Tue, May 4th 2010 11:46pm
Lots of broadband operators around the world have been talking about how their networks can't keep up with traffic demands, so they'll have to shift back to usage-based pricing. In particular, US mobile operators AT&T and Verizon have led the rhetoric, even as they continue to launch the unlimited plans they say are such a problem. The head of one broadband provider in the UK recently said a switch to usage-based pricing, and away from flat-rate plans, was inevitable as soon as one operator in a market made the switch. He dismissed the idea that operators would seek to differentiate by sticking with flat-rate plans, or by taking any other pricing strategy than usage-based plans, ignoring the fact that consumers have grown accustomed to flat-rate offerings, and that the lack of clarity in usage, billing and pricing that per-unit plans are a big turnoff for them. Already, we're seeing some signs that the operator landscape may not be dominated by such groupthink, as T-Mobile and Leap Wireless have made changes to their mobile broadband plans that are out of step with many other operators. The two companies have changed the way the caps on some of their plans work: for instance, on T-Mobile, when a user reaches their 5GB monthly cap, they don't get hit with overage fees, the speed of their connection gets throttled, avoiding the uncertainty inherent in usage-based pricing. Perhaps it's not a perfect situation, but it does show that some operators aren't afraid to step out from the party line and explore different pricing models. It also builds some hope that when some providers do decide to regress to usage-based schemes, there will be some choices for consumers.
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