Unlimited data plans will be a must to experience all that 5G promises

Mobile World Congress might have you convinced of two major mobile trends for 2019: foldable phones and 5G.

Foldable phones are undeniably interesting — we finally have real phones that transform into tablets with larger screens! — but 5G, the next generation of faster and more reliable cellular connectivity, has the potential to truly change how we live and work, even if foldable phones end up becoming a fad.

At MWC 2019, companies from all corners of the globe tripped over each other to showcase a near future where high-resolution movies would download in seconds, expansive 3D games and VR would be streamed directly to phones and new headsets, and smart cars (self-driving or not) would be able to recognize each other to prevent collisions.

I’m 100 percent onboard with these 5G promises, but there’s one thing people are overlooking: data plans.

SEE ALSO: The best tech of Mobile World Congress 2019

It’s stupid easy for a company like Huawei to boast about how its Mate X foldable phone will be the “world’s fastest 5G foldable phone” when it launches in June and how the device’s Balong 5000 modem will be able to download a 1GB movie in three seconds.

Doing the math, it would mean the Mate X pulling down 333 MB/s to complete the download. That’s impressive… assuming you can first hop on a 5G network (most of them are still in the very early phase of deployment and won’t have proper launches until 2020 at the earliest). But gobbling so much data so quickly will eat into your data plan significantly faster than before.

Consider your current 4G LTE data plan. I’ll use myself as an example: I’m on T-Mobile and have 10GB of data per month. As a power user, I’m barely making it work. 

Putting aside the question of how much more it’ll cost per month to get 5G or how fast a 5G connection will be, if I were to download a 1GB movie, I’d use up 1/10th of my data in three seconds. Then, let’s say I want to stream a few 3D games to my smartphone. Surely, that’ll chew through a few more gigs — again, within seconds.

If I download 10 movies, each at 1GB each, my 10GB data plan is gone in 30 seconds!

Add on all of videos I upload to Instagram Stories, tweets I send, emails I write, news I read, and YouTube videos I watch on a daily basis and I am certain I’ll eat through my data plan in a couple of minutes.

I mean, if I download 10 movies, each at 1GB each, my 10GB data plan is gone in 30 seconds!

Carriers will market 5G to regular folks with a simple message: faster connectivity means you can download and stream more.

But to even get the benefit of this 5G dream, you will need a bountiful data plan that’ll support it. As it stands, existing data plans with “ceilings” or “caps” (or whatever you prefer to call them) will not work to sustain the kind of data-hungry applications that 5G promises to deliver.

Unlimited data plans will be the only way for anyone to get the full 5G experience. And that’s the problem: No wireless carrier besides T-Mobile has committed to offering unlimited 5G data plans. And T-Mobile’s not launching its 5G network until the second half of 2019.

Maybe AT&T and Verizon and Sprint will announce their own unlimited data plans for 5G later this year, but why even consider 5G so soon if they’re not willing to share their full plans with everyone today? 

We know the answer to that: because 5G isn’t ready yet. 2019 is another year many companies will make a lot of noise about how they have 5G phones ready to go, but it’s mostly smoke. The earliest 5G will actually be useful to most consumers will be 2020. 

When “unlimited” isn’t really unlimited

But even if you get an unlimited 5G plan, what does that really mean? All four of the major wireless carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited data plans, but they’re not really unlimited.

On T-Mobile, after 50GB of data, the company says users “may notice reduced speeds until next bill cycle due to data prioritization.” 

Ditto for other carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. All of them throttle cellular speeds after you’ve used a certain amount of data on your “unlimited” plan. I’ve personally noticed a reduction in data speed from 4G LTE to 3G (or slower) speeds and, my friend, it’s brutal when you need a decent connection and aren’t aware you’ve hit your data cap.

Also, even if carriers offer unlimited 5G data plans, how much will it cost us? T-Mobile CEO John Legere has pledged to keep prices the same as 4G LTE for the next three years, which means a single line will cost $70/month until 2022, but what about the other carriers? We just don’t know what their plans are.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that U.S. carriers are greedy corporations. They’ll find a way to squeeze more from customers. And if you’re smart enough to read between the lines, you’ll know that the next-gen data network was designed from the start to nickel and dime consumers.

