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Why AT&T Should Dump the iPhone's Unlimited Data Plan

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the traffic-shaping-on-the-go dept.


Pickens writes "Farhad Manjoo has a provocative story at Slate asserting that while the iPhone has prompted millions of people to join AT&T, it has also hurt the company's image because all of those customers use their phones too much, and AT&T's network is getting crushed by the demand. The typical smartphone customer consumes about 40 to 80 megabytes of wireless capacity a month, while the typical iPhone customer uses 400 MB a month. As more people sign up, local cell towers get more congested, and your own phone performs worse. He says the problem is that a customer who uses 1 MB a month pays the same amount as someone who uses 1,000 MB, and the solution is tiered pricing. 'Of course, users would cry bloody murder at first,' writes Manjoo. 'I'd call on AT&T to create automatic tiers — everyone would start out on the $10/100 MB plan each month, and your price would go up automatically as your usage passes each 100 MB tier.' He says the key to implementing the policy is transparency, and that the iPhone should have an indicator like the battery bar that changes color as you pass each monthly tier. 'Some iPhone fans will argue that metered pricing would kill the magic of Apple's phone — that sense of liberation one feels at being able to access the Internet from anywhere, at any time. The trouble is, for many of us, AT&T's overcrowded network has already killed that sense, and now our usual dealings with Apple's phone are tinged with annoyance.'"

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I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (0, Flamebait)

Bobnova (1435535) | about 5 years ago | (#29704603)

I will laugh when ATT and the Iphone cease to work entirely.

While they're at it, charge extra for text messaging while moving faster then 10mph, stupid car texting people anyway.

Re:I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (5, Funny)

Coren22 (1625475) | about 5 years ago | (#29704643)

How would you handle the passenger texting then? The driver isn't the only one in the car.

Re:I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704859)

What we need is a giant spike in the center of the steering column which is explosively propelled forward when the car detects a cell phone in the vicinity of the driver's seat headrest.

Re:I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | about 5 years ago | (#29704911)

I can agree to that, but my car has bluetooth built in. :)

Re:I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (1)

fucket (1256188) | about 5 years ago | (#29704971)

Or people texting while riding the bus or train?

Re:I will laugh when ATT's network collapses (0, Redundant)

Emperor Tiberius (673354) | about 5 years ago | (#29704685)

And what about people sending texts as a passenger in the vehicle going faster than 10 MPH?

Invest (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 years ago | (#29704605)

Build more towers. Increase capacity. Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure. Build it. Cut dividend payouts a little bit, and build the infrastructure up. Maybe cut executive and management pay a little bit. DUHH. And, while you're at it, maybe you can get that "last mile" built so that all Americans can get online. Tiered pricing isn't the solution. Demand is going to increase every year from now on. Get used to the idea that you need to keep adding to and improving the infrastructure. You can't take a snapshot at some arbitrary point, and say "We need this much more infrastructure, then we'll be on easy street." Invest your earnings back into the system, where it belongs - in the business.

cell towers or WiFi routers? (2, Interesting)

CdBee (742846) | about 5 years ago | (#29704675)

Given that WiFi routers in urban areas with DSL backhaul can take a lot more data than 3G, maybe AT&T shouldnt consider their network as solely GSM-based.... and start getting iPhone and any other WiFi smartphone users to use wireless networks more..

Re:cell towers or WiFi routers? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704763)

I agree, and that's exactly what users will start doing themselves if there ever is a data cap on the iphone's 3G. The thing is, it's a bit of a scary scenario for AT&T, because once communities gather with ad hoc, consistent wifi network coverage, people will want to scale back their GSM data use and buy the cheapest plan available, or maybe even a voice-only plan.

Re:cell towers or WiFi routers? (1)

alen (225700) | about 5 years ago | (#29704809)

they already do

you can use the wifi for free in any starbucks on the iphone. and at&T has more than 20,000 wifi access points around the US

Re:cell towers or WiFi routers? (1)

CdBee (742846) | about 5 years ago | (#29704843)

You say 20,000 routers as if it is a lot. In a nation of 300mil people, it is a tiny number.

Re:cell towers or WiFi routers? (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | about 5 years ago | (#29705007)

How much space will one wifi access point cover? A 100 ft radius? For 20,000 access points, that's only 22 square miles - less than a typical US township (36 square miles).

Re:Invest (5, Insightful)

microcars (708223) | about 5 years ago | (#29704725)

Invest in more infrastructure is exactly what AT&T won't do if they move to tiered pricing.
As soon as extra money from the new fees rolls in their shareholders will start screaming that it belongs to them or the executives will just give themselves nice fat bonuses for implementing such a great new business model.

I don't know a good solution to this problem except for some serious competition to AT&T where their only possible response is to beef up their infrastructure to match or beat the competitor.

Re:Invest (4, Interesting)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 years ago | (#29704805)

...extra money from the new fees rolls in

That is the cruel truth of how ATT, and most carriers, operate. They won't lower the fees for light users, they will only add fees for heavy users. In fact, they would probably add a new fee to light users called "bandwidth usage monitoring recovery fee" to compensate themselves even more for the capability they already have. This fee will, of course, not be counted in the total fee for the remaining 23 months of a contract, just like they do with all the other bogus fees they try to mislabel as some generic 'government tax' like fee.

Fee Fi Fo Fum, ATT can kiss my bum.

