Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do carriers boost the mobile hotspot data usage numbers?

Back in mid-2012, when I was looking for a mobile hotspot, I noticed that at almost unusable speeds, I was tearing through the Verizon Hotspot's 10 GB data limit.  It didn't make any sense.  Except for the trip from the Verizon store, I didn't have access to LTE.  At home, I was barely able to get e-mail.  Yet, most of the allotment was being used very quickly.

Saturday, I bought one of their newest hotspots and I'm already more than 33% through my monthly allotment of 5 GB.  The firmware update was surely included in the usage, since obviously, that wouldn't go to the company.  (Why put out a device that is updated when you can charge for the update indirectly?)  I had 12 GB with Sprint, and even when I had 5 GB, it didn't go this quickly, though they seem to count all of their overhead as part of my usage.

3 full days

Since there aren't a lot of alternatives here, I will be using the mobile hotspot, either the hardware device from Verizon, or the software functionality on the iPhone 5c from Sprint.  I'm guessing that I'll be close on data at the end of the billing period.

The salesperson told me that Verizon charges $10 per 1 gigabyte over the limit, which doesn't seem horrible.  I expected something more like $1 per extra megabyte.

To be clear, I had already stopped the automatic update of tablet applications.  People often seem upset than Apple take so long to authorize an update to an application, but the other side is annoying.  I see developers on Android updating their applications daily.  I don't develop mobile software, but unless there is an emergency, why not get several updates into the app every week?

Of course, Google applications on (Mac) OS X can't be stopped.  These days, I rarely find that Chrome hasn't been updated ahead of a notice on a news site, unless of course, I don't have a connection while I'm out.  Picasa is the Google exception, and the company has major problems there.  The Update menu item doesn't work.  It never finds an update, even when there is one.  When there is an update, I receive a pop-up dialog box asking me to run the installation.  I do that, and when I go to one of normal user accounts (as opposed to Administrator), it asks that I download and install it there, also.  Obviously, it's the same software across user accounts, download it once.
1 full week

Update 2014.03.09: I'm about 40% through my monthly allotment in about 1 week.  That's scary.  I hope it isn't repeated the next month.
2 weeks

Update 2014.03.16: I'm about 80% through my monthly allotment, with half a month to go.  I can only wonder as to what is using all the data, since I'm not watching videos.  It looks as though Verizon doesn't count the same way as Sprint did.  I would rarely go beyond 6 GB in a month.  I'm going to end up using my Sprint phone as a hotspot, which could last me the rest of the month, but who knows?

Funny that ABC News was running a story about prepaid phone calls and how AT&T and T-Mobile charge you for the operational length of the call, rather than the talk time of the call.  They said that Verizon only charged for the talk time.  I hope that they're not making up for it here.

Update 2014.03.17: I've apparently used 0.765GB in almost exactly 48 hours.  This will be the second time I've tried to update this blog entry with the addition of the graphic.   Well, the graphic was still being held by Google, even though Blogger did not update this blog entry--small favors.  In any case, I can only imagine that Google Maps is responsible for using so much data.  I watch videos on my Unlimited Data phone, not through the hotspot.

Update 2014.03.19: I turned off the Mifi hotspot just after I read the total usage.  When I went to the local affiliate to pay my first bill, I asked them about the current number and he had just switched from that page, but he said that it seemed to be what I mentioned.  I was half-hoping that it would have still increased with it completely off, to prove that there was a problem.

Since I've been using the phone on Sprint as a hotspot for two days, usage has been minimal.   I also noticed that MacRumors was mentioning a problem with iOS 7.1 and hotspot functionality, but since I didn't use it prior to 7.1, I am probably not having any issue.

Update 2014.03.21: I've been using my phone as a hotspot and it's been a bit troublesome if I stop the hotspot functionality.
The next morning after turning off the MiFi hotspot

2.5 days after the first Sprint measure

It seems very different in usage but that may be because it's so slow most of the time, and in frustration, I leave the computer or tablet without achieving much, though it might be some other reason.  I still find it humorous that Sprint wants to confuse the issue by measuring in KiloBytes.  Maybe, it confuses them, too.  It's sadly amusing that on their Sprint-labeled page, they mistakenly identify the results in MegaBytes per second instead of MegaBits per second.  I'm sure Sprint would have more customers if their data services were 8 times as fast.  With the Tri-Fi hotspot, I often had trouble getting e-mail.  Isn't that pathetic?  I always thought that a dedicated device would be so much better than a phone doing double duty but not so with the Sierra Wireless/Netgear devices, especially since they offer cradles to boost the signal gain.

I caved and changed from 5 GB on Verizon to 10 GB per month.  It's an extra $30, which is better than $10 per 1 GB or $50.

It's still easier to remember the phone than the mobile hotspot when I leave town for a quick trip.  It's still important to watch the usage, as I could suddenly exceed 10 GB.  e.g., I have the Asphalt 8 game on the phone and the Nexus 7 tablet.  It's 1.5 GB on one and 1.3 GB on the other.  Since they'll likely charge for their overhead, that 2.8 GB will probably balloon to 3.5 GB easily.  Try finding some free WiFi source to let you update that much easily.  I know of places but I'll have to drive 25-45 miles to go there.

How does adding an extra 5 GB get to 3.871?


 I had not used 5 GB and I changed to 10 GB so, they gave me a lot less than 5 GB.  For the sake of clarity, I should have had it start on the next billing period, don't you think?
I think Verizon may have a problem

I tried to call customer service but the sound was so awful, I couldn't really hear the menu options well.  Was that a tactic to get me to change my phone to Verizon?  I don't remember the problem in 2012.  I don't make many phone calls, so who knows?

Update 2014.04.04: I needed to back date (retroactive) the plan to the first day of the period.  They took my change on the 21st day of the month and used pro rata math to give me 3.871, which knowing my situation, no one knowledgeable and in their right mind would have done because it caused an overage.

Update 2015.01.31: This hit hard today, though I haven't been keeping track of my usage strictly.

Most of the month I've been using a FreedomPop home internet connection over LTE.  If I go over 2 GB on Verizon, it's pretty much the same as 10 GB on FreedomPop.  When I went over by 4 GB, uploading my new video work, I had to do something.

So, I didn't use the Verizon mobile hotspot until the 21st really.  I was updating the computer and phone and it showed 2.2 GB, which is a lot from 10 GB monthly.  Today, I got a message that I was over 75%--or over 7.5 GB.  In the last 3 days, I've been working on a few videos from skateboarding, and a musical performance the other night.  I find it difficult to believe that I used 6 GB, and only have about 1.4 GB remaining.  Thankfully, that was after the latest group of videos were finished and up on YouTube.  I was uploading to YouTube and Vimeo, so that's part of the problem, but Vimeo let me upload the full load of the second video and told me that it wasn't HD because I need to pay extra for more than a certain small amount.

In any case, it's going to be back to zero on the 2nd, but in the meantime, I have to be a bit more frugal.

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