Like myself, you might think you can get by with your 10GB (or less) of 4G LTE data per month now, but for 5G applications, it won’t be enough. To appreciate 5G, you’ll have to upgrade to an unlimited data plan (if you aren’t already on one) or pay more for your existing plan depending on your carrier.

One way or another, you will end up paying more for 5G.

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Disney Partners With Japanese Mobile Network Docomo To Launch Streaming Service

Online streaming of content has become a lucrative business for entertainment companies in the world, so much so that no one wants to lag behind in the race to dive straight into this new world filled with immense possibilities and opportunities. Now U.S. entertainment group Walt Disney and Japanese wireless carrier NTT Docomo have joined forces to launch a video-streaming service in Japan next month as the country prepares for 5G. This is the latest tie-up between a media behemoth and a telecom communication firm ahead of the introduction of superfast 5G data service, which is expected to be up to 100 times faster than current mobile network services.

Though the decision makers are yet to fix any price for the video-streaming services, they have decided to offer a wide variety of content to subscribers including all the latest movies from the bouquet of Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucasfilm. This is going to be the first video-streaming service in Japan to offer the latest titles of all four Disney studios mentioned above. News of the partnership first came out of the Mobile World Congress 2019 being held this week in Barcelona, Spain.

Joining hands with Docomo opens doors of many possibilities for Disney as the wireless carrier boasts of extensive presence in Japan. It has around 45 percent market share in the country with more than 70 million subscribers. What is even more important to note here is that Docomo is not the first wireless carrier in the country to sign a deal with an entertainment company. Last year, the second largest carrier of Japan, KDDI signed a deal with streaming media giant Netflix, offering a special data plan with unlimited access to the streaming platform. Third-largest carrier SoftBank has also offered Netflix subscriptions to its 40 million subscribers since the streamer launched in Japan in the year 2015.

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What Are Elephant Flows And Why Are They Driving Up Mobile Network Costs?

If you dust off your memory and think 10 years back, you may recall when your phone was used for making calls and checking email, right? Not anymore.

Far beyond the basics, smartphones have now morphed into our primary video devices, as video represents an average of 60% of total traffic. This explosive development has made smartphones more ubiquitous, but it also has come with a cost — both in the billions of dollars of network investment for mobile operators and the quality of experience (QoE) being provided. When marketplace competition forces network providers to offer unlimited data plans, video usage increases rapidly. Consequently, network quality is degraded, while infrastructure costs skyrocket.

For network operators, this is not just a big problem; it’s an elephant-sized problem. And that’s not an exaggeration. Network deployment engineers have dedicated years in trying to herd these “elephant flows” with more antennas, power/cabling, concrete bunkers for new cell sites and new Gs of speed. While that’s been helpful — and expensive — truly getting to the heart of the matter requires to first identify the problem and then locate it.

What Is An Elephant Flow?

Elephant flows are data sessions that take up significant amounts of network capacity relative to other types of data sessions. For example, based on data from the FCC, a three-minute YouTube stream accounts for 20,000 times more bandwidth than three minutes consuming Twitter. Based on our own research, my company has discovered that currently 3% of data sessions account for 70% of all the traffic on mobile networks.

Video is by far the most expensive and complicated form of media that is processed through mobile data sessions, and the demand grows every day. One report predicted that 50% of all video will be viewed on mobile devices by 2020. If you think that sounds like a big problem, just wait for 5G. The release of 5G will see autonomous vehicles produce real-time augmented reality applications, all processing billions upon billions of bits of data per second. The result: mega-elephants, which will challenge even the new high-speed 5G environment.