Re:Invest (2)

farble1670 (803356) | about 5 years ago | (#29704939)

just like they do with all the other bogus fees they try to mislabel as some generic 'government tax' like fee

oh i see. so at&t adds fake fees and deceptively labels them as government taxes? do you think that might get them in a bit of trouble? sheesh.

Re:Invest (2, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 5 years ago | (#29705043)

The problem is not one of infrastructure only. There is a real limit.

1) Screams from people who yell and scream that towers generates DNA errors. Thus there can only be so many towers with so many watts of power.

2) Interference, and band splitting. There are only so many connections that can be served via a single tower. Exceed that and you have problems.

3) Wifi is not the solution. Conferences now give free Wifi. Want to see how fast those connections come to a crawl?

The reality is that wireless only has so much capacity. It is like Satellite Internet and its limitations. Prices do need to be tiered. Granted the old pricing was really expensive, but this new approach is no better.

Re:Invest (3, Funny)

RDW (41497) | about 5 years ago | (#29704731)

'Build more towers. Increase capacity. Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure. Build it. Cut dividend payouts a little bit, and build the infrastructure up. Maybe cut executive and management pay a little bit.'

Or (and call me crazy for such a ludicrous idea) end the purely greed-motivated exclusivity deal that dumps all the traffic on a single network in the first place. Imagine a bizarre alternative universe where Apple stuck to being a hardware & software vendor, without attempting to squeeze even more cash from the deal in network kickbacks every month, and the networks themselves knew their place as Dumb Pipes who just provided bandwidth. Pretty much how the rest of the internet works, come to think of it.

Re:Invest (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29704793)

This is possible in every other country, but quad band 3g will not work on T-mobile because it uses a fifth band that nobody (not even T-Mobile outside the US) uses. Now the question remains to see whether all it takes is a firmware hack, some people think it might just be that.

Sure.. that will build 1 thousandth of the towers (5, Insightful)

way2trivial (601132) | about 5 years ago | (#29704871)

source: []
Total compensation of the five active execs listed for 2007 $59,359,833.00

Source: []
cost to build a tower $100,000 - $300,000
so I'll take 200k as an average

source: []
number of towers that builds if they take NO PAY AT ALL- 296.799

source: []
surface area of the US 3,794,066 sq mi

source: []
range of a cell tower gsm 25miles otherwise 30-45 miles..

lets say 40 miles-- be generous
source []
area of a circle using 45 as the radius= 6361 miles []
6361 into the size of the USA .00167656546

you've taken away 100% of their compensation, and added 1/10 of one percent of the towers needed to blanket the nation

Re:Sure.. that will build 1 thousandth of the towe (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 5 years ago | (#29704989)

You're ignoring population density- the vast vast majority of iphone users are urban. Blanket those 300ish towers in the op 20 metropolitan areas and your problem is 99% solved.

Re:Sure.. that will build 1 thousandth of the towe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705013)

Your math is totally off.

3,794,066 sq mi / (6361 sq mi / tower) = 596 towers
596 towers * 200,000 $/tower = $119,200,000

So the top five would have to go without pay for two years in order to theoretically blanket the US. Of course, since the coverage of a tower is roughly circular, and circles don't tesselate, you'd actually need a lot more than 600 towers. However, for the pay of the top five execs, you could build about 300 towers.

Re:Sure.. that will build 1 thousandth of the towe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705033)

The issue isn't blanketing the US though, it's providing more bandwidth in the congested areas. More towers need to be added to the big cities and places where there's lots of users (NY, DC, etc.)

A significant portion of the US is totally unpopulated so it wouldn't take that many towers at all. It's not like the iPhone users in Yellowstone are congesting the network!

AT&T already has lots of towers as well, so your math is even further wrong since it assumes that they have no towers and are starting from scratch. No provider is trying to blanket the whole nation, they just want the largely populated areas and cities. That's where the money and the network load is.

Re:Invest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704875)

Oh man!! No salary cuts please!!

To support the dividend - the company has stopped giving out FREE paper cups to employees for drinking water (if you are contractor or vendor to AT&T and want to step into AT&T office - bring in your own cup or a sack of coins for the carbonated water). No more trash picked up alternate days (it is now picked up once every week). Oh you may want to relieve yourself at the nearest starbucks before you step into an AT&T loo; the whole rest room is littered with bits and pieces of cheap toilet paper that shreds the moment you touch it. If you are not used to 78F in summer bring in your own fan and a sweater to combat the 68F in winters.

Re:Invest (2, Interesting)

Buybye (1022567) | about 5 years ago | (#29704909)

Don't even let these pirates get away with tiered pricing. I don't have an iPhone but I travel all year in an RV. Verizon at one time had a unlimited data plan. Since I am a photographer I use the hell out of it. I have been told that Verizon doesn't sell that option anymore. So if I ever violate my current service I'm screwed. When I bought a new laptop a couple of months ago I had to load over 1GB of patches and while that is a different issue, I can only imagine what my "tiered" bill would be.

Re:Invest (1)

iphoneman (1653915) | about 5 years ago | (#29704963)

Probably impossible to do now that all the GPS apps are available. ATT's included.

Re:Invest (1)

nxtw (866177) | about 5 years ago | (#29705041)

Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure.

I'm unaware of the US government funding mobile Internet services - just voice (and even then, they only fund mobile voice services when they compete with high-cost rural landline voice services.)

Indeed, networks pay the US government for the privilege to use the spectrum to offer their mobile communication services.

