Low-Cost/Free Cell Service – High Speed Mobile Data is the New Oil – The World is Awash In It
Yes the dirty little secret of the phone world is that phone calls are nothing but relatively low bandwidth realtime packet data streams (usually) on top of an IP network. A friend of mine at qualcomm told me that the CDMA streams were…14 kbps, can that even be right? Whoa a bit of googling showed the latest CDMA variable rate speech codec had as a high point 8.5 kbps for the "high quality" stuff.
So yeah. Not a high bandwidth stream.
And the fact that the phone company charges voice calls per minute and yet gives you unlimited download ability… seems more than a little silly to me.
They will end up being disintermediated, just because its so easy to do.
I've been with a little alternative cell company called Republic Wireless for years now. Love 'em. They realized that most of the time, people are within range of a wfii network, so they sell customized Android phones that will place calls over wifi whenever possible. If you're talking on the wifi network and walk out of range, the phone transparently switches to true cell service, (primarily on Sprint, but there is now supposedly a second national carrier able to handle their cellular calls now.)
You can pick from several plans based on your likely usage patterns, and if you're always near wifi, cost per month is crazy low, like $5. But if you're going on a trip, you can change your plan to a higher rate plan, then back to low, multiple times a month. Best of all, if you sign up for a data plan and don't use what you pay for (most people don't) you get a CASH credit towards your next bill. Not minutes. Average cost works out to be around $13/mo. I think.
You buy a phone outright, too, which costs around $300, depending. I love the complete transparency of pricing, and their goal of disrupting the big boys. I like their wiki-based and largely volunteer support, too– people love to help other users of the service. Consumer Reports said they had the highest satisfaction of any cell provider, too. Lots to like, but definitely a bit quirky. Check 'em out. Two co-workers of mine switched a year or two ago, and are pleased with the decision. All this is from memory, so please don't take my word for every detail.
Wow! I didn't know they had the codec data rates down to that tiny of a number, Dave. Pretty remarkable!
In my last life as a programmer/software designer, at one point I did computer game work directly supported by engineers from the Dutch company Phillips at the beginning of the '90's. They were developing new CD-based multimedia delivery systems we weremaking software for; they were key collaborators in developing the implementation of both the first mp3 audio compression standard and the mpeg video compression standard at that time – kind of the birth of "multimedia". I worked intermittently with a razor sharp guy from their main development center in Eindhoven – quite nice fellow – who gave us a primer on how they packed all that info into such a miniscule data stream.
It was jaw-droppingly brilliant – specifically designed around what does and does not make a difference to the way humans hear and see things – rather than just trying to recreate the best copy possible of an audio waveform or visual field. Getting a movie out of the 44.1 khz data rate (2 channels x 44.1K samples x 16 bits/sample = 176 kbytes/sec) rolling off an audio CD is boring stuff these days, but then it was like magic in a bottle – very hard to believe it was doable when you compared that old CD audio standard and rate that "MPEG-1" was built directly on top of to the actual data rate that would be needed to deliver a movie's original, uncompressed image and sound streams at an acceptable resolution and quality.
And it actually took them quite awhile to get it right, as we knew from the endless versions updates, audio/visual glitches and crashes we had to work through. It's the kind of thing that makes you love science & engineering, (and love and hate programming ;-))
apismellifera, one cool thing about setting up your phone to work on a "data only" plan (which again, is hardly offered yet in the US, aside from the one I'm going to try to sneak in on, but I expect will soon be offered more widely), is that your phone is already configured to use WiFi data whenever possible, and only use cell data when necessary. So, WiFi calling, texting and data at no cost is already part of the deal automatically. I think my brother uses a similar set up to yours, for a similar price with Tracfone, cause he was able to get it with the Verizon network in his area, which he prefers. Both plans sound like great deals.
A third colleague just ditched his wireless plan and bought a mobile hotspot that lives mainly in his family van. He uses Google Hangouts for all calls now, saving considerable money. This is a less integrated solution than what I described above, but he's a big fan of all things Google and owned his phone outright, so it made sense for him and saved him a ton of money.
Since I posted the original note for the discussion a couple of weeks ago, it looks like the wireless data wars continue to heat up, with this notice a couple of days ago that now all four major carriers may be offering lower-cost data-only plans (which let you do call/text/data, as I described elsewhere). The link below itemizes pricing, though they may not include total cost for all plans/carriers.
Also, on the forums I looked at, it's reported that, at least until recently, AT&T monitors its data plans to keep smartphones from using them – not sure if that's still true. This story indicates, though, that now T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all have lower-cost data only plans that you can legitimately buy for your smartphone. Assuming this report's accurate, when I switch my plan in a month or so when I've used up my AT&T credits, I'll now get the 2GB $20/month T-Mobile plan, since it's a better deal than the $1.5GB deal for t-mobile via Simple Mobile I found earlier.
The US cell phone industry is still overcharging for phone and data service. The best I can do here is to own my own iPhone and have a 'pay as you go' plan at T-Mobile which sets me back $40/month per phone. That plan includes unlimited calls and texts and 18GB of 3G data
Whereas in France I slip a different SIM card into my phone and for only 20 euros/month ($23) I have unlimited calls, unlimited SMS texts and, wait for it… 50 GB of data at 4G speed. http://mobile.free.fr/
The low cost suppliers in France have completely transformed the mobile phone market. Where only a few years ago the Big Three – Orange, Bouygues and SFR had a cosy little cartel, nowadays they are scrambling for market share against newcomers Free and Budget.
I love it when The Market really works.