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Can someone explain the point of a "4G" phone when the carriers have such stringent data caps?
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They want to tout faster networks, but refuse to pay for the upgrades to core infrastructure. Also, phone executives really only think people check email, facebook and twitter which don't take up traffic. "The EVIL people who watch netflix, youtube and download files... those are the real culprits. Sure the phone can do it, but they have wifi at home and that's why we offer phones with a wifi card"

Either the FCC will say, offer reasonable data plans for phones that you sell (since you lock in contracts with soul crushing cancellation fees) -- This will never happen because they are spineless.
The phone companies will just not give a fark because there is no alternative to their cartel pricing and the government won't file an anti-trust suit against them as long as Sprint stays on life support and offers an unlimited plan.
You get to reach your cap much sooner in the month and can now brag to your friends? :P
In my case (NTT Docomo) the LTE account is the same price as the 3G plan, but allows you to use your data in any way you want, including tethering. And at 7Gb per month, I have several times more data than I actually use with my phone only.

Of course, I use a non-LTE Galaxy Nexus handset with it, so it's not like I actually get any extra speed or anything.
For some unknown reason, They are telling you to switch to sprint
Not every carrier has a data cap -- for example, Sprint has unlimited data, and Verizon grandfathers some existing users to have unlimited 4G. Still, I agree with your main point that a 3 GB cap sounds tiny for a customer who is encouraged to download a movie onto their phone. I think some carriers are frightened of customers using too much bandwidth because they don't have very much to offer. 
The fundamental problem is that customers refuse to pay per GB. If all contracts were simple to compare on price by GB, then the customer would be better informed, prices would (hopefully) go down per GB, there would be no caps, and the telecoms would be building out as fast as they could.
It sounds a bit like misleading advertising. Like the joke about the guy who paid $20 for an all-you-can-eat buffet, only to be told he could not go back for seconds. When he complained, the waiter explained firmly, his one serving was "all he could eat"!
+Daniel Bo - I firmly disagree. Telecommunications infrastructure, once built, has very little or no overhead for use. The cost is in getting it in place, not in using it. This means that optimally, we should be seeking to have our infrastructure at about 80% capacity or so at all times.

The telecommunications companies would prefer to be able to charge per GB because they feel that customers have a hard time making the decision about whether or not data should be used at any given moment, and would therefore use so much they'd make much more money.

They would not use this to build infrastructure. They would use it to pay their executives and relax about having a bloated, inefficient management structure. And relax about having such poor customer service that their customer's leave.

There is an ISP that does not charge per GB, regularly upgrades its infrastructure and still makes a profit. They have no caps and provide 20 MBit/1Mbit service to people's homes. The ISP is

Telecommunications companies regularly lie about their costs and why they do not provide good service. Comcast, for example, caps downloads, unless, of course, you're downloading from their cable service. This has nothing to do with bandwidth utilization and everything to do with not wanting to eat into their cash-cow business model of charging people money to push ads to their TVs.
CNET ran a story today on how the switch away from unlimited plans has been very profitable for the carriers:

(Here is the mobile link)

In particular, AT&T was called-out for "wanting it both ways", getting new data-hungry smartphone users yet not wanting to spend money on the necessary infrastructure needed to support them.
Sharing the bandwidth in downtown San Francisco at lunch is a real problem, but it is unrelated to me downloading movies in the middle of the night in suburbia. Now find a carrier who thinks so. Well,Clear does Sprint's 4g data (unlimited) and their own devices that offer unlimited for $35 or $50 a month (better data rate for $50).
+Eric Hopper: I agree with everything in your post except the part about negligible infrastructure costs. Infrastructure maintenance costs— at least in terms of twisted pair last mile, which is what I'm most familiar with— are constant and they only increase both in volume and expense as the facilities age. It takes a disproportionate amount of time for field techs just to find the location of circuit faults, not to mention the repairs.

None of this is to say that telecoms won't stoop to veritable thievery to cut costs and increase profits, but most definitely consumers do NOT want them to grow lax on their infrastructure maintenance!
+Eric Hopper You are including issues like the utter lack of real competition in the U.S. telecom market and net neutrality. I agree with you on those points, but if those were solved, peering was required, and a strict $/GB model were enforced, providers would need to build out and provide more bandwidth (thus increasing total usage) in order to increase revenues.

Plus, infrastructure maitenance is more expensive than you believe it is.
I'm seeing a lot of poeple use them as wifi devices only and don't even have "phone" service. This seems like the way to go. Where I live the phone company coverage is so spotty and doesn't work well when it's even available that wifi is a fer better option.

At this point phone "plans" seem to me to be nothing more than expensive credit services to buy expensive phones.
+Richard Sexton, I will never for the life of me understand cell tower placement. I live in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin and I am thoroughly covered by Verizon LTE service. And I do not even OWN a smartphone. If I WERE thinking of buying one, I would probably get an iPod Touch instead, for the very reasons you listed, so the nearby tower would STILL go to waste.
+James Salsman, people actually believe data congestion is to blame? They think that even while knowing that the service providers (who make their boat payments and kid's college tuitions from customer data use) can choke bandwidth at will? Seems like a no-brainer to me where host-sourced slowdowns originate, and it ain't congestion xD.
+Keith Keber, +Daniel Bo: My point is not that infrastructure maintenance costs nothing, because it clearly does. No, my point is that infrastructure maintenance costs do not depend on bandwidth, or only minimally on bandwidth usage.

