We have reached the end of the end of unlimited data, with Verizon CFO Fran Shammo announcing that the grandfathered in unlimited 3G data holders will have to relenquish their wealth of data when they migrate over to the 4G network. “A lot of our 3G base is unlimited,” he said at an investor conference (quoted here via Fierce Wireless). "As they start to migrate onto 4G, they will have to come off of unlimited and go onto the data share plan. That’s beneficial for us for many reasons." This news won't shock many, since all the major carriers have implemented various schemes to push users out of limitless data. But we bet it will provoke outrage, as people love their endless data plans. But, that dream is dying, people. It's time to get over it.
Unlimited data is an ideal from a bygone era in which few relied on vast, seemingly unlimited resources. Like many precious recources, the networks that make cell phones smart were never truly unlimited. Carriers at first provided unlimited access to users who wanted to pay a premium, because the networks were so empty. Lots of people have since discovered the magic of smartphones. Nielsen says something like 46 percent of mobile phone owning Americans have data-sucking phones. The networks have started getting crowded, overloaded with power users abusing their plans. Data is no longer for the elite and it's time to share.
Most of you don't even use all that data. Verizon says that 95 percent of its customers use less than 2 GB of data per month. Hey, 95 percent, you're hoarding data. Most users don't need unlimited anything. Even ZDNet's Mathew Miller, who has decided to leave Verizon over this announcement, admits he doesn't even reach 5GB. For the really, truly scared, like Miller, Verizon offers a 22GB data bundle with personal email and mobile hotspot. That's still excessive for most users. But should calm you hoarders down.
For Miller, his motivations are also partly economical. He has a lot of phones and a lot of plans and wants to get the best deal. "Thus, as a person who uses quite a bit of data on multiple carriers I really don’t want to have to pay strict attention to data limits all the time and am looking to stick with unlimited data options," he says. To that we say: start paying attention. Do you really need to play that extra game of Draw Something? Or listen to another song on the Spotify app? Just say no.
But the most compelling reason for getting over unlimited data as a thing is that it soon will not exist. Instead of crying about it, just move on, like a grown-up cell phone user. Verizon is the first to give an official go ahead. But Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile all throttle super-users once their data usage gets too high. Sprint already got rid of unlimited data for all devices but tablets. The freewheeling data era is coming to an end. Time to accept that reality.