Opinion: Living On The Edge – Life On A 2G Network–Part One


As we all continue to watch our cellular costs go up and the service levels drop, many of us dream back to a time when the mobile internet was a bit more data friendly and completely unlimited. We start to look at how often we use that expensive Wi-Fi connection we shell out for at home, and that guest connection at work. We make sure the hotels that are booked on vacation have Wi-Fi available as well, just so we aren’t cut off from our precious network of friends and family. Then it settles in, why do we pay for a high speed internet connection to our phones when we usually find Wi-Fi where ever we go? To those people that have figured out that LTE, 4G and high speed internet are all great marketing terms, congratulations, to the rest, welcome to the edge…

To most people, the edge mean nothing. The edge is another 2 seconds for that Instagram image to upload or 5 more seconds for that Facebook feed to refresh. It might even be 10-15 seconds for that internet search to load. Loosely translated, the edge is slower. To the power user, the torrent freaks and that business guy that sends monstrously large attachments everyday, the edge is a hell of snail paced downloads, horrible data failures and downright misery. To that end, it takes some getting used to the edge, but once you figure out how to live there, you will reap the benefits of it in the best way possible – your pocketbook will become much more full every month.


For example, the average LTE prepaid plan comes with about 1GB of “high speed” data and either slowed or no data after that. For $40-60 a month, you can watch background tasks, system updates and crazy auto-play videos decimate that data allotment in days. We took our Android powered HTC One M7 out for a month on a 500MB “unlimited” plan and found that the “google services” App used 270MB of data in just one week. For the life of us, we couldn’t find anything running in the background, nor did we find anything to disable to ‘kill’ that task. Within 2 weeks, the 500MB was gone and we didn’t stream music or video, nor did we send any big emails, we just used our phone in a normal fashion.

Then, we noticed that something strange happened. We were slowed to speeds in the 120kbps range, or speeds that were about 100 times slower than the LTE that we had the week before. It took a few extra seconds to send a picture message and to load that Facebook feed, but there was no really ‘big’ difference. In fact, the largest difference we noticed was when we flopped that HTC One over to 2G mode and saw our battery life practically double. We had better coverage, stronger signals and more consistent quality than we experienced on our ‘high speed’ plan. It was strange.


The following month we rolled the plan down to the unlimited 2G offering just to check it out. Our bill dropped from $40 a month to $25. This is now down from the $60 a month for the “unlimited” 2.5GB plans that were around a few months back, so keep that in mind when you think of the savings. With a flat $25 bill, there’s no need to worry about ‘turning off’ any features. Living on the edge, which is what we called that ancient 2G network back in the day, we knocked about $35 a month off our bill, or over $400 a year. That’s enough to pay for that home Wi-Fi connection for the entire year.

How we did it was simple… We just waited to do the heavy lifting until we were back on Wi-Fi and let the phone run ‘unlimited’ while it was on the 2G network. There is no magic involved in downloading a 4MB game over a 120kbps connection, it just takes a bit more time. There was no major issue sending a picture to a friend, it just took a few extra seconds. There was nothing different about how we used our device, just at the speed that we did it with.

Face it, to some users, spending $50-100 a month on a cell phone is no big deal. They want to stream Netflix on their commute home or download that torrent file direct to their device on the train, and that’s fine. For the average user though, most companies have just talked people into service that is “better” for them on a device that they didn’t really need to have in the first place. It’s salesmanship, and cellular providers are great at it. What the average user needs to do is look at how they use their device and where do they do the things they do with it.


With expandable storage reaching 128GB and offline music and movies, there’s really not much need to stream content. With offline document readers and Apps for e-reading, that content can be ‘synced’ before leaving that wonderful Wi-Fi connection and read anywhere. There’s really very few reasons why someone would NEED to have anything faster than a 3G connection on their cellular device. Once you master using the m web address feature instead of the www, you’ll see a whole new world of cash in your pocket every year. In fact, just throwing that $20 a month at your mortgage could pay it off 2 years faster! Take it down that full $35 on two lines and you have that house paid off 5 years faster! If that’s not worth a few extra seconds of load time on your Facebook feed, what is?


Best Value Unlimited 2G Plans

PTel Mobile – unlimited talk, text and 2G data for $25

Red Pocket Mobile – 300 minutes talk, unlimited text and 2G data for $20

Republic Wireless – unlimited talk, text and 3G data for $25 (uses Wi-Fi Calling)

FreedomPop – unlimited talk text and 1GB data for $10.99 (uses Wi-Fi Calling)


Join us for part two of this series where we will take look at how you can get better performance through your 2G connection.


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