Mark Bridge writes:
Today’s mobile phone customers want more and more mobile data, which is stretching network capacity. In addition, many of those consumers would rather not be committed to a limit; they’d rather have a mobile internet tariff that is (or appears to be) unlimited. This puts even more pressure on mobile networks.
Something that’s starting to be suggested as a solution - not just to the challenge of increasing data demands but also to the risk of ‘bill shock’ - is the shared data plan. In fact, Orange UK has already launched a combined iPhone and iPad plan that let the two devices share a monthly data allowance on a single tariff.
I’ve been speaking to Randy Fuller, Director of Strategic Marketing at mobile data management company Tekelec, to learn more about sharing data.
“Right now, almost every single mobile data package is purchased on a device-by-device basis. So even if I have an iPad and a smartphone and a USB modem, there are generally three different separately-counted line items - probably even three different bills. The idea is to collect all of those together”, he explained.
Shared data plans don’t just simplify billing for consumers, they also increase customer loyalty. Yet they’re not a particularly new idea. The idea of sharing voice and text messages across a number of devices is well-established in the corporate world, with many mobile phone users billed on the same account. What’s changed is the increased focus on consumers - and a move towards multiple devices rather than multiple users.
Tekelec is expecting a sharp uptake in these shared data plans; a recent project with Infonetics Research forecast that the number of mobile broadband devices sold globally on shared data plans would grow from 14.5 million in 2011 to 186.8 million in 2015, the equivalent of 89% growth every year.
However, there’s more to the shared data plan than a clever tariff. According to Randy Fuller, network operators also need to think about data management... and that brought up the topic of net neutrality.
We also talked about 4G LTE in the UK - and whether or not it’ll answer the demand for data - before looking into a future where devices will automatically switch between a variety of networks.
“You’re going to use multiple different types of networks without even knowing about it”, said Randy. “In five years’ time what’ll happen is that there’ll be more ubiquitous coverage but the speed, availability, all that stuff will change from place to place. And the big, big change is you’re not going to have to know about that. A lot of mobile operators are working on what they call heterogeneous networks, lots of different kinds of networks, and being able to get you on and get your device off that network without you having to worry about it or do anything.”
|You can listen to the full 20-minute interview with Randy Fuller of Tekelec on our website or by downloading the MP3 file. Alternatively, subscribe to all our podcasts via iTunes or on our RSS feed.