Analyzing My Wireless Data Life

07122010052 - Share on OviThis weekend, I got an email from the good folks at Truphone about the status of my membership with them. Truphone allows me to have a second SIM card with which to use for more efficient (world) traveling with voice, text, and data. Of late, I’m in the thoughts again that I want to use Truphone as my only carrier, but there are a few things that are stopping me from jumping.

My Wireless Usage
Some months ago, right around the time I went to doing MMM full-time, I took a look at how I was using wireless. I took a look at voice, texting, and data, and made some adjustments.

The first adjustment was to change from a 900 minute to a 450 minute voice plan. Doing this meant that I’d need to be a much better steward of voice calls, and the penalty would be that I’d be killing my budget. Just that change actually dropped my monthly expenses with AT&T by 50%. I pushed some of that extra money to Skype, since it was actually cheaper to keep some funds there for Skype-Out calls, than to take the hit for going over minutes, or having minutes that I rarely used.

On the messaging side, I kept the unlimited plan that I had. I use about 700-1000 SMS/MMS message per month and that’s been pretty good. I’ve even gone the route of making things like LinkedIn, WordPress, and PayPal send me notifications via SMS/MMS instead of email. Especially for notifications, this just made more sense to use SMS/MMS for this instead of email.

For email and web, I have a (grandfathered) unlimited data plan. With the reality being that unlimited data plans are going away, I’ve been paying attention to how I use my (so far) unlimited pipe. The analysis of this mobile-mainly dude – I use 2-4GB of data per month consistently. Here’s the thing, I’m only watching short clips of YouTube in my daily RSS reading, and occasionally streaming from Last.FM. But because I am on my mobile all the time, and in my apartment living didn’t have broadband (and therefore no home Wi-Fi, that makes for some heavy usage.

The data usage is a problem (according to carriers and how they think about data usage). I use what they built, and do pay for it as I do.

The iPad Effect
When I purchased my iPad, I’d expected that from time to time that I’d be using it tethered to my smartphone(s). What I didn’t expect is that it would actually throw up my usage 200%. Where I was down to 2GB (max 3GB) per month with just my mobile, with the iPad, I’ve been hovering around 4GB. And this is even with spending days in coffeeshops on Wi-Fi. The iPad is definitely a heavy device in terms of how it hits mobile broadband networks. And until I looked at my stats for data usage at AT&T (great feature by the way), I had no clue that it would hit like this.

Going for a 3G Kindle (or Nook), starts to look like it would have been a better solution and something I should have more heavily weighed.

Skype and Truphone
One of the reasons that I’m having these conversations with myself (and sharing here) is that I’m always looking at leveraging things better around me. I do think that Skype is a great option for both contacting folks, and doing the kinds of SMS and IM messaging that works without thinking. It is all in one bucket and is long overdue from carriers and users as the regular behavior of communicating.

But, Skype is limited, and there are those data effects. At this time, data networks just aren’t as nice everywhere that I travel where using Skype alone makes sense. In fact, if that were the case that networks were such that using Skype all the time would make sense, a lot of us would have been moved carriers and gone all Internet-style with mobile communications.

Truphone sits on the other side of things for me. Doing MMM doesn’t just require that I travel in the US, but that I’m available to go overseas. Dealing with multiple SIM cards, roaming agreements, and international plans doesn’t speak as sensible to me. The carrier really should handle those agreements with one another and just provide me (the user) a clear and easy experience. Truphone has been one of the best companies in this space for sometime and so I’d like to move my US-local number to them and just keep rocking.

One problem: data. If I am topping 4GB per month, and they are charging $0.50USD (membership rates) per MB – then I’m in a hole of holes. That is way too expensive no matter how much I charge for speaking/consulting/training/writing. It works for SMS and voice, but man is that data piece a killer.

Where Things Stand
I’m kind of glad that I sat to write this out. I rock two SIM cards in (usually) two Symbian phones. The way that Symbian handles data connections (access points), I only need to configure each mobile to not use data automatically when the Truphone SIM is inserted, that way I don’t incur any ghost-charges. Though each will use AT&T for data, I don’t pull as much data on my backup phone. This encourages me to find Wi-Fi hotspots, or get away from using everything in real-time contexts for that mobile, and let the iPad stay in specific contexts of its own.

Yes, this actually makes for an interesting challenge in using a mobile web server that serves as a anchor for my business card; but also points to a wireless life on my end that has to wait until prices, carriers, and data moves in such a way that I’m not losing organs just to say hello to various consituents.

Can you say fun?

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