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PORTLAND, OR, United States – Even though we pay relatively high monthly rates (tariffs) in the United States, we have enjoyed a very nice benefit, until recently: unlimited data plans. In other words, we in the wild American west have grown accustomed to being able to gobble up multiple gigabytes of mobile data without having to worry about it.

As a result, mobile carriers have offered ‘unlimited’ data and Americans have grown accustomed to consuming mass amounts of it. Thanks to utilities such as JoikuSpot and Bluetooth tethering, we have utilized our mobile phone as a hotspot and therefore access the web through our mobile device.

However, this pattern of gobbling up mobile data and not having to worry about tracking our usage is about to come to an end. Recently the major carriers have ended unlimited data plans are implementing more ‘tiered’ data plans that those in Western Europe are already familiar with.

Costs going up

The obvious question at this point in time is: why are unlimited plans going away? The reason is simple: as mobile consumers grow to expect top-speed networks that work no matter wherever they go, demand creates a situation where carriers need to build out networks and control the traffic in a smarter way. As a result, mobile data prices are going up and unlimited data is a thing of the past – for now, anyway.

For smartphone owners, choosing a data plan is about to get much more difficult. For a population that already over-pays for minute buckets that they hardly ever utilize. Verizon Wireless and AT&T have tried to put their best foot forward and armed potential customers with data consumption calculators that give data estimates based on a customers’ expected use patterns. For example if you download Angry Birds, it will eat up 19 megabytes and if you send an email with just text, it will be 0.01 megabytes.

Usage patterns shifting

One thing is loud and clear amongst those who own smartphones, they are using their phones differently than they ever imagined. As a result, your mom or dad won’t know how to estimate their data usage. For example, a study came out recently showing that one in four smartphone owners are utilizing their smartphone as their main connection to the Internet. Also, with high quality cameras onboard, many smartphone owners are utilizing their phone as their main point and shoot camera. How are they getting photos off the phone?  In many cases, smartphone users email them or upload the pictures to social networks, all eating up data by the mega and possibly gigabyte.

Bill shock ahead

Hopefully, with the new tiered data plans, customers are able to accurately ascertain their monthly data usage and avoid overage charges. Counting and minding our megabytes of mobile data is something Americans used to worry about only when abroad (such as traveling to Europe). However, using the tools provided by the carriers and a little bit of adjustment, I imagine we will not have too many issues.

Are you concerned about the tiered data plans heading our way, or is it a non-issue? Sound off below.

Photo Credit: Kieran Huggins and webdesignfabrik