Bitten By Gigabytes?: Company Responses

Responses from top wireless carriers in our area

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Liz Crenshaw helps warn consumers to avoid potential overage charges on their cell phone bills by counting their data usage (in gigabytes) each month. To read the full company responses,click here. (Published Monday, May 21, 2012)

    Here is the full version of the company reponses we recieved for our "Bitten By Gigabytes?" story:

    AT&T Statement

    Data usage across the nation has exploded, increasing 20,000% over the past five years. People are using their smartphones to do more and more, from reading email to making a dinner reservation. AT&T understands that our customers all use their smartphones differently and we therefore offer our customers a variety of data plans, including a $20/month for 300 MB per month, a $30/month for 3GB and $50/month for 5GB plans. To put this in perspective, with 3GB of data, our consumers can do all of the following: send and receive 5,000 emails; send and receive 1,600 emails with attachments; stream 35 hours of music, view 4,000 webpages, download 50 apps/games/songs; upload 700 social media posts with photos and stream 140 minutes of video.

    AT&T’s customers can also use our data calculator at http://www.att.com/standalone/data-calculator/index.html to estimate their monthly usage and sign up for the plan that best suits their lifestyle.

    With mobile data usage continuing to skyrocket and the availability of spectrum scarce, AT&T, like other wireless companies, manages its network in the most fair way possible so that we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience for all our customers. Part of that network management involved introducing tiered plans in 2010, which also provides our customers with more choices, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

    Verizon Wireless Statement

    Verizon Wireless streamlined its data plans and created usage-based options for customers in July 2011 to allow customers, regardless of the device, to select the plan that best matches their use. The reason behind this change was due to the fact that smartphones and tablets have become far more sophisticated so the company saw a need for data plans to evolve with the advances in technology. Since 95% of our customers use less than 2GB of data a month, most were not affected by these changes, while heavy data users began paying a fair price for the services they consumed.

    Verizon Wireless offers customers a number of ways to monitor and manage their wireless bills:
    o Customers can change their plan with no penalty at any time.
    o To help select the right data package, we have highly trained professional sales and customer service employees who can help customers determine the best data option.
    o We also have a number of online tools, including: a data calculator http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/splash/datacalculatorPopup.jsp to help customers decide on the right package to meet their needs and budget. By answering a series of questions, like, “How many emails to you send and receive each day or each month? How many web pages to you typically browse each day or each month? How often do you watch or stream video from your smartphone? How many songs do you upload or download? How often do you use real-time navigation from your smartphone?”, you can determine how much data you’re likely to need and use each month. The following chart shows typical activities that customers often do from their smartphones and how much data is required for each activity.

    How much data is it for Smartphones?

    Email (text only) = 10 KB
    Web Access (internet and Intranet) = 400 KB
    Audio Streaming = 60 MB/hr
    Audio Track Download (3 1/2 min at 192 kbps = 7MB
    3G Video Streaming = 250 MB/hr
    3G Verizon Video & NFL Mobile Streaming = 125 MB/hr
    4G Video Streaming = 350 MB/hr
    Digital Photo download/upload (Hi-Res) = 3 MB
    Navigation Turn by Turn Directions***= 5 MB/hr
    1 MB = 1,024 KB
    1 GB = 1,024 MB

    o Customers can monitor data usage -- directly from the handset or online through My Verizon.
    o Customers automatically receive alerts at 50%, 75%, 90%, 100%, and 110% of their plan. Customers can sign up through My Verizon to adjust the frequency of the alerts so they can manage their data use. The alerts will be sent to their smartphones or to an email address.
    o Customers can download a data usage widget on most Android smartphones and tablets as well as BlackBerry Smartphones to track usage near real-time with a quick glance at their phones.

    Obviously, data usage varies from customer to customer, and that’s the reason why Verizon Wireless offers a variety of data plans to meet the various needs of our customer base. Right now, we have a “Double Your Data” promotion for all new 4G smartphone customers. So, for example, at the $30 monthly access plan, you will receive 4GB of data instead of 2 GB; at the $50 level, you receive 10 GB of data instead of 5 GB; and at the $80 level, you receive 20 GB of data instead of 10 GB.

    And customers should keep in mind the fact that free WiFi hotspots are widely available, and since the majority of Verizon Wireless smartphones are WiFi capable, customers can easily switch to a WiFi signal, and this is a good way to maximize your monthly data allowance.

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    As we have stated publicly, Verizon Wireless has been evaluating its pricing structure for some time. Customers have told us that they want to share data, similar to how they share minutes today. We are working on plans to provide customers with that option and will introduce new plans later this year.

    When the new options are introduced, Unlimited Data will no longer be available to our customers purchasing handsets and signing a new contract. Customers who choose to purchase phones at full retail price and are currently on an unlimited smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan. The same pricing and policies will apply to all 3G and 4GLTE smartphones.

    We will share specific details of the plans well in advance of their introduction so customers will have time to evaluate the plans and make the best decisions for their wireless service. It is our goal and commitment to continue to provide customers with the same high value service they have come to expect from Verizon Wireless.

    T-Mobile Statement

    Why does T-Mobile throttle? “T-Mobile’s plans offer a range of pricing options with unlimited, worry free data that doesn’t have a hard cap and customers don’t incur overage fees. In contrast to our competitors, T-Mobile customers can continue to use mobile data on their smartphone after they reach (2GB, 5GB or 10GB of high-speed data usage in a month) at reduced speeds and without incurring overage charges.”

    Watch "Bitten By Gigabytes" here.