“How Should Data Plans Evolve?” Answered!!

The good news is that you can control your data usage.Data caps and different pricing tiers increasingly define cellphone plans. They reflect the industry’s attempts to manage the fast-growing way people use their mobile gadgets to jet around the Internet.

Sprint Nextel Corp. stands alone among the major carriers with its unlimited and unfettered data plans. It says it has no plans to change. For now.

The bad news is you need to pay attention. Some analysts still think the day may not be far off when Sprint will have to separate the data hogs from the data tasters with tiers of service.

A hint may lie in the Overland Park, Kan.-based company’s recent announcement that in October it will slow down the speeds of its data-hungriest customers on its Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go brand. That followed a move by Verizon Wireless earlier in the month to impose caps.

Sprint’s unlimited plans do pose a seductive appeal. Today’s customers, after all, are the same folks who were floored a few years ago when their teenager’s texts or their spouse’s phone calls busted over their plan limits and left them with a triple-digit bill.Now families routinely pay upward of $100 a month to outfit the clan in iPhones, BlackBerrys and Androids.

By the minute or by the kilobit, prices have only gotten cheaper. But this month’s phone does more than last month’s handset, which makes last year’s model practically antique. And these things feed on wireless data.

Ask people which carrier to sign up with, she says, and they’ll first tell you to check who has the best coverage in the places you go. After that, though, Jaegers said, people start talking cost. And a big part of the cost equation goes to data caps.


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