Over the years, voice calling has taken a back seat to data usage and text messaging. It is often easier and quicker to send someone a message (text or instant) or an email over placing a time consuming voice call that usually leads to pointless banter. What this has effectively done is take its toll on wireless providers' networks, which were initially built to withstand a mass of simultaneous voice calls ... not the constant barrage of over-social datamongers.

The first real solid evidence of this transition into the data era was with AT&T's iPhone debacle in New York. The iPhone caused a major stir in New York City; there were so many users gobbling up heaps of data that Ol' Blue's network couldn't handle it anymore. Users were having trouble placing calls and sending or receiving text messages, much less browsing the web or tweeting. It was similar to a panic surrounding a national scare (like 9/11) – where so many people place calls and send texts at the same time that the network bottlenecks – but it was happening all day … every day. The issue was eventually solved by AT&T halting iPhone sales within the city and diverting much of their engineers' attention to the area to strengthen the network in the area as fast as possible.

This is essentially what is happening on a national level now. Wireless providers are currently overwhelmed with all of the attention smartphones and data have received recently. Despite networks not being strong enough to handle the tens of millions of customers heavily using smartphones, providers are still pushing smartphones and tablets as hard as they can – ultimately because they're much more lucrative than feature and messaging phones.

As a result, they have finally cornered themselves. This is where the arms race for the fastest and most data efficient network began. Hello, “4G.” Notice how quickly 4G has spread in relation to the previous generations. The problem is, not everyone will adopt 4G right away. It is still limited by reach, and existing 3G networks are still taking the biggest portion of the damage. In an attempt to both turn a larger profit and salvage their existing, battered networks, wireless providers are currently transitioning away from the much-loved unlimited data plans for much more expensive and limiting tiered data structures.

Tiered data, for a lack of better words, sucks. Users constantly have to monitor usage and can hardly use their smartphones to their fullest potential. Who benefits the most from data caps? The carriers, obviously. Much of the stress is taken off (or the rate at which stress being added is slowed) of their networks and tiered data is much more profitable than unlimited  higher allotments bring a bigger pay check, along with overages. In no way – that I can think of, at least – is tiered data a compromise for carriers.

For customers, on the other hand, the only benefit of tiered data is that light users can sometimes get by with having a smartphone for slightly cheaper than they could have before. As an example, both T-Mobile and AT&T offer 200MB data plans which are $10 and $15 per month respectively. Unlimited data used to go for $30 per month across the board. In cases like Verizon's newly introduced data plans, however, it can be outrageously expensive to own a smartphone (i.e.: $50 and $80 for Verizon's 5GB and 10GB plans respectively). Their smallest data plan is 2GB of usage for $30 per month.

Carriers follow demand; data is the new “minutes” and caps are here to stay. Since this is the case though, they should at least compromise with consumers – who gain little from data caps. But how do they compromise? For one, Aaron had an interesting take with free, unlimited data on nights and weekends. There should also be a truly unlimited option, however expensive it may be. For instance, drawing the line for data caps at 5GB and offering “truly unlimited data” for a premium price would be a nice medium. Even shared family data would be nice. There are several ways providers can meet consumers in the middle and offer promotional features that make the tiered transition a little less painful. We're still pushing through economic hardships and every little bit helps.

As futile as the argument may be, it's one we all need to be on board with. How do you feel about tiered data? Do you think carriers could be a little more mindful of consumers and their wallets? How should they compromise?

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63 Reactions to this post

"What compromise should carriers make with tiered data?"

