In the mobile age that we live in today, it seems we need to be always connected to the internet. That’s why cellular data is a godsend, allowing us to stay connected wherever we might be. The rise of mobile cellular data has allowed almost everyone to be online, but is it free?
Cellular data is not free because it is a paid subscription that you can get from your mobile phone carrier. However, there are free internet resources and free apps that you can use. Most of the time, cellular data has a limit in terms of data allocation, so that you will pay more if you reach your limit.
In this article, we believe understanding cellular data is the key to not spending a lot of money on it and how to use it when you most need it. We discuss usage, speeds, and cellular and mobile data costs. We also review and show some Apps to get you free internet services.
Why Is Cellular Data Not Free?
Cellular data is not free, just as private Wi-Fi networks or electricity are not free. If you want to connect to the internet via mobile cellular data, you need to be subscribed to a data plan with your mobile phone carrier.
Even though mobile cellular data has made it very convenient for us to connect to the internet, it is that same convenience that requires us to spend money on it. In reality, there are no Unlimited Cellular Data Plans because the cell phone carriers change the speeds of your data use at their convenience.
Cellular data isn’t only paid for but can be quite expensive if not tracked properly. It is not so much about the quantity of data you receive as it is about the speed and usability of the signal. People often spend more than they should on cheaper cellular plans because they go over their cellular data limit.
Rise of Mobile Smartphones and Tablets
The rise of mobile smartphones and tablets has made the world so much smaller because we can easily connect to the internet in the palm of our hands from almost anywhere. And while we already thought that Wi-Fi connections were quite convenient, the rise of mobile cellular data has made it so much easier for us to connect to the internet wherever we might be.
As such, wherever we go, we can stay online because mobile cellular data relies only on the cellular signals of our smartphones to connect to the internet. This convenience has made it very easy to use mobile data for our usual internet needs. There is no longer a need to connect to a Wi-Fi network when traveling, on the road, or in remote areas such as forests or mountains.
All that said, as convenient as cellular data might be, you are probably wondering if you could get it for free or if you could connect to the internet using cellular data at any given time without having to pay for it. So, can mobile cellular data be free?
When Is Cellular Data Free?
Even though cellular data isn’t free in general, there are instances where it seems like it is a free service. A good example is that some apps or social media platforms will allow you to use their platforms for free using your cellular data because you won’t use any data when using such apps.
Apps like WhatsApp use your phone’s cellular connection or Wi-Fi network to send and receive messages and calls. Whatsapp is a free internet-based communication platform, and you should not be charged for messaging or calling over WhatsApp.
But the catch here is that, without a data plan, you won’t be able to make use of such services precisely because the data plan is what allows you to connect to the internet via your smartphone’s mobile data capabilities. As such, you still need to connect to the internet using a paid cellular data plan to use free social media cellular data services, but the difference here is that your data allocation stays the same.
How Does WhatsApp Work?
WhatsApp started as an alternative to SMS texting and is a Facebook-owned app that was one of the first mobile apps to offer free, internet-based messaging instead of sending texts using cellular-data networks.
Although data charges can apply, WhatsApp relies on a mobile or Wi-Fi connection to send and receive messages and calls for free. It allows the sending and receiving of voice calls, texts, photos, videos, and documents using only an internet connection; however, you can connect to that.
You can download WhatsApp and create an account that uses end-to-end encryption, which is security different than SMS Texting. WhatsApp also makes it so third parties cannot listen to your phone calls. WhatsApp also uses cross-platform functionality between Apple’s iOS, Android, or WIndows.
All-In-One Communication Apps
WhatsApp is similar to other messaging services, but there are many alternatives with different options, features, and levels of security.
- Apple iMessage
- Amazon Wickr Me
- Facebook Messenger
- Facebook WhatsApp
- Google Messages,
- Microsoft Skype
Why Is Cellular Data So Expensive?
Another important thing you need to know about cellular data plans because they are paid subscriptions and can be more expensive than your usual Wi-Fi network subscription if you only look at the underlying factors.
Nowadays, both Cellular Data and Wi-Fi come with Unlimited packages, so cellular data is just as or more expensive than a Wi-Fi network. Still, it would help if you considered that most data plans can get “throttled” or reduced speeds depending on traffic and can come with a limited data allocation, especially for more affordable plans.
So, in that regard, when you hit your data limit, you will end up having to pay more on top of the usual monthly fees that you are paying for your plan, even with unlimited data plans.
Cellular Data Carrier Costs?
Cellular or Mobile data can be more expensive than Fixed-line Telecommunications Broadband. The additional costs are for Cellular Carriers to set up the equipment and infrastructure needed for certain locations to have a good mobile data connection. Not only do carriers need to pay for the regular global bandwidth spectrum for their cellular data plans, but they also need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place and regularly maintained.
Meanwhile, barriers for entry tend to be quite high in the mobile internet market precisely because licensing costs tend to be very expensive. This scenario makes it difficult for telecom companies to keep up with the regular demands of paying for the spectrum licensing without charging more to their clients.
Then you also have to consider that you are also paying for future updates to the system. Updates regularly happen when it comes to cellular data capabilities, such as improving the coverage of 5G in places that are still getting 4G. So, because the companies need to pay for upgrades, such costs are usually hidden behind the high charges in your mobile data plans.
The Cost of 5G Infrastructure
Spectrum use and congestion create a high cost to carriers, which is passed down to the customers. As discussed earlier, spectrum licensing costs are a factor in the cost of Cellular Radio Signal and is also a factor in 5G with most carriers using three spectrums for 5G. These are low, middle, and high band 5G Spectrums.
The latest generation of 5G, especially in remote areas, requires a whole new infrastructure and a whole new rollout. Once the 5G rollout is complete, there will always be frequent upgrades to make the technology better on the way to 6G. These upgrades are very expensive on a national and worldwide level, with the costs getting passed down to customers.
To get optimum speeds from 5G networks in cities and metropolitan areas, you need high-band millimeter-wave (mmWave) antennas stationed approximately 1,500 feet apart. This work is a major undertaking and will have significant costs associated with it.
Bottom Line for Cellular Data Costs
Some people might think that cellular data is free because they can get a cellular data plan when they get a smartphone from their carrier. Still, you are not paying only for your phone but also your cellular data plan.
That’s why the phones you can get from your chosen carrier tend to be more expensive on a monthly purchase plan than the ones you can get straight from the manufacturer directly or through their retail outlets.
All that said, every gigabyte that you use whenever you are connecting to the internet using your mobile data will also end up costing your carrier because they also have a limited supply of data to give away. Your carrier would have to incur the costs for every gig you end up using.
This supplier hierarchy structure is why the additional costs you will have to pay whenever you go over your data limit are pretty high.
As we say in our article “Should Mobile Data Be On or Off?”
“So while both Wi-Fi and mobile data will give you access to the internet, using mobile data all the time will probably increase your phone bill and run you out of data faster, whereas using Wi-Fi all the time generally won’t increase your internet bill. The more Mobile Data you use, the more likely it is to be throttled depending on the congestion of the carrier’s network.”
So, while mobile data is indeed quite convenient to use, it might be best to stick to Wi-Fi whenever it is available so that you won’t end up harming your monthly budget by going over your usual cellular data limit.