What Elephant Flows Do To Networks

Network operators use network performance as a veritable battle line, claiming their speeds and quality are better than the next, yet little is being done about the crushing impact video is having on network performance. Elephant flows slow down networks by consuming available network capacity. In turn, this leaves little to no capacity for the vast majority of users with less “hungry” data sessions, ruining the quality of experience or even stopping it altogether. Some cell sites are plagued with a dozen or more simultaneous elephant flows, making it difficult to keep up with and manage capacity issues. This is especially problematic in dense urban areas, such as New York City and London.

How Network Carriers Currently Solve For Elephant Flows

For years, network providers have worked to find ways to alleviate the destructive inefficiency video places on spectral resources. Short of expanding hardware or increasing infrastructure, network carriers attempted to manipulate the underlying data to reduce the data volume of a video through reduced resolution. The reality is that many of these mechanisms were made obsolete with the rapid adoption of encryption (HTTPS). As such, only blind throttling has remained as a mechanism to reduce video resolution and data volume.

Throttling works by identifying videos on the network and actively preventing those videos access to high speeds. Intentionally limiting the speed of a subscriber’s video connection helps reduce the data volume and capacity requirements in the core of the network (network backbone). The trouble is that while throttling does provide a capacity savings in the core of the network, it does not address the capacity challenges over the radio access network.

Overcoming Challenges With Elephant Flows

Building cell sites is expensive and difficult, with the introduction of 5G and MIMO proving just how challenging it can be. Some network carriers are planning on spending billions in CAPEX to solve a problem that needs a dual solution, fueled by both infrastructure upgrades and the introduction of software solutions.

There are now a couple of potential ways to alleviate this issue. One of them is a software-based solution that leverages the mobile core. These software-based solutions — like our software-based RAN densification machine learning software — recognize elephant flows immediately. There are also multiple OEMs and mobile network operators around the world — like Cisco, Affirmed or Samsung, for example — that are leading the way in developing technology that leverages software solutions. These solutions effectively manage elephant flows without impacting user experience for anyone.

Software solutions aren’t a replacement for MIMO and 5G, but rather they serve as a complement. MIMO and 5G will change communications forever, but the demand for more data will perpetually increase with more augmented reality, autonomous cars, infotainment, IoT and other requirements putting a strain on these new hardware systems. MIMO and 5G seek to solve capacity issues from a hardware standpoint, but the increase won’t be enough to handle the increased data demand. The new rich applications for 5G will result in the creation of mega elephants. This is why the combination of both hardware and software solutions is so critical for the future of hungry communications.

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Disney to Launch Streaming Service in Japan

Disney to Launch Streaming Service in Japan

The service will be launched in partnership with Japan’s leading telecommunication company NTT Docomo

The Walt Disney Company revealed plans Thursday morning to launch a new streaming service in Japan.

The unnamed OTT platform will launch in March using the upcoming 5G infrastructure of Japan’s leading telecommunication company Docomo, according to The Hollywood Reporter. News of the partnership was revealed at the Mobile World Congress 2019 being held this week in Barcelona, Spain.

While details on the new service are still scarce, the company did confirm that content from four of its studios (Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucasfilm) will be available on the service, The Hollywood Reporter said. However, the price consumers will pay for that content is still unknown.

The service is unrelated to Disney’s upcoming U.S. SVOD service Disney+, according to a spokesperson from Disney’s U.S. team.

Disney’s APAC division, which will help oversee the service, and Docomo did not respond to request for comment.

Docomo holds around 45 percent market share in Japan, making it the largest Japanese telecommunication company with more than 70 million subscribers. Its closest competitor with a 31 percent share is KDDi’s Au, which has also been looking for ways to tap into the streaming market. Last year, the company partnered with Netflix, offering its mobile subscribers a data plan with unlimited access to the streaming platform (similar to T-Mobile’s partnership with the streaming giant in the U.S.). Both of the services are expected to launch their 5G networks later this year, which will offer the fastest internet connection yet seen on mobile.

Japan isn’t the only country Disney has scouted for its growing OTT business. In October 2017, the company debuted a streaming service in Ireland. Titled DisneyLife, the platform offers customers more than 400 movies along with a selection of Disney Channel shows, Disney e-books, and music for a monthly price $8.27. For that price users can create up to six individual profiles across 10 different devices. It also includes built-in controls so that parents can set time limits on their children’s profiles for weekday and weekend use.

