Unlimited but Useless

Mobile data was one of the coolest things that came with GSM: I could connect a serial cable to my Nokia 5110 and get ISDN connectivity everywhere. It was billed at one cent per second and ran at about 9600 bits per second. Now most GSM and UMTS handsets can run a PPP server to allow a computer connected via Bluetooth or USB to access packet data services. Of course, since airtime is a limited resource, most carriers meter your use of mobile data services and charge proportionally. However, some US carriers are offering unlimited data use on certain contracts, and I believe AT&T’s iPhone contracts that include unlimited data usage are disadvantaging iPhone users on other carriers and stifling development.

I’m with Hutchison/3 in Australia, and they have provide three packet data services: MMS service (pay per message sent – unmetered data), the “walled garden” (pay based on services used – unmetered data) and the wild Internet (pay based on usage). I use the “walled garden” quite a bit – I get free news an weather, so I read it on my way to and from work. I also pay a flat fee for unlimited e-mail use. I occasionally use the expensive Internet service when I’m somewhere out and about and I decide I need to get online for something. When I do, the phone looks like a Bluetooth modem to the computer, and I can use the connection as I wish (provided I pay the bill at the end of the month). I can also use the Internet service with applications that run on the phone, but I don’t do that very often.

Now if I had unlimited data usage included in my contract, I’d probably feel a need to be online while out and about a lot more. Let’s face it: when something’s free, we use it more. But if everyone did this, the networks would be brought to their knees by the huge amount of traffic. So AT&T need some way to stop iPhone owners from actually taking advantage of the “unlimited data” in their contracts.

The way they’ve done this appears to be by making a deal with Apple to cripple the iPhone: it won’t work as a Bluetooth or USB modem, and Apple won’t allow applications that would generate lots of traffic on the cellular network. So VoIP applications are only allowed on WiFi, and they’ve pulled Nullriver NetShare, an application that allows the iPhone to act as a modem, from the application store (to be fair, Nullriver was asking for trouble, considering their previous claim to fame was an installer for putting bootleg applications on “jailbroken” iPhones).

But the rest of the world doesn’t have unlimited data usage. We pay for the data we send and receive over the air. So why can’t we use it as we wish? It’s a bit unfair to restrict everyone to make AT&T happy.

This entry was posted on Saturday, 2 August, 2008 at 12:48 am and is filed under Apple, Phones, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One response to “Unlimited but Useless”

Carl says:

Hell all this EM radiation is going to start interferring with the earths polarity.

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