No-Contract Data Only Plans Signal Opportunities for VoIP
The Growing Role of Mobile Data
The word "smartphone" has come to be an anachronism. With the recent leaps in CPU power, memory, display and camera capabilities, it's no longer fair to call the devices we carry around in our pockets "phones" anymore. In reality they are far closer to being computers. The capability to talk to another person is merely one among a host of other features. But it's not always easy to forget the roots of a technology and this is why we still tend to think of these devices as phones rather than personal computers that can perform just about any task you can think of.
It's possible however that the next generation wouldn't be so hung up on old ideas and come to see these amazing devices for what they are. Even the core functionality of talking to another person is undergoing a revolution as VoIP transforms it into just another Internet application with voice streamed as data. Given this transition, it's taken a long enough time for mobile carriers to update their worldview and offer data only plans with no contracts. Fortunately, they seem to be slowly coming around and companies like T-Mobile are now offering contract free data only plans for their phones.
Mobile Data Versus Wi-Fi
As of now, Wi-Fi remains the de facto Internet connection for any really heavy data usage. Since most of us spend our time inside Wi-Fi enabled hotspots anyway, we can get by with minimal data plans. Recent mobile operating systems like Android's Ice Cream Sandwich provide ample functionality for users to restrict the use of background data when a Wi-Fi connection is not present. This helps keep data usage down. It's a direct consequence of the onerous bandwidth caps that have been imposed on the public by wireless carriers.
It's only a matter of time before more companies jump onto the data only bandwagon and come out with more attractive plants and pricing schemes. Ideally, it would be great if you could roll over your unused data usage from month-to-month. Some of us like myself spend a negligible amount of time outside of hotspots own and it would be useful if I could somehow pay a fixed amount for the usage of bandwidth regardless of how long I take to consume it.
But even though it's still in the early stages, these plans will tremendously help the development and acceptance of mobile VoIP systems. With 4G connections, VoIP quality will be comparable to or even better than that offered by the traditional PSTN system.