Aliant 1xRTT Insanity

The term 1xRTT is a new, needlessly complex term that means “faster data on cell phones.” If you’ve ever tried to use the “wireless web” on your cell phone, you’ll recall that it was slow: slow to set up, slow to browse, slow to navigate. This is because the prevailing method for getting bits and bytes from phone to web and back is clunky slow.

1xRTT is a new standard for sending data over cell phones that’s supposed to be much faster — Aliant says “at speeds of up to 86 Kbps”. That might not seem very fast (and, in the grander scheme of things, it isn’t). But in cell phone terms it is fast. And that gives you some idea of how slow the current mechanism is.

Now, if you cut through the marketing bullshit (full of phrases like “Now you’ll enjoy richer graphics, and advanced features such as customization and faster Internet connections”), it’s not such a bad thing to be able to grab data from the air through a phone. WiFi is good, but so far it’s far from everywhere. Whereas 1XRTT is everywhere (at least on PEI, so Aliant claims).

In theory, this should mean that with a 1xRTT-equipped cell phone, and, optionally, a laptop, one should be able to use the web anywhere on the Island at speeds roughly approximating somewhat more than those one would obtain with a 56K modem over a phone at home.

And, indeed, look at the cool guy, lying on the beach, on this page (model is either Rick Schroder or Jonathan Torrens): he’s lying there, surfin’ around, enjoying the richer graphics, the advanced features, the customization, all without the nuisance of wires.

So far, so good.

And then we get to the question of rates, which start at “$10/month for 1MB and $10/additional MB” and go on up to “$100/month for 100MB and $3/additional MB.”

Now back in the 1970s, and even on into the 1980s, we used to think a megabyte was an pretty huge amount of information, the sort of data equivalent of “the distance to the moon and back.”

But I just linked to a 46MB QuickTime video, and didn’t think twice about it. The 1xRTT cost of downloading that video from the beach? $460 with the basic plan down to “only” $100 with the $100/month plan.

And that’s one file.

Imagine the amount of data that flows in and out of your PC in an average day — email with attachments, web browser, streaming audio, streaming video, file transfers. I’d hazard a guess that an average day of being online sees 10 to 15 GB go in and out of our line here. Or, in Aliant 1xRTT terms (using the cheapest 1xRTT rate package), approximately more than $30,000/day.

Now perhaps if I was lying on the beach, and not working as intently as I would hear in the office, I could chop that down to, say, $10,000. A relaxed 5-day beachside work week, and my wireless data bill comes out to about $200,000 a month.

I simply can’t imagine what normal person would utilize 1MB/month of anything — that’s 33KB a day, on average. Or roughly enough bandwidth to download the Reinvented logo up there in the corner of this website about 4 times. What kind of richer graphics, advanced features, and customization is the RickJonathan enjoying there on the beach?

This would all be much less absurd if this was typical North American pricing. However, for example, Verizon’s 1xRTT service starts at $25/month for unlimited usage.

Hello, Aliant, is anybody in there?


Ken's picture
Ken on July 1, 2003 - 14:24 Permalink

If you haven’t already done so, switch your long distance carrier from aliant to any other company, personally I like Sun Telecom out of Montreal. 500 minutes wothin Canada AND the states for $22.95.
Not only will you give aliant less of your money, you will save money too!

Disclaimer: I do not have any affiliation with Sun Telecom, but worked for aliant’s former MT&T for seven years, and yes it was just as obtuse on the inside.

nathan's picture
nathan on July 1, 2003 - 14:34 Permalink

I was surprised to find that the rates from Bell here in Ontario are slightly worse. They start at $25/month for 3MB + $10 per additional MB and go up to $100/month for 50MB + $3/MB. Not to mention the PC card adds an initial cost of $600. However these rates are better than they were a year ago, but I don’t think I’d buy until there is a flat monthly rate for unlimited usage.

Cheap wireless data and fuel cell powered computers that can run a full day without being plugged in are going to change the way we use computers.

nathan's picture
nathan on July 1, 2003 - 14:51 Permalink

I just checked the other providers here in Ontario: Rogers/AT&T is about the same as Bell. Telus does have an unlimited plan for $100/month. Sorry, not available in PEI though.