Carrier's across the country are increasingly looking at creating high data caps as opposed to the traditional "Unlimited" model. This is due primarily to the drastic increase in data usage over time as streaming applications use more and more data to accommodate higher video resolution and live features. We have seen our carrier partners take precautions with all contracts to help curb the amount of data being used by new and existing subscribers, and we feel it is only right to make sure you know the situation everyone is tackling.
Let's talk about the carrier's point of view
Internet services have evolved a lot over time. Just 3 years ago the average household data usage was less than 300GB per month with 4 screens or less in the home. Fast forward to 2020 and the average household has more than 7 screens and 11 connected devices.
6 years ago the average video size (for an hour and a half movie) was less than 1GB, now the average movie size is 4GB, with 4K at the upwards of 16GB. In that time the technology for rural internet users has not kept up with the services available. While there is great hope for this in the form of 5G (Fifth Generation Wireless) the fact of the matter is that 5G is not here in a tangible way yet. The carriers are just now beginning to deploy 5G on a consistent basis, and even then, your devices are likely not 5G compatible yet. So for now the carriers are stuck with more users, needing higher demand applications, on the exact same infrastructure that has mostly existed since 2009.
The carrier's are going to be forced to increase their capacity, likely through 5G, but this will come at a cost. The price of pushing exponentially more data through the network will be forwarded to the consumer in one form or another. Either your rates are going to increase, or the heavy usage applications such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will increase their costs to the consumer as they are charged more to stream over each network. This is where Net Neutrality, which was repealed in 2018, is beginning to affect consumers.
So getting back to the carrier's view, they have to increase their capacity to meet the demand of their customers, but they will not be able to afford that upgrade unless they realize an revenue increase somewhere. The alternative is maintaining the current technology and infrastructure and simply culling their highest use subscribers to make room for even more low use subscribers. It is a simple business decision, albeit one that hurts rural users that have few options.
What about your point of view?
Up until the introduction of HD, and now 4K streaming, there were not any major data hogs out there. Most applications used a negligible amount of data and left plenty of space for everyone else. With the advent of streaming services you likely take advantage of such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, even the lightest users are consuming 4-6 times the amount of data you were just 5 years ago. How does that happen you may ask?
We posted a calculator on a previous post to help you customize your scenario and estimate how much data you use, but here is a quick and dirty list of the highest data hogs.
Video Streaming (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.)
4K Streaming - 8GB per hour
HD Streaming - 2GB per hour
SD Streaming - 0.5 GB per hour
Music (Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, etc.)
Streaming - 0.06GB per hour
Emails - 0.40GB per 1000 emails
SD Video Chatting (Zoom, Skype, Hangouts) - 0.34GB per hour
HD Video Chatting (Zoom, Skype, Hangouts) - 2GB per hour
Large Game Download (Call of Duty for instance) - 120GB
Live gaming - 0.20GB per hour
Security Cameras (Arlo, Nest, Alarm.com)
Cloud Video Feed - 2GB per hour
So imagine you are a family of 4, you have a gaming console in your home, 2 security cameras, and 4 TVs which you are able to stream on. If you average 3 hours of streaming per user, per day, and one large game file per month, you could be looking at over 900GB of data usage in a single month. This could be significantly reduces with just a few simple steps.
Where is Olive IP in all of this?
Our role is to ensure reliability and advocate for our customers against the carriers when appropriate. This means we take a lot of care in cultivating carrier relationships, ensuring the products sold meet your needs at a reasonable price point, and acting as a buffer for the times that the carrier takes unexpected and extreme actions to defend their networks against abuse.
We are caught in the middle most of the time, doing our best to make sure that the service you receive meets the needs and criteria of both the carrier and the consumer. This puts us in a difficult position on a regular basis, but so far we have always been able to find a compromise and we expect we always will.
So what can you do?
1. DO NOT stream in 4K, and when appropriate (any TV 48" and under) reduce streaming quality to 720p/medium in your streaming application.
2. Reduce streaming quality of your Nest, Arlo, or Alarm.com security cameras to standard definition.
3. Use physical media to download graphics intense video games such as first person shooters such as Call of Duty and action-adventure games such as Skyrim.
4. Do not leave any unattended video streams such as Youtube channels, and auto restart on Netflix. If you are going to leave the room, pause or stop the content.
The main takeaway we want for everyone is the tools to keep a finger on the pulse of your data usage. Making smart decisions about your usage is extremely important.
For more information please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (254) 777-5222.