I posted this in another forum in response to Sprint's slow data speeds, and I thought I would share it here... I occurred to me that Sprint started the "unlimited data war" circa 2002--and that from a marketing perspective, had they "one upped" AT&T and the others repeatedly, we would have gradually got to modern data caps, vs. the situation we have about ticked off consumers losing their "unlimited data plans" when they upgrade to new phones and networks that supposedly have a lot more bandwidth and capacity over what they replace:
I think the overall feeling I have with the wireless companies is that they now seem to be going against the overall grain of "technology tends to get cheaper". I remember when wireless data services first came out; I paid $14.99 per month for "unlimited data" on Qwest, which at the time really wasn't much "data" (it was on my Motorola StarTac at ~56k speeds), but compared to what the competition was offering (either no data, or 14.4k speeds) was pretty good--I got news headlines, directions, weather, e-mail, and could tether to the laptop in a pinch when I was on the road and get full internet at 56k on the road--which was actually faster than a dialup modem, which would never connect at that mythical 56k. That was COOL for 1999. I never abused the service (e.g. made my wireless connection my home ISP)--in fact, since I was probably ahead of my time a bit, there weren't even any tethering notes in the terms & conditions.
I came to Sprint just as (the old) AT&T network was just bringing out GPRS services (same 56k, which CDMA had always enjoyed), and they started their "new" data plans, which were priced truly insane... IIRC the tiers were 8, 16, 200 meg and 500 meg, with that high end being something like $100 per month. Sprint stayed Unlimited, even when they launched "Vision"--which bumped the 56k to around 200k and a nice color screen phone. The other carriers STILL clung to this INSANE megabye pricing before it came crashing down around them (mainly because of Sprint).
Had they just adjusted this "per megabyte" pricing up to more modern standards slowly over the years (e.g. from 8, 16, 200, 500 meg to 2, 6, 8, 15 gig for the same prices) they wouldn't have this "ill will" from consumers--instead, they took the "it's all unlimited" tact--and when they realized that some consumers would abuse it, they started putting caps on the service. BAD PR MOVE. I work in marketing, and could have seen this coming. It's a problem with marketing in the US, and is part of our "more is better" way of life. What the OTHER carriers have created is ill-will because they made the bed of "we can offer unlimited data" (when they never really could) -- especially now when it comes to 4G ("You mean you could give me unlimited on the OLD crappy 3G network, but on the brand new network with TONS of capacity you have to charge me MORE and cap me at 2 gigs??") -- and now they have to deal with it. Technology STILL does get cheaper, but NOT when you create a false sense of cheapness. It's the same mindset that has recently hit Apple with the Ipad in Australia: In the US they call HSDPA a "4G" technology, when in fact it really is still "3G". Australia will not allow a non-LTE device to be called 4G--because it's NOT. But in the US, because we are so driven by "more is better" T-Mobile and AT&T are at such a huge disadvantage if they can not call their HSDPA devices "4G" while Verizon (and even Sprint, because technically WiMax is, as well as the soon-to-launch new LTE network) "technically are 4G", that Apple tried selling their HSDPA Ipad as a "4G" Ipad there--Australia said "Nope".
I have to hand it to Sprint for keeping with the Unlimited theme--although it has allowed their network to slow to a crawl, which dissapoints me. I hope Network Vision really allows them to keep this Unlimited Data at reasonable rates--it's the reason I have kept Sprint as long as I have. From a business standpoint, I see exactly why the other carriers have implemented data caps and have raised their prices--people actually took them up on what they said they would offer them! Sprint has stuck with it, and their network suffered because of it (honestly if I was Sprint I'd cull out the top 5% of high data users and just drop them so they don't ruin it for everyone else--I can't imagine they are making the company any money).
At this point, Sprint can't put a limit on their data--not because they SHOULDN'T (technically they should), but that ship sailed a long time ago--the time to do it was when AT&T had 8 meg data for $20 per month: Sprint could have said "At Sprint, $20 gets you 20 megs of data"--the limits of data would have been pushed up a lot faster (because the other carriers would have upped Sprint), but I don't think the entire "unlimited data war" would have happened, and the carriers wouldn't be in such a bad position of having to look like the price of data and technology is getting more expensive--when it really hasn't.