Disney to Launch Streaming Service in Japan was last modified: February 28th, 2019 by Ryan Friedman

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US Cellular picks Ericsson for 5G; adds private LTE core for public safety

US Cellular adds private network core for public safety users

BARCELONA — U.S. Cellular will build out its 5G network with Ericsson equipment, and the carrier also is targeting public safety users with prioritized network access and preemption services and the ability to segment first responders’ traffic via a private network core.

The carrier, which has an existing vendor relationship with Ericsson, signed a multi-year deal with the Swedish vendor for 5G New Radio equipment.

Michael Irizarry, EVP and CTO for U.S. Cellular, said that the carrier “[values]our long-standing relationship with Ericsson and are impressed with their 5G-ready portfolio. We also know Ericsson is committed to meeting our deployment timeline in order to bring 5G to our customers in the second half of 2019.”

The two companies said they have already conducted joint 5G testing in real-world environments, encompassing both rural and suburban settings in Madison, Wisconsin. Those tests included advanced beamforming, massive multiple-input multiple-output, the use of large channel bandwidth and dynamic TDD; applications tested included virtual and augmented reality.

In related new, U.S. Cellular also this week officially launched a dedicated LTE network core for public safety users, which enables the operator to provide enhanced priority and preemption services — and it’s bolstering the introduction with first-responder service plans with unlimited voice, data and text as well as no speed caps.

AT&T — which is building out the nationwide FirstNet network for first responders — and Verizon both previously introduced private, dedicated public safety cores which separate first responders’ traffic from other commercial or consumer traffic in order to guarantee a higher level of service.

U.S. Cellular said that its service is “designed to provide first responders and critical support teams with consistent high quality service, priority on the network and preemption over non-essential data whenever it is needed.” Priority access enables first responder users to get front-of-the-line access over other data traffic in times of congestion, while the private core allows the carrier to “automatically and temporarily reallocate lower priority network resources to emergency responders so they can stay connected during emergencies,” U.S. Cellular said.

Jim Anetsberger, VP of business strategy at U.S. Cellular, said that the operator “[has]and will continue to make significant investments in our network and public safety solutions so first responders can stay in constant communication and access the data they need to provide the best response.”






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Light Reading

By Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/28/2019
Airspan’s CSO says the latest version of the company’s Magic Box small cell is coming to Sprint by the end of the year.
By Iain Morris, International Editor, 2/28/2019
As artificial intelligence moves into the field of network operations, telcos will face new cultural and technological challenges.

By Light Reading, 2/28/2019
It’s the MWC special, of course, live (sort of) from amid the foliage of the Fira. Includes VIP guests, and Iain’s new haircut.
By Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 2/28/2019
Also in today’s EMEA regional roundup: Ooredoo seeks AI boost for 5G rollout; Sunrise-Liberty deal agreed; BT creates jobs; IoT and athletic performance.

By Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 2/27/2019
Affirmed Networks CEO Hassan Ahmed says the company’s opportunities inside mobile networks will grow as 5G takes off; the vEPC vendor’s most recent funding round suggests others share his optimism.
By Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, 2/27/2019
Nothing’s settled yet, but CEO says such a move would reduce the complexities of TiVo’s businesses and facilitate potential ‘strategic transactions’ as a review of company’s fate continues.
By Ken Wieland, contributing editor, 2/27/2019
Korea Telecom has no clear idea about which 5G services will prove popular, so is trialing several that might – just might – take off.
By Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 2/27/2019
Also in today’s EMEA regional roundup: BritBox set to challenge Netflix in UK; TIM and Xiaomi target 5G devices; Ericsson and Telefónica strike AI deal.

By Simon Stanley, 1/2/2019
Developing an open architecture for domain-specific accelerators could empower service providers to accelerate edge computing and related applications.
Mobile Operator 5G Capex Forecasts: 2018-2023

December 2018

This paper estimates and forecasts 5G capex by mobile operators, including investments in the fixed transport infrastructure to serve those networks. It includes estimates for capex split by region and network segment.