Users don't know how much data they are using (1)

iamacat (583406) | about 5 years ago | (#29704613)

It's under application's control not users. So someone who has a single bad experience with a buggy app will dump AT&T and Apple forever. There are already horror stories abound with overseas data roaming.

Just limit long-term data speed to whatever can be sustained and provide higher burst speed for basic web browsing.

Sure- if they lowered the starting price. (1)

shidarin'ou (762483) | about 5 years ago | (#29704617)

And included text messages in "data"

I'm sick of paying 35 dollars a month for "unlimited" data that I don't use, and 5 dollars for 200 (or 4 Kbs) of text messages.

Most of the time I am on a wifi network; when I am not, I don't use much data anyway.

Stick the 3 GB price point at 30 dollars, 2 at 20; 1 GB at 10, etc.

Also, it should be further tiered based on what data connection you are using. Us original iPhone users got royally screwed when AT&T upped the rates because the 3g came out.

But who am I kidding? We all know if this happened, the starting price would be 30 dollars for 200 MB of data, and an additional 10 dollars for every 100 MB.

Re:Sure- if they lowered the starting price. (1)

sarahbau (692647) | about 5 years ago | (#29704865)

Yeah - I too am tired of paying for unlimited data that I don't use (there's no option on the data plan). I use about 30MB per month at most. The rest of the time, I'm on WiFi. Of course as you said, they probably wouldn't give a lower priced option. They'd just change the $30 plan to a limited amount, and make unlimited even more expensive.

Re:Sure- if they lowered the starting price. (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 5 years ago | (#29705001)

Ensuring there is a reasonable limit on the amount of data you can download will ensure that those looking for a free lunch will limit their download. Heck, its not as if they can go elsewhere. People wanting to download more than say 20GB a month should be offered options, such as:
    - throttling
    - cut off until next billing cycle
    - paying extra
Being able to choose your penalty should provide the network neutrality option, with an acceptance of your personal limits.

Additionally building more wi-fi access points will help offload data onto infrastructure that was designed for it.

What uses so much data? (4, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | about 5 years ago | (#29704631)

I've had an iphone since June. Total data received is just a under 1gb, data sent is around 80mb.

Re:What uses so much data? (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | about 5 years ago | (#29704733)

Me 1234567891011

Re:What uses so much data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704803)

Today's stuff doesn't weight the same it did 10 or 15 years ago. Undust your dialup modem and see how painful everything becomes.

Re:What uses so much data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704895)

Anyone who watches YouTube on their phone. Those vids are around ~50Megs a pop.

Irrelevant fact to this issue (5, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29704633)

AT&T also scored lower than any other U.S. carrier in a recent customer-satisfaction survey—the first time it has ever claimed last place.

That's not the iPhone users fault: that's AT&T fault.

What's this horseshit of blaming the customer for shitting customer service, or service for that matter?!

They sold a service and an amount of bandwidth and now that they can't deliver, they're blaming the customer.

Re:Irrelevant fact to this issue (4, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | about 5 years ago | (#29704701)

Thats the standard that most Internet/hosting companies go by. Blame high customer usage for their inadequate infrastructure.

Re:Irrelevant fact to this issue (4, Insightful)

slyn (1111419) | about 5 years ago | (#29704925)

Seriously, this is the stupidest fucking story I've ever read. AT&T oversold their infrastructure, and now they have three choices:

1: Do nothing, lose customers due to poor service. This is the worst idea, bad both long term and short term.
2: Raise prices to drive down demand like this schmuck suggests, lose customers. This is a bad idea, you increase revenues short term maybe, but lower revenues in the long term.
3: Invest in more towers, bigger backends, thicker tubes, etc. "Lock in" customers not just with exclusive contracts with manufacturers but instead with a combination of exclusive contracts AND quality service. That would make a lot of happy customers, and though the initial investment would likely be many billions of dollars, happy customers are worth at least as much.

Re:Irrelevant fact to this issue (1)

TJamieson (218336) | about 5 years ago | (#29705067)

+5 Rational. I wish I had mod points!

Re:Irrelevant fact to this issue (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 years ago | (#29705021)

I don't think he's blaming the iphone users, he's saying exactly what you just said: that they can't deliver what they promised.

He said now instead of continuing to offer miserable service, they should just change their offer to something they actually can deliver. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Although they shouldn't rip off the people who already have plans.

Re:Irrelevant fact to this issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705037)

Telecom and insurance have to be the only industries in the world that piss and moan about customers actually WANTING their service.

use their phones too much (1)

Mike Rice (626857) | about 5 years ago | (#29704639)


How much is too much?

Tiered pricing doesn't solve the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704641)

The ATT network infrastructure still needs upgrades to handle existing traffic, and Apple hasn't stopped selling iPhones. Charging people more to use more data will not have as much an effect on usage as you are suggesting it will, but it will tick customers off even more than they already are, because they'll get charged even more for the same mediocre service. ATT should have seen this coming a while ago and done something about it.

Change plans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704649)

Unlimited data with half a meg as speed is 15€ a month here where I live, do something like that? Then you can pay more to get faster connection, like 1mbps is 5€ more.

Let me get this right (5, Insightful)

rshol (746340) | about 5 years ago | (#29704651)

ATT offered users an unlimited data plan, no wait, they required one with an iPhone. Now the problems with ATT's network are the fault of those selfish users who took ATT's offer seriously. Give me a break. ATT is rolling in money from iPhone, they should use it to build out their network.

