To top
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Many mobile carriers used to offer unlimited data, which meant that any user could dip into the vast expanses of the Internet from the convenience of their mobile phone without occurring any additional charges. But a few years ago, providers started dropping unlimited data because of limited bandwidth (TIME went as far as to call bandwidth the new “black gold”).

Bandwidth, or the capacity to move information through a channel, is even more limited considering the amount of data that can be used via mobile devices relative to the data caps that mobile carriers have imposed. Some people have reported reaching their data cap (which is, in an average plan, about 5 GB) in a matter of days because of streaming movies, music, and/or TV through their mobile devices. Given their increased usage in the past few years, it raises questions on whether data caps are too low, or even if they are necessary at all.

“It is unlikely that the American appetite for bandwidth will diminish anytime soon, nor is it even clear that we want it to. But if we want the pleasure and convenience of a high-bandwidth society, someone will need to figure out a solution to the bandwidth dilemma soon,” said Tim Wu, professor of law at Columbia University. Wu also popularized the term “net neutrality” back in 2003.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has lashed out at data hogs through a blog post on August 30. “I am taking aim at a select group of individuals who have actually been stealing data from T-Mobile. If their activities are left unchecked their actions could eventually have a negative effect on the experience of honest T-Mobile customers. Not on my watch,” Legere said. Legere also mentioned that while there is an unlimited 4G LTE plan at T-Mobile, people are tethering their mobile devices, and said that there is a limited amount of tethering that a user can do before the data is throttled.

Legere mentioned that the data hogs he is targeting are using creative ways to work around the throttled speeds. “These violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data. They’re downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are ‘hacking’ the system to swipe high speed tethered data. These aren’t naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain,” he continued.

While he also mentioned that these users make up only 1/100th of a percent of the 59 million customers (a number Legere quotes is 3,000 users) at T-Mobile, they are taking as much as 2 TB (2,024 GB) of data monthly individually. Assuming each “data hog” user is on the unlimited 4G LTE data plan ($80 per month with T-Mobile) and it throttles at 21 GB of data in a billing cycle (usually 30 days), 2,003 GB a month is being lost (approximately 25 unlimited 4G LTE data plans) because of workarounds done by “data hog” users. This totals to a loss of $6 million monthly ($72 million annually). Last year, T-Mobile made $247 million in profit on revenues of $29.56 billion. Doing the math, the data hogs don’t make a huge impact when revenue is concerned, but could stunt them profit-wise, which could cause concern from investors.

Legere said he is going to go after these data hogs to give the rest of his customers a better experience. “We are going after every thief, and I am starting with the 3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing. The offenders start hearing from us tomorrow. No more abuse and no risk to the rest of our customers’ experience. It’s over,” he said. “I’m not in this business to play data cop, but we started this wireless revolution to change the industry for good and to fight for consumers. I won’t let a few thieves ruin things for anyone else,” he continued.

In an age of increased connectivity to the Internet, data caps can be a hindrance to those streaming music, movies and TV from mobile devices. However, keep in mind that unlimited data was never really unlimited (even when caps were not in place) because the business ate the costs of bandwidth. Instead of passing these costs down to the consumer, data caps were put in place and new tiers of service were offered by carriers. Mobile carriers should keep in mind that the data being consumed by the data hogs shows that the demand for bandwidth is starting to go beyond their arbitrary data caps for various reasons, and should take a look at adjusting their caps as demand rises.

Leave a Reply

We are on Instagram