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Businessman using digital tabletIn England, the most recent advance in wireless came from the mobile provider Everything Everywhere (more popularly known as EE). It introduced long-term evolution (LTE) as an improvement over 3G connectivity, granting faster speeds and more consistent access.

But it offered this advance with a twist that modern consumers may have come to expect would no longer bother them: limits on the amount of data they could download each month. Although some of its 3G plans continue to offer unlimited options, any LTE subscriber in the United Kingdom, thus far, must accept limitations on their wireless plans.

As the largest mobile operator in the highly competitive U.K. wirelessiphone market, EE appears quite confident that users will appreciate the benefits of the technologically superior service and grow quickly accustomed to what it calls reasonable data limits. Thus far, its national competitors have declined to issue any predictions about precisely when they would start offering LTE or how much they would charge for it.

In the United States, unlimited plans instead continue to be more common and more popular—and more expensive. Most such U.S. plans cost at least $100 monthly, but they also allow users to share plans over multiple devices. The limited LTE plans offered by EE instead run the equivalent of around $62 per month and allow each individual user to download approximately 3 gigabytes of data in each month.

Computer HackAcross the world, mobile operators face a confounding dilemma. They cannot afford to continue offering unlimited data access but still invest in the necessary research and development to stay at the forefront of mobile technology. At the same time, consumers exhibit little loyalty to any specific provider in this competitive industry, such that price pressures are intense. Moreover, the international status of most companies—EE for example is a joint venture by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom—means that consumers across the world compare what they get, or don’t, with what their neighbors across the border can access.

Source: Kevin O’Brien, “Trying to Wean Britons from Unlimited Mobile Data,” The New York Times, March 17, 2013