If Flat-Rate Mobile Data Plans Are So Bad, Why Do Operators Keep Launching New Ones?

from the playing-both-sides dept

On its quarterly conference call, AT&T’s CFO once again talked up how the company needed to move away from flat-rate mobile data plans because its networks are being overwhelmed by traffic from a small percentage of its users. This rhetoric — which is really just trying to warm up the market for future price increases — comes despite figures showing that AT&T’s data revenues are increasing, while its network investment is decreasing. On some level, if an operator like AT&T wants to try to force through higher prices by increased flat rates or usage-based pricing, go right ahead; we’ll see just how the market reacts. But all of their talk about their poor overwhelmed networks would go down a little bit better if they wouldn’t decry flat-rate plans in situations like this, while they launch cheap flat-rate unlimited plans at the same time, as AT&T has done for the iPad 3G. If AT&T’s network is already taxed and cheap data plans are to blame, why launch another one on a device that’s built to consume data?

Filed Under: ,
Companies: at&t

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “If Flat-Rate Mobile Data Plans Are So Bad, Why Do Operators Keep Launching New Ones?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
22 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: World of Warcraft

“In the same way gyms hope 80 percent of their members do not ever cross the door.”

MOST gyms operate that way, but not all of them. Visit any major city and you’ll find a couple of gyms that are absolutely packed a large percentage of the time. You’ll also notice that these packed gyms seem to have the most ancilliary(sp?) offerings to sell to their customers, i.e. clothing shops, juice bars, extra activity rooms, etc.

There are two ways to go about this, in the gym arena AND in the mobile device/network arena:

1. Do as you say, oversell your network/gym (only a maybe in this case) and hope that your customers don’t use what you offer to full capacity.

2. Sell the network/gym at a level consistent with your capability to serve, give them a great experience, and monetize the shit out of the increased load. Then use the revenue to slowly expand, get more load, monetize more. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: World of Warcraft

In the same way gyms hope 80 percent of their members do not ever cross the door.

I think the point of Carlo’s post isn’t that operators sell a product that they hope most people won’t use to its maximum. That’s a normal part of many business models, including gyms. The point is that the operators sell this product and then bitch when some people use it to its maximum. If the operators have done a poor job of estimating how many customers are going to be “bandwidth hogs” and have to change their prices accordingly, then fine…go ahead. Shit or get off the pot. Either raise your prices or shut the hell up about it already.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: World of Warcraft

The carriers also do the myopic thing of basing their pricing and estimates on CURRENT data use patterns. They don’t do enough to predict what kinds of new apps will emerge, whether people will change their data consumption, and the impact this will have on their pricing and “unlimited” marketing.

They should have never started with “unlimited data”. The consumer naturally wants it, and they’ve trained consumers to expect it. A problem of their own making.

Mystic Kitsune says:

AT&T can blame 3g open PPTPP

AT&T and Boost mobile share one thing in common: both can be used as wireless tunneling servers without any authentication, the majority of DATA is going through encrypted pipelines owned by both businesses and public. and the tunnelers are mostly gamers or hackers, causing data usage to skyrocket. 4G will/is seeing the exact same dilemma… Verizon is the only one to really tighten security on their airwaves. partially through proprietorial means, but mainly with proper security planning.. I’m not endorsing Verizon, or agree with their practices. bit I just thought that this hitch needed too be poked at.

brink says:

Re: AT&T can blame 3g open PPTPP

Not really sure if gamers are rushing to run their dedicated boxes on a cell signal, unless they’re truly desperate. Hackers I would believe more readily that it’s probably a tad easier to purchase a cell with a stolen CC# to do your illegal trade. Seriously gaming on a cell network with the latency that entrails it is just dumb.

P3T3R5ON (profile) says:

Between my wife and I we average over 300mb a month on our two iPhones. We use the unlimited data plan and I have every intention of using that open bandwidth because I am paying for it. Same thing for texting, unlimited and we text our thumbs off… she’s better at it but we average over 1500 texts a month. Again, paying for it…. going to use as much as I can. On the other hand we use maybe 100min a month of our 1400min outside of our calling circle and in network calls. I’m slowly lowering the amount of minuets we have on our plan….not going to use it…not going to pay for it.

This is why I DON’T have a gym membership, I’d almost never use it, not to mention parking farther away in the parking lot, taking the stairs, and living on the third floor… why should I go to the gym. Excercise is free, I even got paid to do it when I was in the Army. Besides I have an equivelent gym at work and apartment… both are free!

If I’m going to pay for something, I’m going to use it to it’s fullest extent, otherwise I’m not buying it. Then it’s up to the seller to make it more marketable/reasonable to attract my purchase.

P3T3R5ON (profile) says:

Re: Because...

True, but how long can the little carriers last, standing arpart when the big guys can come in and buy them or push into their core network area and provide proprietary service items like iPhone or Droid where as your little guy just has the typical Samsung or Motorla phone. When you’re not guarenteed 3G coverage or you are paying higher prices because when you travel your not roaming but running on leased lines from the big carriers.

Joel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Because...

People that go to the little carriers are most likely not looking for advanced phones and now for example MetroPCS is unlocking CDMA phones so the person that wants a nice phone can just buy that phone from Sprint or Verizon and bring it to them. Also I have noticed that a lot of the people who go to the little carriers are not traveling much and are just looking to save money. Most of my friends are split between MetroPCS and T-Mobile.

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

On the iPad 3G

“while they launch cheap flat-rate unlimited plans at the same time, as AT&T has done for the iPad 3G. If AT&T’s network is already taxed and cheap data plans are to blame, why launch another one on a device that’s built to consume data?”

A couple of theories I’ve heard on this:
(1) AT&T is convinced that iPad users will primarily use WiFi, perhaps due to the device being used frequently in the home and at the coffee shop and at the office where WiFi is readily available.
(2) It’s another device. AT&T wants to get their customers deeper into this “pay a monthly fee per device” concept. Increasing that ARPU (Average Revenue Per User), even if those new customers aren’t using AT&T for their other data services yet. I’m willing to bet very few customers are using this data plan to replace any other they currently have (such as home internet or mobile internet).

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Another point to consider is that a large majority of the iPad subscribers also own iPhones. So, some logic could attribute data usage from an iPhone owner over 3G will go down being replaced by the iPad. So, they’ll get the users to pay for the data usage by getting them to spread it over several devices with separate data plans hoping the data usage on any single device will go down.

Instead of 1 $70/month iPhone data account using all 3G data … it’s 2 devices at $70+30/month (iPhone + iPad) … with a calculated hope that it won’t increase overall data usage, but transfer some from one account to another.

daemian2k says:

Flat rate plans

this is so retarded it actually qualifies them for handicapped parking. if their bandwidth is so taxed then why spend the resources to have another one at a higher price. Sounds like a way for them to try and justify themselves and charge for bandwith usage if you ask me, why not spend the resources and repair the infrastructure that they already have instead of creating newer ones that fail, att u-verse anyone?,

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...