Re:Let me get this right (1)

monoqlith (610041) | about 5 years ago | (#29704707)

This is yet another case of a Slate writer writing about something that they clearly don't understand. []

Re:Let me get this right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705023)

Obviously the solution is tiered pricing. That way AT&T's service remains shitty, but they can begin maximizing the amount of money extracted for said shitty service.

Cars are too hard on roads! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704659)

We should outlaw everything but horse and buggy. These new-fangled auto-mobiles just destroy our roads with their speed!
We should pass laws to make them travel no faster than a horse, or face fines!

Re:Cars are too hard on roads! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704813)

And while we're at it, let's sue the horse feed producers, their damn shit doesn't work in my car!

Dump AT&T Exclusivity (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 5 years ago | (#29704663)

If there was any love from Apple for its users, they would dump the AT&T exclusive deal and allow the iPhone to be sold and supported on all the other networks out there. But since they get such a sweet kickback from AT&T, they have zero incentive.

Every iPhone user I talk to in the midwest says they would dump AT&T in a heartbeat for Verizon or US Cellular (if they would ever support SIM cards). Even more people who don't have an iPhone would get one if they didn't have to sign up with AT&T.

Re:Dump AT&T Exclusivity (2, Insightful)

xannik (534808) | about 5 years ago | (#29704773)

Apple will be forced to drop that exclusivity deal, once Android starts kicking ass and taking names in 2010. With Sprint and Verizon both rolling out multiple Android phones Apple can't afford to stay tied to a crappy network.

Re:Dump AT&T Exclusivity (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29704851)

a) T-Mobile is the only other major US GSM network

b) CDMA networks carriers are only used in America (the continent), Japan and Korea, so it's not going to happen

c) T-Mobile USA, for some unfathomable reason, uses a non-standard "fifth band" frequency for its 3G, which means while a quad-band HSDPA phone will work fine in Europe, it won't in the US unless you roam on AT&T's network. It might be a firmware hack, or not. Until then, we'll see.

d) That said, it saddens me, slightly - I'm lucky, I guess, to never be away from wifi for too long so in the end all I use is an unlimited EDGE/texting (I cheated and cancelled my contract, also I live in a major north american city where 3G is, well, pretty bad, and on roadtrips, it's only a good deal in major metropolis on this side of the world)

Unlimited data is necessary for REAL smartphones (1)

nweaver (113078) | about 5 years ago | (#29704665)

If you have a real smartphone, one with a wide variety of applications, one that everyone will WANT to use, you must have an unlimited data plan.

Rather, what AT&T and Apple need to do is "WiFi tunnels": Have the iPhone associate with WiFi networks and encrypt traffic through a tunnel opportunistically to AT&T, so you can use and migrate between WiFi networks transparently, and between the WiFi and 3G, while having the phone act like its just continuously connected through a single network.

except this will kill AT&T too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704667)

Because a change of the pricing tiers would institute a contract change. Therefore you would be able to terminate your iphone contract without any penalty. The day they do this is the day that even the most tech illiterate iphone user learns how to jailbreak an iphone.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that something like this could break AT&Ts exclusivity agreement with Apple on the iPhone.

They make you pay $0.25 per text each way and now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704669)

They make you pay $0.25 per text each way and now they should start billing you $10+ per meg?

Haha serves you right (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704683)

And the money to expand this supply, which is now in the pockets of overpaid Apple, would have gone to the carriers. The traffic would have distributed because consumers would react to lower service levels and changed to other carriers, and when the system is balanced the pressure to expand and innovate is also balanced. Instead of, as in this case, creating a cartel in which both AT/T and iPhone deserves any shit thrown at them. And before anybody answers, NO this is not business, there are rules to business and if you cannot understand that then fuck off. Unfortunately I'm posting Anon due to the fucking Macibans infecting slashdot who mod down Apple criticism even when it's true.

And ditch that 8/16/32mb option (5, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | about 5 years ago | (#29704699)

As a great man [allegedly] once said, 640kb should be enough for anyone.

Modern users with their demands for eight, sixteen and thirty two megabyte options are just needlessly draining the world's silicon supply so they can listen to a few songs. Traditional phone users who don't have all of those cutesy multimedia options can get by with a fraction of that.

Alternatively, time moves on. Just because 640kb was once enough for anyone, doing what they did with the limitations of that era, just because 40-80mb/month was once enough for anyone... That doesn't mean time doesn't move on and it doesn't mean it's appropriate to only support what once was the norm.

AT&T have made a metric assload of money from people who bought the iPhone for, well, being an iPhone and not "some other" smartphone. AT&T's network sucks, just about everyone seems to gripe about it. They suck it up, when they'd never have gone with AT&T in the first place, because it does come with a more able phone, because it does come with unlimited data access, because it does come with an interface that makes using 5-10x as much bandwidth as before a practical reality.

To play bait and switch, to get users to buy $600 phones (yes, I'll claim full price in a world where you either pay inflated monthly rates or a fee to cancel), to get them to sign up for those contracts, to get them to leave companies with more reliable service, all with the promise of an unlimited phone and then to say... yeah, we don't feel like paying to support that so, instead, surprise! we're capping the unlimited service we sold you and charging overage fees is obscene.

If AT&T can't really roll out coverage to support iPhone users using an iPhone as an iPhone... perhaps the real answer is for Apple to say, "OK, you can't meet your end of the agreement - we'll sell it to Sprint/Verizon/whoever instead."

AT&T entered in to an agreement with Apple to provide a network that supported Apple's product. AT&T entered into an agreement with the customers to provide a network to support that product in a certain way, too. If they'd like to acknowledge they can't honor that, I'm sure another company would like the opportunity.

