How Closely Should Mobile Phone Service Be Tied Into The Bundle?

from the questions,-questions dept

The idea of the “quadruple play” keeps getting more interest in the press these days — even though it’s a bit misleading. The idea is that instead of just bundling phone, broadband and TV, a provider would also include mobile phone service. Of course, where it gets tricky is that the lines between all of these start to blur once you realize we’re reaching the point where it’s all just data — and if you have a good enough broadband connection (especially one that’s mobile) then the phone and the TV part can take care of themselves. In fact, as the broadband connection gets better, people may start to wonder why they need to receive the other services from the same provider at all? Why not just get phone service from a company like Vonage or (eventually) Skype? Why not get TV service from whoever the TV equivalent of those providers will be in the future (and it won’t be long until those types of companies start showing up). However, the big service providers are still praying that the bundles hold up. Unfortunately, they may be putting a bit too much faith in the power of bundles. Witness SBC’s latest plan to offer a service that lets people snap a cameraphone photo and have it available on their TV (via an IPTV service) almost immediately. That’s a nice little service (not all that compelling, but perhaps a “nice to have” for some). The problem, though, is that they plan to offer this only for Cingular customers, since Cingular is co-owned by SBC. They’re thinking, of course, is that this is part of the “bundle.” The problem, though, is that no one is going to choose Cingular solely because of this feature. Instead, they’re going to chose Cingular based on price, coverage, calling plans and other such things. And, then, they’re going to wonder why they have to be using Cingular to use a silly cameraphone application that absolutely could be offered by other providers as well. If anything, SBC is planning to make the offering less compelling by tying it to a single mobile operator in a misguided attempt at bundling these things too tightly. It’s fine to offer discounts for bundles, but don’t block off the option for others. This is the same thing that’s leading companies like SBC to ignore calls for naked DSL. They’re trying to force people to accept bundles, rather than offering all of the options (including bundles) and letting customers decide what’s best for them.

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