See Details

Cable’s 5G Transport Role: Promise Meets Complexity

December 2018

The cable industry is poised to benefit in many ways from 5G, but it must be careful to avoid getting stuck in a quagmire of complexity. This report analyzes the prospects for cable to provide 5G mobile transport services and examines the recent technologies and strategies that are being explored.

See Details

Open Conflict Over Open RAN

Iain Morris
, International Editor
, 2/14/2019

Accusations that big kit vendors tried to throttle developments show open RAN …

CxO Spotlight – Executive Interviews

In the coming years, thousands of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites could be circling the nearby heavens, providing broadband connectivity to consumers and businesses …

Jim Whitehurst had a nice job as chief operating officer of Delta Airlines in 2008, when he switched career tracks to take a position as CEO of Red Hat. Since then, …

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After years of development, data center construction gradually goes standard and modular.

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Google Fi helps save money on cellphone bill

A few years ago, Google got into the cellular service game when it launched the beta project Project Fi, the online-only cellphone plan. Back in 2015, it was available by invitation only to Nexus 6 phone owners. Recently, Google has opened the project to a wider audience, so here’s a look at what’s good and what could be better about Google Fi.

When Google announced, “Hi everyone. We’re excited to announce that Fi SIM cards are now available for purchase in 500+ Best Buy stores across the US,” we said, “We better dig into this so our audience will understand.”

If you’re paying too much for your cellphone service, Google has a cheap cell service for you. However, there are a few things you should know about. In this episode of Consumer Tech Update, Kim looks at Google’s cellphone service Fi and its pros and cons.

Here’s what you need to know about Google Fi

There are phones specifically designed to work with Google Fi (like Google’s Pixel) and then there are phones that are compatible with it, and others that aren’t. You’ll get more features with Fi phones, including what Google calls “intelligent” switching between three LTE networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.

You can check to see if your neighborhood is serviced by Fi. You just type in your address on the Fi site – fi.google.com – it’ll show you if you’re covered, whether you’re using a Fi phone or one that’s compatible with Google Fi.

There are phones on the Fi site that are designed for Fi, including Google’s Pixel. Other manufacturers make Fi phones, including LG.

You can also check the site to see if your phone is compatible with Fi. You’ll notice that some phones are still in beta with Fi, notably iPhones.

You might save money with Google Fi

Google is going for simplicity with Fi. You can order a SIM card on the Fi site for free or buy one for $10 at Best Buy.

Then, you choose your plan. It’s $20 a month for unlimited phone calls and texts, and $15 for each additional phone line.

It’s $10 a month for each GB of data you use. Google will not charge you over 6 GB a month, but it will slow down your data when you go over 15 GB. The idea is to prevent you from spending more than your budget.

You pay the same price for data if you’re connecting in more than 200 countries. You’ll also have free, unlimited texting. Phone calls in other countries that are served by Fi at $0.20 a minute when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

Here’s how to switch to Fi

Google has set out to making switching to Fi simple, just like its pricing plans. You do most of the work on the Fi site.

Go there and you’ll see a Join button. You’ll be prompted to choose your phone, whether you’ll be using your current phone or buying a new phone that’s specifically designed for Fi.

You’ll be prompted to type in your phone maker, model and cellphone provider, if you’re checking to see if your phone is compatible. Or you can select the Fi phone you’d like to buy.

Then, you’ll be prompted to select your pricing plan. It’s $20 for calls and texts, then you select your data plan.

You’ll need to contact your current carrier to disconnect your service, once the switch to Google Fi has been confirmed.

Bonus: Calculate cellphone savings in a flash

Should you switch to Fi?

If your phone is compatible with Google Fi’s network and if you’ve compared what you pay with your carrier to what you’d pay with Google Fi, then the switch may make sense. If you don’t mind jumping through some hoops, switching your SIM card, unlocking your carrier-locked phone and suffering through the sales pitch when you try to cancel with your current carrier, then, yeah, it might be worth it.

