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Quick Thoughts on Wireless Data

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Disclaimer: I work for an authorized AT&T dealer.  My thoughts on this subject are obviously skewed by this fact.

As the industry stands right now, the big two (Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility) have smart phone data packages that look like the following:

Verizon: 1 option: $29.99 unlimited

AT&T: 2 options: $15 200MB, $25 2GB

I’ve had mixed feelings about AT&T’s decision to discontinue its $30 unlimited package because on the one hand, I like not thinking about how much I’m using the Internet on my iPhone, but on the other, most of AT&T customers I interact with really don’t need unlimited.  In fact, despite being a fairly heavy user, I only managed to go through 1.8GB last month, although I’ve already used 625MB during the first 8 days of this bill cycle.  I’m not sure how this happened exactly.

In any case, rumors are flying that Verizon is going to move away from that $30 unlimited data package this summer.  This got me thinking about how I’d like to see data charged in the future:

1. Don’t insult customers by charging them a lot for very little data, like AT&T does with the $15 package for 200MB.  I think a much fairer system would be to simply charge $10 per gigabyte, where most people would pay either the $10/month, or $20/month if they’re heavy users.  Even needier customers will pay $30 or more.  The carriers could throttle users speeds past 5GB if necessary.*

2. One of the problems presented by the first item on this list is that it will almost certainly mean reduced revenue for the carriers.  Since most users would be fine with 1GB or less, that would drop Verizon customers by $19.99 and AT&T customers by $5 or $10, depending on the plan.  An alternative would be to still charge a higher rate (say $20 for 2GB minimum), but allow the customer to roll data over into future months.  AT&T has done this with minutes going back to the Cingular days, but I’ve never heard of either company considering this feature for Internet packages.

3. My last thought on data is something Verizon is rumored to bring out this summer, and that is family data packages.  Both AT&T and Verizon offer voice and messaging plans that cover the entire family (up to 5 lines), but data has long been a per-line charge.  I think a $50/month for 5GB of shared data would play well with both companies’ pricing structures, especially if overages were only $10/GB.  (In fact, that is AT&T’s exact pricing structure for its MiFi Hotspot product as well as its 4G Internet Cards.)**

* I know it sounds odd that I’m okay with throttling, but I understand the capacitance issues the carriers are facing and why completely unlimited and uncapped speeds are impractical in large population centers.  Since Sprint and T-Mobile are already in the habit of doing this (if you pass 2GB even, from what I understand), we might as well not be surprised by it.

** Oddly enough, this rate is considerably better than what AT&T offers for it’s older 3G Internet Cards.  Those products (just like Verizon’s) are $60/month for 5GB, and the overages are $0.05/MB — which is obscene.  Effectively, every gigabyte of overage under this plan is just over $51.  I believe AT&T is phasing these cards out, which is perhaps why they have such an unfavorable plan.  Either way, Verizon has no comparable option to AT&T’s MiFi or 4G Internet Cards, which are priced at the aforementioned $50/month for 5GB with $10/GB overages.

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Written by Michael

21 May 2011 at 2:07 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , , ,

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