Recently concern has arisen surrounding the cost of mobile streaming. AT&T offers the following monthly data plans.
200 MB – $15.00
2 GB – $25.00
4 GB – $45.00
Each of these plans charge $10.00 for an additional 1 GB
Currently Verizon Wireless offers unlimited data usage for $30.00. However, their CEO during a telecom conference in March stated Verizon will move to a tiered pricing model during the summer. So what bandwidth is consumed when streaming? Let’s do some math. Bandwidth consumption depends on the quality of the stream typically expressed in kilobytes (“KB”) per second. Many stations stream at 32 KB per second so a user would consume 14 megabytes (“MB”) per hour ( 32 KB x 60 x 60 = 115,200 KB per hour, there are 8 bits in 1 byte so (32 x 6,600)/8 = 14,400 KB so 115,200 KB / 1,024 = 14.06 MB per hour). Let’s assume a listener spends 2 hours per day streaming music so this would consume 28 MB per day or 840 MB per month. There may be other data being transmitted which would increase the amount of bandwidth consumed. The average time spent per session listening to Internet radio on average is approximately 2 hours. However I believe time spent listening is lower on mobile devices. To be conservative we’ll keep the 2 hour per day assumption. Some wireless company websites actually has a calculator for determining data usage for various activities. AT&T assumes a streaming rate of 64 KB per second. Assuming 2 hours of listening per day resulted in consumption of approximately 2 GB.
T-Mobile’s data calculator computes streaming audio data consumption to be much greater:
T-Mobile does not state what bitrate was assumed. Obviously mobile users also consume bandwidth for other purposes. I believe most mobile users are comfortable with paying $25.00 per month for 2 GB of data. So it appears that the cost of a monthly mobile phone bill is going to go up for Internet radio users. Most will need at least a 4 GB plan which would add another $20.00 per month. While cell companies lost the battle for control of content they do have pricing power and leverage. The combination of Verizon and T-Mobile, if allowed to occur by regulatory agencies will lessen competition and could lead to higher costs. I am rooting for more competition from the likes of Clearwire and LightSquared.