from the trends,-people,-trends dept
Usage-based pricing may be more fair. The top 6 percent of smart phone users are consuming half of all data. The vast majority of customers, 99 percent according to the 60,000 phone bills that Nielsen collects and analyzes every month as part of their Customer Value Metrics product, are better off with a pricing scheme like AT&T's new data pricing model than under flat-rate pricing where they are paying for much more than they ever use.Of course, the reality is a bit more complicated. Thankfully, Broadband Reports explains why these claims ignore important trends and other factors:
While many people are applauding AT&T's new data pricing plans as money savers for light users today -- they're not looking at tomorrow's big picture. One, Nielsen ignores the fact that carriers are now making data plans mandatory for smartphone users who previously only used Wi-Fi. That's not "more fair," nor does it save money. Nielsen takes the stance that light users somehow need to be "educated" into consuming more data -- yet many of those users simply prefer to use their device's Wi-Fi functionality alone. That's no longer possible.There's also the fact that, with the new plans, if you want to use tethering, it'll run you an extra $20/month -- not to mention that tethering will increase data usage. It also ignores the mental transaction costs when you know you have a cap and potential overages that discourages usage, just as more apps are coming online to encourage usage. The really damning part, of course, is just the basic trend that data usage is increasing and that's not going to slow down any time soon. AT&T smartly set its caps so that it could get analysts to make these kinds of claims, ignoring that a couple years from the average data will be much higher and more and more people will be pushed to higher, significantly more expensive options.
Two, the average user already consumes 298MB of data -- while AT&T's base cap is 200 MB. That cap's set just low enough to push today's average user to the higher, $25 a month tier (plus overages, ETFs, an endless assortment of fees). That average is going to quickly skyrocket and the heavy user of today will become the average user of tomorrow -- yet instead of having the option of a simple, unlimited data tier at a fair price -- they'll face heavy and often confusing overages just as smartphones begin seeing interesting video service integration (Netflix, Hulu). That's not about saving money, it's about making money.
Again, incumbent wireless companies are not in the business of making less money, and this new media meme that a shift to low caps and high overages is about saving consumers money, or fairness, or helping minorities -- is simply absurd. If telecom analysts want to analyze -- they should be noting that carriers and investors see the death of SMS and voice minutes heading their direction -- and are changing pricing models to compensate and cash in on an explosion in wireless video (or streaming wireless audio) use. But the suggestion that this shift is driven by altruism is bizarre and disingenuous.
What's kind of amazing here is how no one seems to look back at the consumer internet access costs for comparison. In the early days, when many people had AOL, there were caps and metered billing. And some people used it, certainly, but it was nothing compared to what happened when AOL finally dropped its caps and suddenly people could really embrace and use the internet without worrying about hitting their usage cap. Unlimited internet access is what helped drive internet usage, making it such a powerful and useful platform. Mobile operators seem to want to go in the other direction and are working hard to try to limit how useful many people find their phones, due to limiting data plans. That doesn't seem all that compelling or "fair."