If LTE is the future of cellular data, then why has Verizon decided on the same old business model? We’ve been seeing teasers for the December LTE launch for some time now, which has led us to wonder exactly what Verizon has planned. Will they have an all-in plan? What kind of tiering will they employ? What I didn’t expect, though what I clearly should have expected, is that Verizon would do the same old, same old with its pricing. Not only is the old way boring, but it also essentially negates the speed advantage of the LTE network.
Instead of designing plans that would fit many different user types, Verizon has decided to launch its LTE services with just two plans. One costs $50 per month and provides 5GB. The other costs $80 per month and provides 10GB. Viewed in terms of 3G data this isn’t bad, since the plans are exactly the same. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the next-gen network? Shouldn’t something that revolutionizes the way we can use cellular data provide a revolutionary usage plans?
Of course not. We geeks would like it to be this way. We want to explore and play. We want to create. These plans make it nigh impossible. Sure, we can blaze our way around the internet from our laptops thanks to Verizon’s USB modems, but we have to really hold back — or else start incurring $10/GB overage charges. As Sascha Segan of PC Magazine writes, “Verizon’s new 4G LTe network is so fast that you can use up your entire 5GB, $50 monthly allotment in 32 minutes.” That’s the theoretical max, but even in a tame example can leave you near your data cap.
Downloading some files via BitTorrent, I registered 5.6Mbps, which could use up the cap in about two hours. Standard-definition Netflix video is kinder to your data cap; according to Netflix, they encode at 1500 kbps, so it’ll take you 7.4 hours to burn through your monthly allotment. That’s fewer than four movies.
We’re still excited about LTE and what it can mean for the future of the internet. But for the present of the internet, it means very little. It is a high-speed network that encourages the same habits as its lower speed predecessor. That, of course, is cost effective for the carriers, so they’ll be hard pressed to change. It’s the way things are done when a public company owns this technology. But it doesn’t mean it’s right.
I’m now cringing to think how Verizon will handle smartphone LTE data.