And, if you don’t use a lot of cellular data and don’t mind being early adopters who suffer through the glitches of newer technologies, then go for it. For the rest of you, and iPhone users, we say wait to see how Google perfects its Fi.

One more thing to think about — remember years and years ago when you learned not to put all your eggs in one basket? We can’t help but think about that when we think about switching wireless carriers. Do we want our email, internet services, document storage and cellphones all under the control of the Google universe?

How to download your Google+ data before it’s gone forever

You have to hand it to Google for finally, at long last pulling the plug on Google Plus. That’s its Facebook wannabe that never became popular.

The bad news is, all the photos and information you saved there will be gone when the plug is pulled on April 2. Don’t panic, but do hurry – keep reading for tips to save your data before it’s gone.

Tap or click here for a tip to save your precious memories!

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Last Chance: Get Talk, Text and Data Service From Mint Mobile for $6.67 a Month for 3 Months

If you buy something through this post, IGN may get a share of the sale. For more, read our Terms of Use.

We’ve been running this deal for a while, even thought it’s a little outside the IGN scope of coverage, because it’s just too good to pass up. Today is the last possible day to cash in on Mint Mobile’s introductory prepaid rate. If you haven’t been following along, Mint Mobile offers 3-months prepaid service for $20. That’s $6.67 per month.

The bottom line: for ~$6.67 a month, or $20 total, you get unlimited talk and text and 8GB LTE data, for three months. 

That’s $20, period, for three months of no-contract cell service. Seriously, this is of the best prepaid cell phone plans we’ve seen and today is the last day to get it.


Before you take advantage of this deal, there are a couple things to check: First off, be sure you fall into Mint’s coverage map. It probably won’t be a problem, since most major areas are covered. Reviews for the service itself on Amazon are mostly positive, and the negative reviews come down to coverage or technical problems users had, so before you make the commitment, make absolutely sure your area is on the coverage map for LTE service or you’re going to have a bad time.

Second, you can activate an existing phone. So if your contract plan is up and you want to move to something with less commitment for way less money, this is a great cell phone deal. Or if you have a phone kicking around your house, this is a great way to give it new life for barely any money.

One thing to keep in mind: the Mint Mobile $20 for 3-month promotion only works for new activations, and it’s only for the 8GB plan. So if you use more data than that (you animal) you’re out of luck. However, Mint Mobile also offers 3GB and 12GB plans, so when the three months is up you can choose a data plan that fits your needs, if you want.

Also, when the three months is up, the pricing changes. They’re all pretty reasonable. During the 3-month promo period, this is without a doubt the cheapest prepaid cell phone plan, but even when the $6.67 per month period is over, it’s still really affordable. Here are the plans once the promo period ends:

3-Month Plans:

  • 3GB LTE for $25/mo
  • 8GB LTE for $35/mo
  • 12GB LTE for $45/mo

6-Month Plans:

  • 3GB LTE for $20/mo
  • 8GB LTE for $25/mo
  • 12GB LTE for $35/mo

12-Month Plans:

  • 3GB LTE for $15/mo
  • 8GB LTE for $20/mo
  • 12GB LTE for $25/mo

As you can see, if you commit to a 12-month plan you can keep the $20/month price. Pretty nice, although you are locked into another contract at that point, so keep that in mind before you sign up.

Prices are better than comparable plans with other carriers like Straight Talk mobile, beating them in many cases for identical data/time spans, but when your time is up, there’s nothing stopping you from jumping ship.

Finally, Mint Mobile sends you a SIM card. You’ll need to swap in the new SIM card yourself, but if you’ve never done it before, don’t worry. It can be done in about 60 seconds.

Further reading: Be sure to check out our best deals on Apple iPhone and other Apple products, or if you want to get your hands on the newest phone from Samsung, check out our Samsung Galaxy S10 preorder guide.

Seth Macy is IGN’s tech and commerce editor and just wants to be your friend. Find him on Twitter @sethmacy.

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