Re:And ditch that 8/16/32mb option (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29704927)

The problem is, we have 4 main crappy phone companies. You have AT&T with good coverage, good phones (though sadly no Android yet), medium price, but their networks are just so congested. You have Sprint with decent-ish coverage, great speed, decent enough phones, but pretty high prices. You have Verizon with good coverage, medium price, decent speed but they neuter their phones to being the point of unusable (want proof? compare a generic phone like the Motorola Razr between the 4 cell networks and you will find the Verizion one has most of their functions taken away and an awful hideous UI put in) and you have T-Mobile with open phones (lots of Android), decent prices, but their network just isn't as complete as the other 3 so coverage isn't the greatest and 3G is non-existent in non-urban areas. Myself I'd ditch AT&T and go for T-Mobile if they had decent service everywhere that I go but they don't.

Re:And ditch that 8/16/32mb option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705049)

draining the world's silicon supply

75% of the Earth's crust is silicon and oxygen. If we were "running out" of silicon, that means we had already "run out" of everything else.

You can hyperbolize to make your writing sound more interesting, but once you make absurd statements like that, you'll lose your audience. The reader walks away believing you are either an idiot or you are lying.

Stupid Idea (1)

okmijnuhb (575581) | about 5 years ago | (#29704705)

Consumers do not like tiered pricing, particularly those who purchase a smart phone for the purpose of fully using all it's fancy data consuming capabilities. The all you can eat plan, in this case, is a big selling point.

He's right (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 years ago | (#29704719)

The main reason not to meter a limited resource is if the overall added cost minus benefit of metering exceeds the overall cost minus benefit of not metering.

That isn't the case with a congested spectrum.

Or ATT could improve the network (1)

xannik (534808) | about 5 years ago | (#29704729)

I say ATT needs to improve their network or die. If they can't innovate and build a better network then someone else will step up to the plate. I don't feel sorry for them.

When android phones really start to become ubiquitous on other networks in 2010 those carriers will have to deal with the same issue, but I am willing to bet you that they won't suffer problems like ATT has, because they did things in the proper order, network first and then the phone. I think for ATT it is really about a misappropriation of money. Spend money wisely and invest in infrastructure, then roll out the smartphone.

ATT has had so many complaints with the iPhone that ATT is NOW being forced to invest in infrastructure, the problem is it is going to take a while for the benefits to show up. Hence, we get idiotic ideas like tiered pricing, because users are so upset about the state of the network they are willing to do anything to see service improve.

Re:Or ATT could improve the network (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704861)

I say ATT needs to improve their network or die. If they can't innovate and build a better network then someone else will step up to the plate. I don't feel sorry for them.

Apparently you don't understand the capital investments this infrastructure requires. You don't just grab your cousins Bo and Luke and start slapping up cell towers.

Slashdot readers want an unlimited quantity of data, at blazing speeds, for dirt cheap. I get that.

A realist with an ounce of business sense would say you probably can get two of the three. Which two are most important to you?

I'm posting AC because as a realist I realize that a comment like this will probably be modded as troll or flamebait. But I will tell you that I live in Michigan and am a big Michigan State fan... Go State!

I Have A Better Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704745)

Stop selling what you don't have, and improve your infrastructure.

Why does everyone's brilliant "solution" involve squeezing more money out of consumers?

Good argument to expand iPhone to Other Carriers (1)

okmijnuhb (575581) | about 5 years ago | (#29704747)

AT&T is selling something they cannot deliver.

Re:Good argument to expand iPhone to Other Carrier (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29704917)

A company is selling an "unlimited" plan and can't handle unlimited usage? How dare you suggest such a thing. That is blasphemy against Capitalism at its highest. No company would ever stoop to such lengths as offering more than they can handle in the hope that people won't use it. That just wouldn't be proper, even if it did increase profit in the short-term.

Next thing I know you'll be telling me that all of those "unlimited" broadband connections aren't unlimited, and that my $2 per month "unlimited" hosting account won't really let me host unlimited files with unlimited bandwidth!

The Real and Likely Solution (1)

sammysheep (537812) | about 5 years ago | (#29704751)

The problem: iPhone users suck up too much bandwidth for the ATT network. The solution: decrease use or increase network capacity.

For ATT, the decreased use can happen using updated pricing, and increased capacity will happen as a matter of course from year to year, but I think the real and likely solution ATT will just not like: when the contract is over and the iPhone is made available on other networks the ATT network will experience less use (lost customers) and iPhone users will experience greater capacity (they are spread out on multiple networks).

2 Problems with this (1)

Bytal (594494) | about 5 years ago | (#29704753)

Most AT&T customers do not go anywhere near 100MB of data and are perfectly willing to pay a flat $40 monthly fee. By cutting their bill by $30 you have just thrown away $30 of AT&T's profits. You're only hope would be to recover that money by raising the prices on the high bandwidth users by the same amount or more. If anything, by restricting their bandwidth usage you'd actually be encouraging a saving behavior that by definition results in lower profits for you. You're also cutting the profits on your largest subscription base, all for a dubious increase in "goodwill". Maybe it would be a lot more cost effective to just build more towers.

Whenever I hear tiered pricing, I never imagine a $30 discount to the low level users. I see a $5 discount (in return for a 50% lower effective usage cap) to those guys and a $20 increase to everyone else.

