By capping data in tiers, people consumer what they want, what they need, but don't leave the tap running for nothing.
- once consumers appreciate that there is a cost to data, they use it when it makes sense. There is a "cost" on the cost side of their cost/benefit analysis. The cost doesn't have to be big, but it needs to exist - because it exists in reality.
- people often act like the carrier network is in place, so using it is essentially free. That would be kinda true if data consumption wasn't growing exponentially. The only reason we can use our phones at all is because there is continuous, rapid expansion of cellular network capacity, funded by capital investment by telcos, funded by your bill. It isn't free.
- Once customers understand that usage isn't free, it forces other important players to start to respect the costs of network traffic, too. Main example is the app developers. I can assure you that they didn't give a rats ass about how data-inefficient their apps were in 2008. No customer gave a crap, so neither did they. Their 5-star ratings were completely unrelated to how little data the app used. But today, if an app like a weather app tries to update data every 10 minutes, it will be slammed in the reviews as "data hungry for nothing". This is good. This is the supply chain responding to the scarcity of spectrum, infrastructure, and capacity.
So, this is not a defense of the fact that we pay too much in the US for mobile data. It is certainly not a defense of punitive overage charges (overage charges shouldn't be pricier than the main tier.)It's simply a defense in the notion of "pay more to use more" as a fair economic construct. This model has worked at the butcher shop, the gas station, the utility sector, and elsewhere. Tiers simplify the mental math.
Re: Re: Re: Re: How about an impenetrable cable tie?
I'm a United frequent flyer. And they tried this side business in partnership with UPS (as I recall) about half a decade ago. It didn't work. Insufficient demand, I would guess.
I don't like the idea myself. Bad as airlines are with your bags, I still like the odds of my bags arriving with me a lot better with the airline than with a parcel carrier.
Maybe you guys trying this haven't shipped larger boxes very often, but the speed of delivery is variable, and tends towards slow. This is not a "priority envelope" service, unless you want to pay $150 per box.
And then factor in International. If you've ever shipped abroad, you will learn the sad lessons of how long parcels can spend held up in customs. For trade shows, twice I've tried to ship booth supplies to Europe to meet me at the trade show. On both occasions, the parcel was shipped two weeks before the show. On both occasions, our stuff was held up in customs, and never made it to the show. On both occasions we spend hours on the phone, roaming fees, etc, but to no avail. You'll need to ship one month ahead to be sure, unless you want to go commando for your entire holidays.