web analytics

We Are Using Tons of Mobile Data and Google Glass Is About to Consume More


Unlike its minimal shape, Google Glass brings huge burden on the country’s Internet infrastructure. Image source: nowthisnews.com

When next year, Google Glass open up to the public, we will find that it is pricey in more than one ways. (Editor’s note: the price of the developer edition of Google Glass is $1,500) Of course, you need to pay for the upfront cost of purchasing, which likely won’t be subsidized by wireless network providers the way cellphones are now.  Google Glass will also impose other costs as well. Consumers have to start buying larger and faster data plans to feed the device. By doing so, they will be putting huge new burdens on the country’s Internet infrastructure.

To better understand what might happen, we should firstly learn how Google Glass connects to the Internet. The device itself can’t use cellular radio, when there is no Wi-Fi, it links to the web using your cellphone or tablets as mobile hotspots and naturally, it uses these devices’ data plans.

Verizon used to charge $20 monthly fee for tethering until the FCC ruled it had to allow tethering freely. Currently, all the data you use comes out from your cellular plan’s overall data allowance. While, AT&T provides you with a separate pool of data for tethering plans, however, you will have to pay for extra $50 each month for the right, just like what Verizon once did.

As a matter of fact, the Internet had been through a very similar transition a decade ago. At that time, phone companies and network carriers used to charge for every device connected to the Internet in a household. Then, a new product called Wi-Fi router came into the world and customers all went to purchase this device so that one link to the web could be split among more than one devices. Up to this day, most residential broadband providers will offer tenants a free Wi-Fi router.

You could tell the analogy. Where Wi-Fi made it possible to “tether” multiple devices to the same Internet account, cellphone network carriers will soon wind up being mainly Internet providers selling tetherable mobile broadband.

A killer device for data

So, what the world of widespread tethering would be? Unfortunately, there is very little data on how much tethering goes on today. Neither Akamai, the company that monitors web traffic all around the world, or Cisco, which publishes an annual report of global broadband trends claims to have studied on this subject, as does the Pew Research Center, which keeps a robust Internet-related survey project.

However, we could make a ballpark estimation. About 10 percent of Americans claim that they would try out Google Glass if they could. That is a large number! A surge of interest on Google Glass or other wearable tech such as Apple’s rumored iWatch, will transform tethering forever. Tethering will change from a nice-to-have feature to a necessity in your daily life. In the meanwhile, if FCC does not require all wireless carriers to provide free tethering service, then carriers like AT&T will make huge potential profits.

Try to imagine, if 35 million American people all get their Google Glass tomorrow, what the burden will be on the country’s telecom infrastructure? Gregory Rosston, the former deputy chief economist of the FCC, a researcher from Stanford University, said that we have seen this before:” The iPhone changed how much data people used, and this resulted in two things: the network carrier built out more capacity, and they pushed people to pay for the extra data. I think if Google Glass gets popular, the same things will happen again.”

In turn, the massive uptick in the demand for wireless data will add more congestion to the airways carrying the signals. In order to prevent this possibility, FCC aims to purchase up valuable wireless spectrum from TV broadcasters and then sell it to cellular companies as a part of a planned auction. This plan has been employed for a period of time, but the rise of Google Glass and similar devices put more pressure on the transaction to be finished cleanly and quickly.

The tethering becomes more widespread, but it is difficult to predict what the accurate consequences of it will be. Will Google Glass consume more data that an average cellphone? Less? Or almost the same? Let’s think about an example of recording a 720P video for 5 minutes. According to different image quality settings, this video will generate a file ranging from 2.6 MB to 40.6 MB after uploading and compressing. And the source file, the one that Google Glass actually upload to the web, is probably even larger than this.

Of course, Google hopes people to frequently use Google Glass for taking photos and videos, just like what people do with their smartphones. However, experience tells us that people will always use the new technology in a way that their creators never dreamed of.

Varity’s Kevin Kelleher said:” When Google Glass debuts, the way we tell stories and watch others tell stories could change significantly. This is not limited to those who upload their life moments onto Youtube, but will also include feature films, television programming, documentaries, videogames, a lot other areas will be disrupted, if not by Google Glass right away, then by other technologies over time.”

All these culture output require an Internet connection. And it is not just Google Glass that could take off in this way; just as Rosston said, other devices in the wearable-tech category would wind up being the killer tethered device. Maybe, they take over simultaneously, resulting in compounded effect on the country’s Internet infrastructure.


Is Wi-Fi the answer?

With the exploding traffic, wireless providers will have to do everything possible to relieve the burden on their networks. A study reveals that by the year of 2017, 46% mobile data will be transferred through Wi-Fi, instead of 3F or 4G networks. If Google Glass really causes increasing demands on wireless data, the data given in the study will be crucial.


Anyone who spent time at coffee shops or airports should know that the Wi-Fi networks in those public spaces will be very congested at peak hours. Telecom professional Roger Entner believes that Google Glass and other similar technologies could help mitigate the crowding on Wi-Fi via adopting more sophisticated radio supporting newer Wi-Fi standards (right now, Google Glass supports a Wi-Fi version that has been with us since the year of 2003).

This brings us back to the abovementioned spectrum auction. A hotly debated topic is how much of the spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters will be sold off to other companies, while how much of it can be reserved for applications such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—open-access technologies that are not owned by anyone. The eventual result of the spectrum auction will go a long way towards definition of the limits on mobile technology. The same is vice-versa: how people use wireless, wearable devices will decide how telecom companies allocate their resources, whether or not make strategic acquisitions, and also create opportunities for other entrepreneurs.

 Rosston joked:” We don’t know if it is Google Glass that is going to be the one to take off, or Apple’s iGlass, and this is not the biggest deal for network carriers. They will either try to enhance their capacity or try to take advantage of the ‘lack of supply’ to raise prices.  In my view, they will do both.”

Source The Washington PostWe’re using a ton of mobile data. With Google Glass, we’re about to use a whole lot more.

Image source:nowthisnews.com