They should upgrade. (1)

Reeses (5069) | about 5 years ago | (#29704761)

They're going to need it as a competitive advantage. As more smart phones come out, they're going to have just as much impact on AT&T's network, and then everyone will be contributing to making the network slower.

If they don't upgrade, someone like Verizon is going to see it as a competitive weakness, and capitalize on it once they get their smartphones/iPhones (when the exclusivity contract runs out). The iPhone is just a harbinger of what's to come with mobile devices.

While I understand the benefits of applying an early adopter tax, it also makes AT&T vulnerable in a market that's pretty competitive already.

Rollover Data Plan? (2, Interesting)

Ender77 (551980) | about 5 years ago | (#29704771)

I rarely use my iphone internet because the speeds suck and I live in an edge network. I would like to see an alternative to the $30 unlimited plan and instead have something like $10 X amount of time/data plan that roll overs unused data to the next month like roll over minutes.

Re:Rollover Data Plan? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | about 5 years ago | (#29704831)

I agree - I'm on Pay As You Go with my V980, and the Internet rates are extortionate (£1 for 15MB, and then the rates go up rapidly if you go over that limit in a day). As far as I can tell, you can only get better prices on a contract, which doesn't suit my usage.

The interesting thing is that this is very different for 3G USB mobile broadband devices - here PAYG is common, and you get more sensible deals (e.g., £15 per 1GB). So I plan on getting one of these soon. But it just seems mad - it would be much simpler to just use my phone as a modem, but instead I have to buy a separate device and have separate accounts. The joke is that the one I plan on buying is from the same company that is my phone network...

Inevitable (2, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 5 years ago | (#29704795)

Really, how could AT&T not have seen this coming? Having attempted to surf the web on other phones, on an iPhone, while it is not perfect, it is at least functional. And guess what? More people will surf the web when they get an iPhone. When AT&T promoted that phone, more users that will tax their infrastructure. Unless someone at AT&T was praying that people would get the iPhone and not use one of the most useful features about it.

Re:Inevitable (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | about 5 years ago | (#29704867)

It's functional on my 4 year old V980. My mum (who is not very good with phones or computers, and has yet to work out how to store numbers in the phone's address book) still manages to use the Internet on her Motorola phone. It's pretty bog standard since, ooh, about 2004. Of course more people will use a phone's Internet if they've paid through the nose for it, or they're offered an "unlimited" plan, but in general web use as been increasing on all phones.

Which just makes this all the more embarrasing for AT&T if they can't cope with web traffic.

Manjoo should shut up (1)

koan (80826) | about 5 years ago | (#29704797)

And ATT should upgrade their crap network, and all we need for that to happen is to have the media monopolies broken up and regulated.
Until a time comes when ATT has to compete to stay alive, you will have crap plans, crap contracts, and, of course, a crap network.

Leave it to an idiot like Manjoo to look for the worst solution...tiering.

BullSh!t (1)

zenwaves (610082) | about 5 years ago | (#29704811)

I get only 450 f'ing voice minutes per month with that unlimited data plan, so AT&T and you, Farhood, can kiss my @$$

Re:BullSh!t (1)

Widowwolf (779548) | about 5 years ago | (#29704933)

Data plan and voice plan are completely separate..Want more minutes, then move up to the next plan you freaking idiot!

Flawed Premise (5, Insightful)

Shadow7789 (1000101) | about 5 years ago | (#29704817)

While the logic is sound, his basic premise is quite flawed. His article is based upon the idea that these "iPhone Users" are something so different and special from other phone users, that the world has never seen anything like them before (sounds like a bit of Apple propaganda to me). However, that is patently wrong. Just look at Japan. A very large percentage of the Japanese population uses their cell phones in ways that would put iPhone users to shame. That is not even mentioning that Japanese cities have much higher population densities than American cities, and you don't hear stories of how the Japanese phone network is falling apart. Between these two points, his conclusion that we will never be able to build enough network capacity to support iPhone users is clearly false.

The contributor's case implodes .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704825)

Your arguements evaporate quickly when you understand
that ATT feels its system is sOOO burdened that it just
opened it up to Multimedia transfers!!!

Your conclusions are erroneous and blame the wrong party.

wake up.

Why AT&T should stop whining like a spoilt bra (1)

Ant P. (974313) | about 5 years ago | (#29704829)

Would this bandwidth disaster have happened if they hadn't simply embezzled those billions of tax dollars of government handouts they were given to prevent this happening in the first place?

I hope these scum go bankrupt after their network crashes and the iPhone cash cows jump ship. Same for every other ISP and telco in on the scam.

Re:Why AT+T should stop whining like a spoilt brat (1)

Ant P. (974313) | about 5 years ago | (#29704847)

Oh great, /. doesn't know how to count so now my subject line sounds perverted.

iPhone haters (2, Insightful)

Pointy_Hair (133077) | about 5 years ago | (#29704833)

iPhone is just the most visible because it can be equipped with all sorts of apps that actually work as advertised most times, and people actually use them. If [fill-in-the-blank-other-carrier] supplied an equally useful product, their network would get hammered too.

