Does unlimited mobile data exist?

“Hello, do you provide unlimited yacht internet?" is a question we frequently receive from Captains and crew. The quick answer is yes, but you'll need to pay more for that experience.

Last updated July 1, 2020. Written by Matthew Bingham

Let’s hit the most essential point in the opening statement- nobody needs unlimited data. Mobile data is more affordable and much faster than traditional satellite internet, which is 4G internet solutions for yachts are more popular than ever. From mission-critical data uploads and browsing websites to downloading Crestron movies and streaming 4K binge-worthy Netflix series for guests; only a finite amount of data is needed. That data need could be a few GB or 100TB, either way, there’s always a number of units that can be attributed to an allowance.

Here’s the real question you should be asking:
“How much data do I need?”

In turn, that raises a tougher question – how do I know how much data I need? We’re not going to cover that in this article, but a good starting point is asking your current Vsat or mobile data supplier to give you a monthly average. Try checking your mobile data router – this can often give you a monthly overview of traffic. As an example, a Peplink device will show your weekly or monthly consumption.

 

Once you know your GB average, estimate your monthly cost with our data estimation tool. We’ll likely cover this question in future articles, so think about signing up below to receive article updates.

Checkbox data estimate

What “Unlimited data” for yacht internet means

A range of data providers exclaim they sell “unlimited yacht internet!”, “all you can eat data!” and “unlimited yacht plans” – be wary of such providers.
For me personally, it’s frustrating that these providers are conning customers, and if it wasn’t for the fact that their business practices are as shady as the ground beneath a tree, I would be thanking them. You see, a large chunk of our customers decide to trust 4G Yacht services after having a bad experience with a dodgy reseller that made promises they can’t keep. Unfortunately, it takes longer to earn this type of customers’ trust. We’re happy to help, especially if they’ve been dupped by another supplier providing similar services.

Why unlimited data plans don’t work

Before delving into the types of unlimited yacht plans on offer, we need to take a look at why it’s impossible to offer these types of services.

Imagine you are a mobile data provider. You have contracts with network operators and purchase a bundle of data, let’s say you purchase 1TB (1024GB) per month for £1024. You decide to sell an unlimited internet plan for £2048 per month. Anything over 1TB will cost you £2 per GB.

  • Buy at £1 per GB for first 1024GB
  • Buy at £2 per GB for anything over 1024GB
  • Sell at £2 per GB

You want to offer an unlimited plan. How would that work? I pay £1024 for 1TB, which means if the customer uses less than 1.5TB, I’m making money (my cost is £1024 for 1024GB and then £1024 for the next 512GB). Deciding that most customers will not use all that data, I call this an “unlimited data plan”.

But what if the customer is approaching 1.5TB and is likely to go over? At this point, a few things could happen – either the data will stop, the speed will throttle, or you’ll start losing money – and it could be a lot of money!

  • Customer uses less than 1TB = Profit
  • Customer uses 1.5TB = Break even
  • Customer uses more than 1.5TB = Loss
In the chart, you’ll note that a good profit can be made up until 1512GB (or 1.5TB).

That 1.5TB mark represents a breakeven point for the data provider. If the customer continues to use data, the data provider will start making a loss. It’s at this point a few things can happen…
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Unlimited data - Pay as you go

Pay as you go plans are the only way to provide an unlimited amount of data. In essence, you pay for every MB or GB you use – allowing you to use as much bandwidth as required, without the fear of speed throttling or capping. In fact, this is exactly what 4G Yacht offers with our pay as you go boat data plans.

It can be expensive if you’re using a small amount of data, but it’s unlimited in the sense that you’ll always have as much data as you need.

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Unlimited data - speed throttling

This type of plan allows you to use the first x amount of data (for example 250GB) at full speed and will then throttle to a lower speed. Throttling your connection allows the operator to keep profit and loss under control, but it also means that you’ll be unlikely to do things such as video streaming. The connection often drops below 500Kbp/s, which is only good for SD quality streaming services. (if you’re interested in learning more about 4G and 5G speeds, see this article).

The takeaway is that speed throttling limits the operators’ risk of losing money. Selling data like this is a bet for the operator – the less data you use, the more money they make.

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Unlimited data - capped / fair usage

Capped data can either mean the same thing as speed throttling above, or the operator will just plain stop the connection when you reach a certain amount of data, completely mitigating their risk of losing any money.

A “fair usage” clause may or may not appear in the contract. When an operator states fair usage, they mean that they will either throttle or stop data when you reach a defined GB usage.

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Unlimited data - no catches

A provider that offers unlimited data with no throttling, capping or overage charges does have a catch. Run, run as fast as you can! Stay away from any company offering this type of plan.

How much does “unlimited yacht internet data” cost?

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve concluded that unlimited data doesn’t exist. Many factors including the provider, your budget, the required location, and the number of SIM cards come into play. I said it at the start and I’ll say it again, stop looking for unlimited data plans and ask the question you that matters – “how much data do I need?”.

If you know how much data you need, you can estimate your costs – start by checking the data estimator on our pricing page or contact us to see how we provide unlimited yacht internet and other yacht solutions.

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