September 23, 2008

Google Phone "Heavy" Data Users May be Throttled

Blog Update (September 25, 2008 3:15 PM): T-Mobile Caves on 1 GB 3G Data Limit for HTC G1 Google Android Phone

Greetings. With today's official announcement of the HTC G1 smartphone running Google's long-awaited Android OS -- sure to inspire significant data usage by many adopters -- a particular section in the fine print of T-Mobile's 3G data information page was brought to my attention by several alert observers. To wit:

If your total data usage in any billing cycle is more than 1GB, your data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to 50 kbps or less. Your data session, plan, or service may be suspended, terminated, or restricted for significant roaming or if you use your service in a way that interferes with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users.

I'm actually rather disinclined to pass judgment on this policy just yet. Given the special characteristics and limitations of cellular data networks that are certainly different from non-wireless systems, true "data hogs" on the former can be a genuine problem.

However, there are a couple of concerns. First, a powerful phone like the G1 is, as I suggested above, going to encourage data usage to an extent not usually seen for other phones in standalone usage. The wide open Google Android development and applications distribution environments are likely to encourage a vast range of attractive data-hungry programs for the G1 -- perhaps far exceeding those of Apple's relatively closed-environment iPhone.

This means that reaching 1 GB of data in a month might not be a particularly difficult feat with the G1 (or later Android phones that will appear). We're talking about a bit more than 30 MB per day data usage -- and that's just not the same sort of "big" number that it used to be. If data throttling kicks in, you're likely to really notice the drop from 3G speeds down to 50 Kbps or less (hmm -- just how much less? Inquiring minds want to know ...)

I must admit that I'm certainly interested in putting a G1 Android phone through its paces and reporting the results, though I'm not prepared at this point to jump over to a 2-year T-Mobile contract for the privilege. I continue to wonder how much longer T-Mobile will continue without an attempt made to merge it with one of the other U.S. wireless carriers, and some of possibilities in that regard are rather depressing.

G1 manufacturer HTC builds great phones. My Cingular 8125 (HTC Wizard) has provided excellent service for several years within its design capabilities, but there's no way getting around that fact that its getting rather long in the tooth, and going out for lunch waiting for MS WM5 to boot does get a bit boring after a while.

So I freely admit that if an unlocked G1 Android suddenly appeared here, the SIM card in my Wizard would fly into the G1 faster than you can say PageRank. I won't hold my breath for this to transpire, however. [ Additional note (9/24/08): Unfortunately, a G1 on AT&T's network would be restricted to slower EDGE data speeds (or Wi-Fi), since the G1 in 3G mode will reportedly only operate (within the U.S.) on T-Mobile's 3G frequency, which is incompatible with AT&T's 3G frequencies. ]

We could potentially be heading for the bizarre and unfortunate situation, in both the cellular wireless and wired Internet environments, where uber-powerful consumer devices of various sorts may routinely outstrip the capabilities of commonly used Internet access facilities (and/or easily run afoul of ISP terms-of-service agreements).

Such circumstances would certainly not be expected to inspire consumer confidence nor enthusiasm, to be sure.


Posted by Lauren at September 23, 2008 06:24 PM | Permalink
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