Please see my comments below:
1. Why the pricing discrepancy?
- Traditional M2M applications had requirements for very little data usage. Examples of applications are point of sale, sensors, meter reading, etc. Wireless carriers will price down to the KB so that companies deploying M2M solutions know exactly what they are paying for during the billing cycle. On consumer plans the wireless carriers will not go down to the KB but will price on a GB basis. For example an M2M application might price out at 100KB data plan for $1. This seems very expensive if you were to extrapolate out to 5GB and compare to a 5GB consumer plan of say $50. That 100KB plan at $1 calculated out to 5GB would be well over $10,000 per month. Conversely, a company looking for M2M pricing plans only needing 100KB will not pay $50 per month from a carrier for a 5GB consumer plan.
2. What exactly is the distinction between m2m and consumer?
- There is a distinction but the lines are blurring. M2M, as defined by the wireless carriers, were exclusive of Smartphones, USB modems, routers, and tablets. M2M was defined as applications requiring small amounts of data and the previous devices mentioned typically required large amounts of data during the billing cycle.
3. Could I legitimately use a consumer data plan to run an application that monitors positions of a fleet if it involves some manual input?
- All wireless carriers have different positions and this will vary also depending on the local field representation from each wireless carrier. Yes, you can use a consumer plan for a fleet application but it depends on your requirement for data usage, how your solution is architected (hw/sw/etc.), and if the wireless carrier deems that it can pass the test as a consumer application versus an M2M application.
4. If I were "violating" the terms of the consumer plan, how could this be detected?
- Yes and it can result in the wireless carrier turning all of your devices off from the network.
5. What are the legal ramifications for violating a consumer plan? Anything beyond the SIM cards being deactivated?
- Deactivation of a SIM card could be the first step but also expect possible legal action if the actions are severe.