Thursday, May 31, 2007

Unlimited Cellular Data - Revisted

As I go around dealing with large utility customers and hear feedback from Digi salespeople who survive large accounts, I hear some interesting but disturbing trends rising.

First, there are the people (usually who are new to cellular) who claim any day now the age of cheap, unlimited cellular data plans means all my hard work to understand or offer reduced traffic are wasted effort. I especially hear this coming from European partners.

Then there are the other people ... people I know work with very large, very powerful end users who fail to get the cellular plans they desire. Things I hear:
  • I have heard of customers who pilot projects and hear promises of unlimited traffic, but when the time comes to sign the contract for 3000+ sites, the carrier decides that they cannot offer unlimited traffic ... period. Hmm, I guess this is the difference showing between the carrier's commissioned sales staff and the business managers who need to keep the cellular system profitable.
  • I have worked with large customers who do manage to get "unlimited deals" for a modest sized system - say 50 or 100 sites, but the carrier insists on adding the 2 clauses 1) the carrier has the right to artificially slow down the data communications (without detailing what this means) and 2) the carrier has the right to just stop all the customer's data traffic temporarily if the cell system gets busy (again, not details of this defined). Hmm, I have to kind of wonder what kind of control engineer agrees to such "clauses"? You'd think trying to get one's data under control to avoid the need for unlimited data is a wiser design.
  • I have heard that overall the cellular carriers are starting to rethink the value of machine-to-machine data plans. Unlike DSL or cable, this is NOT an issue of bandwidth; it is an issue of the % of the time the device "hogs" 1 of N slots or resources on the tower forever. Imagine having 10 or 20 such devices squatting there, locking up that tower resource. So it is not even so much an issue of talking once per few minutes verse flat out unlimited traffic. In either case 1 of N finite tower resources is used, so long-term the only "good" data plan may be for a data system using the cellular resource every few hours or a few times a day.

So overall it looks like my efforts to understand and reduce traffic is useful.

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