What is Unlimited?

Unlimited. We see this word written in so many places. I believe that we forget its true meaning. The most common place to find the word unlimited is within marketing literature.

Unlimited everything

And that's exactly what it's become; a marketing term. Unlimited is a simple concept to understand. It is used to describe something with no end, or a quantity of something in any desirable level possible.

Well, what's the problem with this?

If it's so simple, why can't marketing agencies toss around the term like they currently do? Although large, the universe is finite. Promising unlimited anything is simply impossible. There is a start and an end to everything. There is a limited number of particles on earth. These promises cannot be kept.

Do we really need unlimited?

This is where the marketing companies catch a break. Since consumers can't consume unlimited quantities, providers don't have to provide unlimited quantities.

What consumers want

Is there anywhere we can find an unlimited service?

I've often enrolled in such services, so I'll fill you in on my findings.

Unlimited web hosting

With disk space becoming very abundant in the last decade or so, we can find more and more web hosts that claim to offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space.

Unlimited disk bandwidth

It's clear that a machine's disk space is finite, but how much can we expect from these services? After getting past strict disk quota rules like no backup storage, and not using the bandwidth quota primarily for large file sharing, you're left with the possibility of running a busy blog, or some other high-traffic, low-asset situation.

But this is the main issue of these unlimited hosts. You're typically given some space on a server that is shared with many people. Since these poor machines can only handle so many requests per second, each shared slot is allocated its own chunk of memory and processing power. It's these that still make it impossible to consume great amounts of resources, which is why it's rare to find these allocations actually listed in the service specifications. Go over these invisible limits and your host will kick you off!

Not even close.

Acceptable use policies, the bane of unlimited.

Since service providers know consumers cannot consume without end, they typically allocate just enough resources for what the average consumer will use. That's right, average, and since service providers are in the dough baking business, they always try to lower what the average consumer actually consumes with higher prices and hidden fees.

Price, time, and bandwidth caps

Even when cost isn't a deterrent, service providers create complicated, and often vague policies that outline acceptable use. These policies are long-winded for unknown reasons primarily to confused and mislead readers since they could just be summarized by one, incredibly vague point.

You may not use our service to do anything that impedes our ability to deliver the service to other customers.

This means that any usage can be judged to impede the provider's ability to provide the service to others since the provider only has a finite quantity to provide. This single point renders that rest of the entire acceptable use policy moot.

Acceptable use

So is there such a thing?

Yes and no. No since unlimited consumption is impossible, but yes because some services will actually fulfill their promises by jumping through some loopholes. For example, WIND Mobile will slow your mobile internet connection to 256Kbit / second after you exceed 5GB of usage, and to 32Kbit / second if you continue these usage patterns.

But there is hope

I recently stayed in Taiwan for a few weeks and needed an internet connection for work. Instead of getting my hosts to subscribe to a residential internet provider, I decided to grab a prepaid SIM card costing NT800 (around CAD28) that advertised unlimited internet.

Unlimited bandwidth Taiwan

Boy was I surprised.