Router configuration, for example, might be something you have to do when bandwidth increases, but generally the configuration that handles high bandwidth usage also handles low-bandwidth usage just fine. The same thing for cabling. Fiber and the hardware capable of managing petabits of bandwidth over it might be expensive. But after it's bought it doesn't matter if no bits go over it, or it's used to near capacity. The cost is the same.

Some hardware might wear out a bit more quickl with high bandwidth usagey. For example, routers overheating because they're CPU pegged all the time, but that's a fairly tiny cost.
Is there anyone in the press who has written anything about the dozens of 802.16/WiMAX and similar analog white spaces proposals which have been pending at the FCC for years now? I want to use Google Voice as my carrier.
Use wifi. 4g lte is a premium service.
Dont understand what mobile companies which has poor capacity "networks and servers" are doing golden rule, fast lines "high capacity" band width "Generate a lot of sales of serv ices, poor capacity low sales.
Everywhere I go, I have a regular spot with good wifi capasitet, If have not been there before I do Scout before I leave.

Its is cheap to build capasitet

Ask them why?
+Rolf B. Engelhardtsen: in the U.S., mobile providers restrict their service so they can offer "tiers" of service. As service improves (higher bandwidth, greater data allowances) with each ascending service "tier", the providers charge more.

It is comparable to someone who controls the water supply to a thirsty village. One villager gets just a sip for very little money. Another pays more to get enough water to make soup. Yet another pays handsomely to take a daily bath.

In any case, all villagers must bring their own container for the water (although the water sellers will subsidize the cost of the container if the villager signs an expensive and highly constrictive contract).
We have only 1 network (of 4 really) in the UK that offers proper unlimited access, broadly - three uk.

However they only have 3G coverage on 2100 Mhz. No 2G or an 900 Mhz coverage with the result that solid network access is about as effective as carrying water in a sieve.

Ok I exagerate perhaps -- but in my local area they're useless. A shame as if you can get on their network it's fast and excellent value. Yep. my home, where I take the dog for walk, the office, where my son broke down. All of the above - nada. And this is really outer suburbia, two cities are < 8 miles away and the town I live in is basically just a huge housing estate....

Instead I have to use a provider that has coverage nearly everywhere I go, but no unlimited option, and much more expensive data tariffs.... so mostly I stick under 750MB a month which can be a struggle with HSPA+ ...
I would have unlimited 4G on Sprint if it were available in my area. Hopefully they aren't lying about their 'Network Vision' plan currently in the works.

They all will try to nickel and dime everyone. Remember rooting to get wifi tethering and how they had to put a stop to that real quick.
I have unlimited (tethering not allowed but no tech restrictions from phone only USB/mifi) for 3ukp/month.contract still active though I have no signal so it's rarely used...
Sprint 4G WiMax is pretty worthless at this point. Even in the SF bay area it's rare that you can get a good enough 4G connection.
+Roberto Bayardo there are several much more advanced metro-area IP services designed for the analog TV whitespaces with cells much larger than traditional mobile cells waiting in the wings. 802.16 is up to 802.16m at the moment with some non-single-letter specs, too. The carriers hate them and I wouldn't be surprised if they are throwing money around everywhere to keep people quiet about them.
If I had a few million and knew a couple of top-notch network engineers I'd start my own regional ISP and start laying wires and putting up towers myself. This horrible situation we have with the telecommunications companies in the US has got to stop.
No need for a million, make a good business plan, use Your network, find someone who brings knowledge or properties you need. You are now a group of people. write a good Prospect contact invenstorer, venture capital companies, investors. do not ask for 2 million request 20 million
+Eric Hopper several large companies and consortia want to do just that, including some which start with 'G' and end in 'oogle'. However, they are waiting on FCC approval which is going pretty slowly. There are currently only two trials of relatively (years) old technologies, and hundreds of metro markets with clear analog TV whitespace spectrum ready for trial. Manufacturers have the latest and greatest equipment ready for trials now.
+James Salsman - I'm wondering just how much can be done ad-hoc and under-the-radar with stringing wires between buildings and point-to-point wireless links.

The towers though... I agree that's a really tricky issue. I wonder if the FCC is being so slow because of influence from existing major telecoms?
+Eric Hopper people install private 802.16 equipment all the time. If you get some, make sure you get the documentation on how to set frequency bands with it. If you are using a quiet analog whitespace spectrum, the chance that the FCC will come looking for you is nonzero and the fines can be hefty. However, in practice (and I am not a lawyer and you shouldn't take this as advice) they almost never go looking for someone without a complaint from someone else using the band in question. You can get on FCC mailing lists to find out who has legitimate rights to the quiet spectra well before they are allowed to start using it, but not before they can complain that you are, sadly.

The completely legal alternative is to ask journalists like +Alexander Howard and +Dan Gillmor if they will please write more about the 802.16 proposals pending at the FCC.
Fast is better. Pay for fast.
Go T-Mobile. I can't begin to say how glad I am that they weren't swallowed by AT&T.
Even the unlimited plans get throttled after a certain usage level each month
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