Completely missing the point about silly mobile “data plans”

I have on my cell phone a “plan” that gives me 50G of mobile data. When I first got the data plan back in 2006 or so, I think the telco provided I believe 2G as part of a “contract”. Then they unilaterally increased it to 5G and then to 10G and by about the end of 2007 to 50G. Pretty good I’ d say. In addition to that service on my cell phone, I got another one with data-only which also was upped to 50G. For the data-only plan, it costs me $25.14 per month.

mobYes, I don’t seem to be using much of it. Same for my cell phone data plan. But for me the 50G is important as there are times that I use both of them as mobile hotspots and I don’t want to even bat an eyelid on using it.

Then the telcos stopped giving these large data plans and started to offer tiered plans on 1G, 2G, 3G etc. And priced it differently as well. And some of them were “nice” enough to not put on a large price differential when you exceed your plan.

All of this was done on the lamest of excuse “network congestion”. That lie has been repeated over and over again that it is becoming really annoying especially when you start seeing Yahoo etc carrying commentary about why it makes sense to have data caps. And especially when this commentary makes statements like:

(And no, it’s not because they just wanted to fill their pockets.)

(yes it is)

Unlimited Data Means Network Congestion

Let’s do a simple networking 101.

All data traffic goes via TCP/IP packets. It is called packets because your data stream to and from your device is broken into data packets and sent. The TCP protocol ensures that the packets will arrive at the destination reliably with no data loss. These packets are all sent over the data channel from the device to and from the cell phone base station and onwards to the end point where ever it is.

Congestion happens when there is insufficient capacity to accept the packets coming in. Congestion has ZERO bearing on the “data plan” of the subscriber. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If there are ten people with five of them on a 2G plan and the other 5 on a 50G plan (like mine), and all ten are connected to the same base station, each of them will have the exact same speed to connect between the base station and the device assuming that the base station can handle ten SIMULTANEOUS connections and has enough BUFFERS to manage the data packets.

Congestion results when there are insufficient slots for simultaneous connections and/or the buffers are full. The data plan has nothing to do here.

Hence, when telcos say that their network is congested, it is because they have failed to provision enough capacity and is NOT and NEVER because of whatever data plan they sold.

End of networking 101.

Tiered Data Plans Weed Out Data Hoggers

Where does the author even get that notion? BS!

I have not been on a “contract” with the telco ever since my “contract” expired years ago. They’ve tried many times to entice me to sign up with a contract (ooh, you can get this new shiny phone at this *wonderful* price. yada, yada, yada). But that would have meant that I will loose my 50G data – essentially unlimited from my point of view. Thank you, but no thank you.

I do look forward to MyRepublic launching their unlimited mobile data plan. I am already using their 1G (speed not data) fibre to the home service and I am so far rather pleased with it. They were the first to offer 1G fibre and now all of the other providers have followed suit. I guess, when MyRepublic rolls out the unlimited mobile data plan, the other will do their “me-too” dance.

Perhaps for clarity, people need to understand that a “data plan” is not the same as the “speed of connection”. The mobile broadband system has connections are different speeds (3G, 4G, LTE etc). Regardless of your connection speed, the data traffic is still done using TCP/IP and congestion is all about capacity to connect and not the “data plan”.


  1. Looking forward to My Republic becoming the 4th Telco as well. They were a game changer in the fiber category. Unfortunately I have to stick with Starhub due to their cable TV services.

  2. I like your view on data plans, I also wanna point you to a specific Net Neutrality topic [1].

    Back home, I used to have an unlimited XL plan [2] 🙁
    But here in Singapore it’s different, I’m most of my time in WLAN areas (when I use my mobile phone) and for the time during my rides with the MRT or other public transport I have a 1GB per week pre-paid. Some days ago I recharded 10SGD to my account, forget to book my plan immediately and after 30 minutes I received a short message, that all my credit is eaten up, then I went again to a 7-Eleven, disabled mobile data, recharged, and selected the data plan via the *100# menu.

    The LTE coverage and signal is generally OK with Singtel, wonder how that is with MyRepublic, are they a pure MVNO [4] or do they operate their own infrastructure?

    And please read/join also the NoTCP movement it makes the internet QUICer, see [3]

    Have a nice day!



  3. Actually there’s something that’s missed out by the whole “data caps are unrelated to congestion” argument — a 3GB data plan confines you to an average data transfer speed of ~1.1kB/s throughout the month. Of course, in practice, your usage isn’t continuous throughout the entire month, but more in short bursts of high-speed (3G or LTE speeds, in the order of several MB/s) activity, but the long term self-throttling behaviour of people afraid to use up their data caps will result in the pipes being free most of the time, allowing the ISPs to sell more contracts without provisioning a faster infrastructure. As an added bonus, they get to pin the blame on “data hoggers’ every time you experience temporary congestion from being in a spot where everyone is using their mobile data at the same time.

    • That anaylysis is not correct. One does not have any control over the average speed. The one that could control, the telco, would need to have significant smarts in their networks to tie each connection to their “data plan”. Reality also is not everyone remembers/knows of her “data plan”. In the days of the dial up modem, if you were on a 14.4K or a 28.8K modem, you *KNEW* the speed you were connecting in and truly, network congestion, was about you NOT successfully dialing in into the ISP. Of course, ISPs over sold their network capacity – multiples of total outgoing capacity – they do that today as well but probably with a small multiple.

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