Pretty much everyone hates wireless data caps, particularly the ones that get you slapped with huge overage fees for going over them. However, Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin has taken a look at some of the recent changes that carriers have implemented to their wireless data cap policies and has concluded that they never needed to implement such strict caps on their customers in the first place.
“After Sprint offered ‘double the high-speed data’ on its network, 20GB per month for family plans, AT&T responded by doubling data, too, through shared plans of 30GB to 100GB a month,” Brodkin writes. “Verizon doubled its own customers’ data, while Sprint offered yet another doubling to stay ahead of AT&T and Verizon. Suddenly, network constraints had apparently disappeared. Where did all this extra capacity come from? The carriers’ networks didn’t double in size overnight. The capacity was always there — carriers just weren’t allowing customers to use it until one decided to boost data and the others followed.”
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see carriers are actually competing with on another and are giving customers more for their money in response to competitive pressures. On the other hand, we should feel very annoyed that Verizon and AT&T have been telling us for years that they need to implement strict data caps as an essential network management tool when that clearly was not the case.
Indeed, if Verizon and AT&T can turn on a dime and start offering subscribers more data for their cash then it suggests that the competitive landscape was very poor before T-Mobile and Sprint started turning up the heat on America’s two biggest wireless carriers.
Here’s an even scarier thought: Can you imagine how bad things would be right now if AT&T had been allowed to gobble up T-Mobile? Under that prospective dystopian competitive landscape, it’s not hard to imagine Verizon and AT&T demanding that you hand over your first-born child for going over the data limit on your 100MB plan that would have cost you $250 per month.