Bottom line: Google hopes that data-hungry services like Stadia will push ISPs to offer better data caps to consumers. Folks who've already accepted to pay full price for games on top of their Stadia subscription should now expect to get better data plans, especially cellular ones on mobile devices that form an important part of Stadia's premise.
In an interview with GameSpot, Google's vice president and general manager, Phil Harrison, addressed challenges that Stadia is likely to face, particularly data caps which he terms are "not a universal challenge." Given the streaming services' big appetite for data in the current scheme of things, users are understandably worried about how their wallets might fare after already agreeing to pay full price for games on top of their subscription.
Google says that the answer to the data cap problem lies with ISPs who "have a strong history of staying ahead of consumer trend and if you look at the history of data caps in those small number of markets--and it’s actually a relatively small number of markets that have [data caps]--the trend over time, when music streaming and download became popular, especially in the early days when it was not necessarily legitimate, data caps moved up. Then with the evolution of TV and film streaming, data caps moved up, and we expect that will continue to be the case."
Phil also notes that ISPs are "smart" and understand that they're in the business of keeping customers happy, and for a long time. Even though ground realities are far from ideal for most people, given the lack of ISP choice and consequential data plans that they must agree to, Google is optimistic that streaming game services like Stadia would be enough to turn the tide.
5G may also be a solution to this problem according to Phil. "There’s a very interesting additional dynamic happening in the internet market, which is the evolution of 5G, particularly in what’s called fixed wireless, which is not necessarily running 5G on your phone but as a way of bringing 5G into your home. All of the 5G fixed wireless businesses that are up now that I’m aware of have no data caps and are very very high performance, so that’s introducing a competitive dynamic. $50 a month. That’s what Verizon fixed wireless costs is for minimum 300mb/s and up to a gigabit. It’s pretty good value to me."
He also spoke about the incorrectness of calculations done to illustrate data usage in game streaming scenarios. "I’ve seen the math calculations that people have done. If you take 35mb/s, it’s not always 35mb/s because we use compression. There will be sometimes when actually it’s using significantly less data than that, so it’s not correct to multiply 35 mbp/s by the number of seconds that you play." says Phil, though he does acknowledge that Stadia is ultimately going to be a demanding service.