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Jordan Mosley
Jordan Mosley Yes, unlimited is best, but tiers don't have to be bad, the selection is small and overpriced right now. I guess they have to do something to recoup the cost of building out the LTE network, maybe it will get better later. I think it should be like $5 a GB.
Marrion Bell
Marrion Bell Fuck all that because only thing I use my phone is To use internet fuck tiered plans I can't fuck with that
Fan OfDreaming
Fan OfDreaming I don't even think data should be tiered
Joshua Boff
Joshua Boff I talked to VZW and if you had the unlimited data plan before July 7th ( the day they unleashed their tiered data plan) then you are grandfathered in to unlimited data. Even when you sign a new contract.
Heidi Carrasquillo
Heidi Carrasquillo Ima be switching to Verizon frm Sprint cause service suksz in my area but I'm not looking foward to there data plansz I'm use to everything unlimited
Fredrik Jonsson
Fredrik Jonsson Get with the times, get with the demand, get with the technology. Unlimitize it!
Ahren Hemberger
Ahren Hemberger I never gave my consent for any wireless company to send transmission wavelengths through my home's personal airspace. If Einstein's theory is correct, all 3G and 4G signals are energy, and all energy is made up of matter. So, if anyone else's matter is transmitted and trespasses into my personal property, I feel that I'm perfectly within my rights to capture and utilize the same. In my home-state of Texas, the Castle doctrine was interpreted to include the interior of my automobile as part of my private property, just like the interior of my house; and the same principles apply: Finders keepers.
Matthew Dyer
Matthew Dyer I have no choice but to go to Verizon and I want to I know of noone that I know within my family to have T-Mobile and I never call that person lol besides T-Mobile doesn't seem to work well in the Norfolk Newport News area I have AT&T and service sucks untill I get to the airport or the city of newport News Verizon is the way to go I know this since I went with Sprint 1st and even though Sprint is a CDMA carrier like Verizon coverage was still bad so everyone should go with Verizon it is a shame though they got rid of the data unliitted my mom wants a Blackberry but not sure if she'll get one now that things changed.
Ahren Hemberger
Ahren Hemberger Verizon employees are a union (you'll never win any concessions, or find help on weekends. The "help" you may find on weekdays will be minimal and you may do more damage than good). Verizon is not a member of ANY Better Business Bureau, so when they break their end of your contract, you'll have no recourse except to break your contract and pay $175/phone line on your plan. FIOS is a joke, unless you re-wire your entire house. Fiber-optic cable straight to your 30-year-old coax is only as good as your 30-year coax. Finally, Verizon will upsell you to a quicker data plan, but they won't give you anything other than a Wireless-G router. Again, your actual speed is only as fast as the cable running through your home and the hardware that is receiving it. On the bright side, I'll bet they have a great benefits package for their employees, and they do maintain some U.S.-based employees.
Gary Brown
Gary Brown Family data sharing. Some of us used more than other.
Robert Olsen
Robert Olsen Ok so here it is, Sprint pays u 125.00 to switch. http://www.sprint.com/landings/portcredit/?ECID=vanity:switchtosprint
Nathan Shoup
Nathan Shoup I just don't understand it. If your going to make all these data phones well then spend some of these billions of dollars you make every year to make room for bandwidth. Don't screw the customer because of your cheap ass mistake. "Oh by the way I dont worry about this cause I'm with Sprint, but I have Att for home service and damn if they didn't cap my home internet service." Stupid SOB'S
Aaron Teruya
Aaron Teruya I also agree w/James Ramos re T-Mobiles data GB cap while slowing speeds to keep you from overages & so you can use it for the whole month but at slower speeds. Other carriers are saying Bandwidth is limited! Sky is falling which is true in some respects but all they did by limiting w/overages is say: Its here you & its gonna cost you. TMOs plan by design or accident is DOING what others are babbling - in a sense rationing out data so we can all enjoy it
Edward Ovalles
Edward Ovalles When I say Data I mean IP (Internet Protocol). Basically using the data plan for your voice calls and obviously internet access.
Edward Ovalles
Edward Ovalles No strategy. VZW is simply trying to take this opportunity to get as much money from consumers before they realize it, then when LTE is mature enough they will go with Voice over LTE. In other words go fully data.
Aaron Teruya
Aaron Teruya If ppl keep paying for it you can bet in the near future they will increase their tier data plans again.
Jason Ramos
Jason Ramos I like T-Mobile's plan better. Instead of charging up the ass after your cap is used, they slow down your connection. Hey it beats overage charges
Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson "I don't worry bout such stupidity... I'm wit virgin mobile wit unlimited everything for $25 a month. While you'll deal wit that garbage Ill b saving my money" LOL....
Michael Buchko Jr.
Michael Buchko Jr. You have 60 days from the date the rates changed (July 1st) to call Verizon and say you don't agree to the new terms and leave their network without termination fees. Even if you upgraded to a new 2 year plan a week before the plan changed. There's more too it, and you can Google it to know what to say... but they won't take back your phones and if you port your numbers to Sprint they'll credit you $125 per smartphone you use your Verizon number on, then sell your Verizon smartphones on eBay for the money to pay the next bill after the bill you just got completely credited.
Skylor Mitchell
Skylor Mitchell I say that the if carriers are going to charge for tiered data, then they should only charge a max of $5 per GB of data. Main reason why I don't have home internet is because I don't get anything higher than dial-up where I live, and it is about $50 a month just for that not including equipment rental. Also, why pay for home internet when I'm hardly ever home to use it, and internet off my phone is faster than dial-up? Now, if I could afford it, I would like to get a Verizon 4G Hotspot with the 10GB plan.
Israel Leiva
Israel Leiva After my 2 year unlimited data contract is up i'm jumping ship. Verizon was already too expensive. It's either an iPhone on Simple Mobile or a Motorola Triumph on Virgin Mobile.
Matthew Munson
Matthew Munson There is a good idea. Use clear.com and use the wifi service and tether it to your mobile.
Chase Rang
Chase Rang Every one should switch to Sprint service. Is great phones awesome and good unlimited plans !!!
Phillip Le
Phillip Le I have a $20 preferred android plan from tmobile. I rooted my phone to be able to get past throttling. Last month I went through 33gb of data and they never complained.
Matt Cain
Matt Cain @Brian - You must live in a much better Sprint coverage than I. Where I live, you're lucky if you can get and Ckeep a signa on their networkl. If not for that, I'd be on their plan.
David Brinegar
David Brinegar I left verizon for sprint, the plans are cheaper, unlimited data and the service is about the same, haven't found any differences so far and customer service is better, if more people actually go to sprint our show enough interest, they could expand to more places and could easily beat at&t or verizon
Robert Olsen
Robert Olsen Quit bitching, switch to unlimited with Sprint. $68-$79 w data unlimited!!! They have awesome service anywhere I go in the country including Alaska and Hawaii.
Bryan May
Bryan May I agree with David. It's streaming Netflix that hurts me the most. I'm grandfathered in with unlimited data with AT&T but wanna switch carriers. No netflix in a months and I'm just over 1 Gb. A 60 min show 8 times a month and I'm approaching 2.5 GB.
Aj Rusty
Aj Rusty You know, how ever much people complain about it they are still not gonna change it. If you had the unlimited good for you if not that's your problem. Take it as it is.
Jeremy Black
Jeremy Black Wifi would save alot of people alot of headaches. Even if u dont have laptops or tablets, buy a router. 40 dollars for a router and do most of the downloading at home
Henry Lucio
Henry Lucio They should make it so that there are free nights and weekends. Or make it so that some apps like are unlimited.
Jedidiah Thomet
Jedidiah Thomet I hate the idea of tiered data; but I do think there is a certain necessity for it. Above all, though, I think the current implementation of the concept is flawed. Instead of caps or huge overage fees, it should be treated like a utility. (Case in point: Do you decide up-front how much electricity you are going to use and buy an electricity plan?) Data should be billed the same. For example: 0-5GB would cost $4/GB. 5-7GB would cost maybe $6/GB. 7-10GB would cost maybe $8/GB. and more than 10GB would be billed at maybe $100/GB. The cost structure should, IMO, be less for MOST users than the $30 price point we're now paying, while allowing people who are constantly downloading huge files or streaming music to pay for the toll their heavy use takes on the system. Just a thought..
Jeremy Black
Jeremy Black Glad i live in a decent Sprint area. Cant beat the plans, and data is unlimited. Verizon is overated. Sprints devices are adequate and up to par with any other carriers devices. Had Verizon, left Verizon...
Ken Scott Kletzin
Ken Scott Kletzin Sprint is also awful, I currently have AT&T & I will be leaving them this week for Verizon.
Tony Nicastro
Tony Nicastro It doesn't matter to carriers what people think. Only Green talks to them and the only way to change mind behavior is to vote with dollars. Leave and go to another carrier and if enough detections occur, then they might listen.
Justin Edwards
Justin Edwards Tiered data Is insane! Times are hard, Verizon, T-Mobile, and at&t need to go back to having unlimited plans
Brain Roopull
Brain Roopull Sprint = unteired, unlimited, unthrottled.
