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Jim asked: “Could you explain, what is Cellular data? I understand if I use more electricity or water, I have to pay more. But what is flying through the air that if I use more of it, I have to pay more for it? I just don’t understand what data really is.”
Jim, you’re probably thinking about cellular data as TV or radio waves, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong, but there are some valid reasons to think of it differently.
Cellular data is just another radio frequency, it’s transmitted by towers that are connected via wires to data centers that are connected to each other and to others all over the road through everything from copper wires to thick fiber optic cables that cross the ocean.
What’s different about cellular data and may justify thinking of the costs differently is that you talk about to the towers, you don’t just consume the same signal as everyone else like you do when you listen to the radio or watch TV, that means that there are lots of electronic devices that need to handle an almost endless amount or unique requests customized to each user.
Much like with electric and water, too many users can overload the system, only in this case, it’d likely be overloading the processing power of network devices.
Charging you for what you use is really more of a money-making scheme these days, though. ISPs very rarely have real congestion issues that modern infrastructure couldn’t fix.
Access to data is like driving a car on the interstate. There’s only so much “room” to accommodate your automobile. In the case of cellular data (or even wifi), there’s only so much “bandwidth”. And as I said, this bandwidth doesn’t appear out of thin air — it takes equipment running on electricity, technicians to keep it running, engineers to design new networks and enhance the service, etc… That’s what you’re paying for — the people and machines that make up the service, not so much the little chunks of data flying through the air.