Off Contract: Democratize Data

Smartphones rule the world but even they have a master – data. Smartphones without data are just dumb phones – bricks you use to text and hangup on the Redcross with. Smartphones have shackled their users to data and the carriers are taking advantage of the situation.

Cell carriers now shape their plans around data – not texts or minutes. Some plans are a minimum of 3GB. When I got my first cell phone we were counting texts and timing phone call for after 9pm. Data wasn’t a consideration when choosing the plan. Much has changed in the past 10 years and those key considerations are simply an after thought. Now when selecting phone plans we look at how much data is offered rather than how many texts.

With 3GB plans costing more than $70 per month it feels like our bank accounts are being drained by carrier vampires all in the name of data – data we only need when were are away from WiFi. I use less than 1GB of data per month but am being forced to pay for three times than what I use.

I recently wrote about how a friend of mine went four years with a cell contract. The only time she had real issues with being away from WiFi was on the golf course. I thought I had the perfect solution. Just get a MiFi from a carrier and you’ll never have an issue again. You can drop your carrier and just use the data over the MiFi to make all your calls, texts and Facebook posts.

After some quick research I concluded that MiFi contracts are insane. $50 per month for 5GB of data on a 2 year contract. You can get a Mobile DataConnect Share Plan thing for 4GB for $30 per month but they explicitly say you cannot connect a smartphone. What? I was shocked. I was appalled. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted a better solution.

Everyone should have access to cheap data. Just like internet at your home, internet while on the road should be affordable. Data should not be controlled by a select few but it should be in the hands of the people. I began googling every phrase I could think of about a data only device. I came across the Karma which is a decent solution. Karma is a sleek MiFi device that leverages Sprints network for data. I tweeted at Karma two days ago to see if it supports VoLTE (VoIP) calls over the device but have yet to hear back.

I want to build my own device for this specific purpose. Something that can fit on a key chain like a SecureID. Maybe some Georgia Tech hardware geeks will help me build it. We’d act as an MVNO to leverage one of the big carriers back ends by buying data wholesale and reselling to consumers. The device supports regular data usage (Google Maps, Pandora, Facebook, etc.) along with voice calls utilizing the data. Consumers would free themselves of the carriers while we manage the infrastructure relationship portion.

I see huge opportunity in the space of an affordable data only device. We need more competition in this space. To think that Karma alone can turn the industry on its head is a mistake. It’s a targeted play that I think would be benefit millions and would make even more.

Anyone out there in the cyberspace want to join me on this journey to democratize data?

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