Robert L Dalton
Robert L Dalton Why not just $10 Gb and pay for what you use!
Gabriel Freeman
Gabriel Freeman Don't force me to get a data plan when I buy a smartphone. If their networks are so congested that they want me using wifi so much, then allow me the option to NOT use any data at all through the carrier. Instead, they are forcing data plans, along with contracts, when you buy certain devices.
Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray T-Mobile is the best tiered option right now. Overage sucks.
Jason Hoffman
Jason Hoffman To get my unlimited back
Jason Hoffman
Jason Hoffman I hate Verizon. My new incredible 2 died after 2 months. I needed to turn my old phone on until my replacement came. They changed my unlimited data plan with out my permission. When I went to turn my new phone on, I had problems. Finally got it working and they changed me to the tiered data package I am presently fightin them
Darryl Mouzone
Darryl Mouzone Well now that unlimited data is gone, there should be roll over data or something like that.
Alex Pierro
Alex Pierro I literally went in two days before the switch so I could get the unlimited data plan. It feels good to know that I am safe
Brain Roopull
Brain Roopull @Matt Cain... you can still get real unlimited data at Sprint. No limits, no throttling...
Jordan Stockpile
Jordan Stockpile tiered data sucks balls..im sticking with tmo unlimited ubtil the wheels fall off
Nick Sanders
Nick Sanders I would like to see a family sharing plan for data, like minutes. With 3 phones on our plan, it gets expensive!
Tim Davis
Tim Davis Let people roll over unused data month- to-month. Also, give users full ability to remove bloatware (I'd prefer it gone altogether)--if you're going to preinstall apps that use data, cap our data, then not allow us to disable/remove these apps without rooting the phone, that's absurd.
Jose Pablo Islas
Jose Pablo Islas I don't understand why they want do much, I have 15mb unlimited internet with no throttling plus cable for like $80/m...how can it be so much more expensive for them to provide it to our phones...I think cell phone company's are just getting greedy
Joseph Bennett
Joseph Bennett Free tethering, it doesnt matter which device consumes it..
Chris Vaughn Bey
Chris Vaughn Bey Verizon is way to overpriced before this new data pricing! I will never be on their network!!!!
Matt Cain
Matt Cain If I wasn't grandfathered into an unlimited data plan, I would accept 5GB of data with unlimited nights and weekends.
Melissa Cruz-Guzmán
Melissa Cruz-Guzmán Verizon is already overpriced as it is, and they want to come up with this BS. Ridiculous.
David Rosen
David Rosen i really don't think the data limits are a problem EXCEPT for netflix. so give me unlimited netflix for an additional $5 a month or something and i could live with the rest of my bandwith not going over 2gb or whatever.
Jeremy Koenig
Jeremy Koenig Free tethering w/o 3rd party apps.
Brain Roopull
Brain Roopull I won't sign with a tiered data provider until they're all tiered & I have no choice.
Michael Buchko Jr.
Michael Buchko Jr. They should make 5GB of data (instead of 2GB) $30 (instead of $50), because that's about what the average (not hardcore) Power User uses per month on a $30 Unlimited data plan. I know that because I consider myself a Power User and my Data Usage app by time the plan renews each month says just under 5GB of Unlimited used Then if people want more they could pay the $50 for10GB (instead of just 5GB) or tone it down to like $3 or even $5 per 1 or 2GB used after your 5GB if you don't get the 10GB plan. I know that rant may sound confusing to some people, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me.
Melissa Cruz-Guzmán
Melissa Cruz-Guzmán I would much rather pay an extra $10 a month and not worry about going over like what Sprint did. I mean what's the point of having smartphones with broadband data and streaming apps if you can't use it to their full potential? I can kinda understand charging extra for tethering and hotspots, but they should've left mobile data unlimited for all carriers.
Terry Knab
Terry Knab There are a couple ideas: Pay for the speed of data you want, not how much you use. If you're willing to accept a slower speed, give more data. Another idea is to have unlimited data based on the TYPE of device. Eg, the more data a phone uses, the more you pay. The problem is that Android and iOS devices use a lot of background data, and that WILL cause that data use to be higher.
Darren N Anderson
Darren N Anderson Out here in da UK, 1GB Data/Internet as standard really.
John Zanatta
John Zanatta Perhaps they will compromise their revenue stream. I wouldn't sign with a provider who set up their data plan this way. I'll go prepaid before that would happen.
David Morgan
David Morgan Unlimited data for $30 like most people are used to UGH this whole $80 for network data is BULLSHIT
Ben Conover
Ben Conover free nights and weekends. data is a necessity w/ smartphones, just life calling is with all phones.

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