Personally, I would say the topic of this article hasn't really affected me and I travel a lot. My iPhone on AT&T works at least as good as my previous Blackberry 8830 and Treo before that did on Verizon. The aircard for my laptops consistently works better than the Verizon one did. The only time I've seen crappy data rates is usually at/near an airport where a zillion other people are connecting to the same tower as me. Not too surprising and not worth the effort to whine about.

iPhone lOvers (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | about 5 years ago | (#29704959)

iPhone is just the most visible because

It's the most visible because it's the only one that gets advertised by the media. I mean seriously - I used to joke about daily Iphone stories, but today we have, what, at least three on the front page? Where's the coverage for the big names like Nokia? Of course it's the most visible - but sales figures show a different story. And a good thing too, as I for one don't want the future of mobile computing to be a monopoly like we ended up with Microsoft, but worse one that's locked down to the extent that you can't even release an application without Apple approval.

Personally I'd much rather to see a future that continues with multiple companies (of which Apple can be one), with choice, and most importantly, compatible standards so that I can release an application that Just Works on all phones, without needing me to recompile it especially for each make, or getting corporate approval from the companies. I don't see why this is so controversial - and why Slashdot of all places is supporting the Iphone all the way.

Once upon a time, this was a place to support open and alternative solutions, not to give coverage and free advertising solely to large companies with locked down products!

Note that all phones can run so called "apps". Running applications on phones has been common on all but the most basic phones for at least 5 years, and note that the market of Java smartphones is estimated at two billion.

I'm not a hater. That's just another deceitful trick put out: that if someone uses another phone, disagrees that the Iphone is the best phone ever - or disputes claims that the Iphone is the best selling phone out there - they must be doing so out of an irrational hatred (e.g., the story about Japan hating Iphones).

By all means let's have a sensible debate about which phone is the best, or argue about how many phones are sold by which company. But please, let's have a fair debate, with evidence - rather than resorting to the usual tactic of branding people "haters", or modding people down out of sight simply because you disagree with them, and can't respond to their criticisms.

'Induced traffic' - Hah (3, Insightful)

monoqlith (610041) | about 5 years ago | (#29704845)

The writer builds his entire argument on the idea that, like highways, building network capacity produces a phenomenon called "induced traffic". The more roads you build, the traffic they attract, producing an unending(but not really) cycle of expansion and congestion.

Setting aside the obvious dissimilarities between network traffic and highway traffic, what he fails to mention is that there's an upper limit to induced because, as usual, there are a finite number of people and cars. If it really was the case that highways inevitably congested no matter how many you build, all of our highways - not just the ones outside of major metro areas during rush hour - would be chronically congested, at all times. But they aren't. This is because there is an upper limit on how much people drive no matter how many highways are available for them to use, and there is an upper limit on how many people drive to begin with.

Similarly, the Internet would have grinded to a halt long ago if building out capacity wasn't at least a partial solution, if not a complete solution, to the problem. Most broadband users have unlimited access as well, and while some tax the network disproportionately, the Internet's infrastructure is able to support it.

Why the author thinks the same principle doesn't apply to iPhones is beyond me. Yes, people will do more data-intensive things on a faster network. But there's an upper limit to how much data can be transferred by a single iPhone user in one month anyway, even if the user is transferring data 24/7, 7 days a week. if the network is built to handle the upper-limit of the most data-intensive users even in a hypothetical "induced traffic" scenario, this won't be a problem.

The whole traffic analogy belongs in the "The Ted Stevens Dumptruck of Bad Analogies," and Slate should stop publishing articles about shit it doesn't know about.

what they need is load based pricing and display (1)

freshfromthevat (135461) | about 5 years ago | (#29704863)

ATT should charge more on overcrowded cell-sites and less on lightly loaded cell-sites. Also they should show the consumer what and where they are. This does two things, keeps sales up in areas where sales are low, and shows the users in the areas where insufficient network resources exist, how horrible the vendor is, or something. Oh well.

if they'd be fair, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704869)

I'd be OK with this if the carriers weren't historically predatory.But they'll do it just as they do minutes. $40/month for 50G (say), but if you go over it's $1/MB. That's just not a reasonable model. If they would just charge a reasonable flat rate per GB, and not make it difficult to find out my current balance, that would be great.
      However, we all know they thrive off of the occasional accidental $2000 bill.

Deliver what you promise (1)

Jonathan A (1584455) | about 5 years ago | (#29704879)

I'm sick of companies selling services they know they can't deliver and then just hoping that enough customers don't actually use what they paid for. Then they whine about it when it all comes crashing down. "Unlimited" means "Unlimited". If you can't deliver it, then don't sell it. Trying to reap the profits of selling "unlimited" while not paying the costs of delivering "unlimited" is just dishonest. Huh, "dishonest". Now there's a word you hardly ever hear applied to large corporations. /sarcasm. Just for the record, I don't own a smartphone.

What did ATT do with all taxpayer money? (1)

gemada (974357) | about 5 years ago | (#29704885)

that was given to ATT in th 90's for infrastructure upgrades? oh, right, i forgot. It was used to snort coke off of hookers tits and buy islands for the CEOs.

Hey bucco (2, Interesting)

djfuq (1151563) | about 5 years ago | (#29704889)

I wish people like you would keep your stupid suggestions to yourself. My iPhone works just fine and I could give 3 shits about its reliability because it is so useful to me - I live in Silicon Valley and sure sometimes there is no bandwidth when in a huge crowd of hipsters but I DONT CARE I like my phone and dont have any trouble accessing services. AT&T needs to upgrade their system - that is all. I Already pay $150 a month for this phone... I dont need an extra teir of pricing... in fact I believe the phone should cost me $80 bucks a month max with unlimited everything. That seems fair - not your suggestion.

Go kick rocks!

