Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to exceed 5 GB in data usage per month

After seeing the 5 GB cap for "unlimited" usage on Docomo's Xi LTE data plan, I went through the past year's cellular bills to figure out how much data I was using and how I would be potentially effected if I started having to meter my data usage.

The answer, with a caveat, is not at all. Over the last year, I have used on average 250 MB of data per month. If you recall, I rooted my phone in April. Prior to that, I average only 130 MB per month. Since then, more like 360 MB. But, I am admittedly not a heavy user of data. I really don't stream much of anything. The most data intensive app I use is Google Maps, which I do use quite a lot. Since rooting, I do tether my notebook or iPod Touch, but not to excess, though I may do that more often now that I see that I am well under any potential red-flag-raising bandwidth consumption. (CEO Yamada said 99% of FOMA users are below 5 GB.)

Now for the caveat. If I was using Xi, I'd have a more powerful handset that could tame that CPU hog Skype, which is worthless on my older handset. I'd also be more apt to browse more pages simply due to the higher speed of the handset and the connection.

As far as streaming content, last I checked, none of the free streaming music apps allowed Japanese IPs, and if someone surreptitiously removed the youtube app from my phone, it might take me several months to notice, if ever.

So, Let's make some assumptions about my future usage. First lets assume that my data usage doubles, which would mean that I'd be using about 0.7 GB per month, still well under the cap. Next let's add in 30 minutes a day of skype, which is assuming a lot. Let's assign a rate of 200 kbps for skype usage.

200 kb/s streamed for half an hour = 0.0429 GB * 30 days = 1.29 GB per month.

Adding this to my doubled usage gets results in 2 GB per month. I'd still be at only 3.3 GB per month if I  used skype for an hour a day.

Finally let's assume I am so enamored with the video capabilities of my new dual-core handset that I am streaming video encoded at 500 kbps, also for 30 minutes a day.

500 kb/s streamed for half an hour = 0.107 GB. * 30 days = 3.22 GB per month.

So, for me, doubled usage, plus 30 minutes of skype and 30 minutes of streaming video would put me just over 5 GB.

How would this work out for the rest of you?

(Granted, the idea of making every phone call over a cellular data network through skype is appealing, but the call quality I get with skype just doesn't quite cut it.)


  1. Skype video call is more like 160kbit/s, or 20kb/s, one tenth of your estimate. And what application, exactly, would you have in mind for high-bit rate video streaming (a bit rate well over the top for the quality you actually get from your phonecam) at a place where you do not have access to wifi?

    Also, will your phone battery actually allow you to run video for an hour per day? I know mine wouldn't make it.

    5Gb per month is a pretty difficult cap to reach unless you actually aim to use it up.

  2. My data usage has been between 300 and 800 MB, including 3 hours VoIP , 5 hours audio streaming, 1 hour YouTube, a few hours of tethering (regular web surfing), all numbers estimated per month.

    Far away from the 5 GB but it would make me nervous if I'd have to watch that limit all the time. I'd prefer if NTT would decrease data speed after 5 GB but keeping it free.

  3. I agree, and psychologically having a limit like this is not good for NTT's business. Much better to, as you say, throttle the speed above the limit.

    Have a 30 day sliding window, and you get full speed up to 4Gb, dropping gradually until you hit 5Gb where you'll be throttled down to some minimal usable level; say, 1Kb/s, enough for the "oh my, how you've exceeded your quota"-email from Docomo to get through.

  4. OK, my bad.

    But that video - have you ever actually watched 30 minutes of unedited video footage? It's painful, almost no matter what the subject. I have a very hard time coming up with any conceivable reason to transfer 30 minutes of footage per day, every day, over the mobile network, without ever once being able to make use of wifi, wired net or usb sticks for transfer.

    The rare exception would be some kind of video-production professional - news reporters perhaps - but they are in business and should be prepared to pay the extra transfer cost. They do already after all, using other technology.

  5. Well, you're basically right. It is hard to use 5 GB unless you really try. I was trying to think of a scenario that would push it over, however unlikely. But there are youtube junkies out there. I could imagine someone on a long commute watching youtube on the train, getting to the office and plugging in their phone, then watching more videos on the ride home.

    If you watched every video that james at japanprobe posted each day, I bet you could get to the 30 min.

  6. Another thing to consider: Not only can users' usage patterns trend towards more bandwidth when faster connection speeds present themselves, but the available services also become more bandwidth-hungry. Just compare the mobile-formatted websites of the 2G era with current mobile-formatted websites.

    Of course this won't have any real effect for at least another four years or so as the service providers have to figure out what they're doing, but it would be shortsighted to assume that "64k is all anybody will ever need". Very likely, Docomo will get ready to move away from this price plan a good fiscal year after people start complaining about how it restricts the content they can use.

  7. That cap is a show stopper for me.

    I use Google Listen for podcasts. About 20 subscriptions averaging 10mb each, 30 days worth is 6gb. That's before maps, youtube, and routine maintenance that Android does.

    As for the video issue, remember that tablets like the Galaxy Tab are included here. I can see someone using a tablet to pacify a child with streaming video, which might put you over the cap.

    Why have they decided to cap data anyway? I thought we were past all that.

  8. Understandable. It seems like caps are coming full circle. Maybe when hey more fully expand capacity, they will go back to unlimited... BTW, referenced you usage in this post.