Backward methodolgy (2, Interesting)

smooth123 (893548) | about 5 years ago | (#29704897)

This does not make sense. If the network cannot handle the load, improve the network would be the right call to make. Making users use the network is thinking backwards. What if the same solution was applied to all enterprise apps. Oh The performance of the app is suffering because too many users are using it at the same time. Lets charge the users who are using it, or ration the app out to different departments based of priority. Whaaaat? If AT&T wants to prove that it is not their network that is the problem, they shoulld let Verizon have a go at the iPhone and see if it crumbles their network too.

Re:Backward methodolgy (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#29705051)

With the current rate plan, no matter how much they grow the network AT&T gets nothing from it - it just costs money.

There might be an argument if people were running from the iPhone because it was unusably slow and network congestion was preventing phone calls from working. Then you could make the case that for customer retention and new customers is was necessary to spend the money.

Spending money with no hope of increased revenue isn't the way to run a business. It specifically leads to either someone else running it the right way or no business left to run.


Emesee (1155401) | about 5 years ago | (#29704905)

stop whining, and shut up GOT KIDDIES? go ride your bikes.


Emesee (1155401) | about 5 years ago | (#29704919)

that should read, "......GOT IT KIddiesS?"

Let the iPhones have the network (1)

Grei (69192) | about 5 years ago | (#29704935)

I'm all in favor of the iPhones having AT&T's network. I don't have an iPhone and won't be getting one, and my phone has already been bumped off with 'Network Congestion' way too many times in the past few months.

Since AT&T's taken on the iPhone, there has been no network upgrade/expansion in the area I live. My basic phone service is as tempermental and annoying now as it was 5 years ago when I moved into this place. Even the 'upgrade plan' map that the salesperson gave me the last time I changed up phones is identical to the one I was given 5 years ago--just with the years changed to reflect the passing of the years.

After being with AT&T for over 10 years, I'll be changing to a carrier that does provide service to my home when I need to change phones next. Nothing AT&T can say will change that...they've had their chance these past 5 years.

We're in trouble (1)

gd23ka (324741) | about 5 years ago | (#29704951)

Some iPhone fans will argue that metered pricing would kill the magic of Apple's phone -- that sense of liberation one feels at being able to access the Internet from anywhere, at any time.

If being able to access the net is freedom then I rest my case for the destruction of the species.

Tragedy of the commons AGAIN (1, Insightful)

Normal_Deviate (807129) | about 5 years ago | (#29704957)

How many times must we repeat this lesson? EVERYTHING that is free gets overused, or pissed on. Even air. EVEN AIR. There are no exceptions. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Don't make me say this again.

Re:Tragedy of the commons AGAIN (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#29705055)

It's not free. Customers pay for the service, so they're using it... imagine that? They're already paying overly inflated prices.

How would you feel if your cable provider decided you get to download 100 Megabytes of files per month, and every additional 100 Mb doubles your monthly price?

The iPhone data plan is quite expensive. You pay more for it than you do for land based broadband services, even though land based broadband requires the larger capital outlay.

The real problem is ATT does not invest in their network infrastructure.

Just compare ATT's 3G coverage map to Verizon's, and you'll see what I mean.

Also, compare to Europe, where Tethering is commonplace, and they laugh at the US cell companies' puny networks.

How do you explain this phenomenon, other than greedy US cell companies, practically colluding to keep wireless services artificially scarce, avoid upgrading their network, so they can avoid getting into a price war and actually giving people a good price for decent service?

Better solution. (1)

lattyware (934246) | about 5 years ago | (#29704991)

Increase capacity. Let's face it, this usage is only going to increase in the future. You can try limiting it now, but that is a short-term solution. Increase capacity and reap the benefits later.

jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704995)

What happened to Slashdot? The comments on this article are barely better than Digg quality. Come on people.

1) The article is talking about *lowering* the prices for people who don't use as much data, and still having it be unlimited once you pass a certain point. This is not a continuously running timer like early-90s AOL that will eventually run your bill to eleventy billion dollars.

2) What's with the stupid "CEO bonus" bullshit? I realize Slashdot is more liberal nowadays and therefore ignorant about economics, but surely we're smarter than that. Put down the Daily Kos and the New York Times, guys.

3) I doubt Apple will ever redesign the iPhone to work with CDMA. It's not just "end the exclusivity contract with AT&T", it's "do that and then completely redesign the phone that is the same everywhere else in the world just because Verizon can't use GSM". Why would Apple pay to do that? Maybe if Verizon helps pay for it, I guess.

Simple answer (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#29705003)

AT&T should build more network capacity.

Of course, they aren't getting any money for this increased capacity, but it would make lots of existing customers feel better. Happier. Happy customers mean ... well, happy customers, right? That would be a good thing.

Of course, it might mean that AT&T Wireless just pulls the plug because their wireless costs far exceed their revenue. Sad, really sad. Not so happy customers. But it was great while it lasted.

I guess the lesson is that all good things comes to an end. Maybe someone else will come along and provide unlimited wireless pretty much for free. I mean, how much can it really cost, anyway?

Maybe the government should just make sure that everyone has free wireless, you know like the "right to have wireless" or something. It would be really great. Well, maybe not for AT&T, but great for the rest of us.

You wouldn't think that AT&T is driving themselves into the ground by having (a) limited capacity and (b) selling unlimited access would you?

I guess we can all hope for free government-mandated wireless now. Since Bush is gone it could probably get passed.

Verizon, T-Mobile would be happy to help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29705015)

If ATT can't support the users, just ask another service provider to help out. I am sure Verizon would pitch in.

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