LTE Spectrum Crisis, Confirmed

March 6, 2012

Today’s Fierce Wireless recap of a Verizon FCC filing about the need for more LTE spectrum reminded me that we covered that subject more than two years ago. And the quote from Boingo’s Dave Hagan from this blog post over at Light Reading still seems to ring true:

“LTE does not solve the iPhone problem,” said Boingo Wireless Inc. CEO Dave Hagan, speaking on a conference panel. While LTE might provide throughput four times greater than current 3G implementations, Hagan said the incredible jump in demand generated by devices like the iPhone will trump such low-shooting improvements. “They are chasing a 50x increase [in data consumption] with a 4x solution, a 4x solution that’s going to take four years to complete,” Hagan said. “That’s not going to work.”

Meanwhile, Verizon apparently still isn’t selling too many 4G LTE phones since its double-data promotion is back at stores. Go figger.


AT&T: All 4G Phone Users Need $45, 4GB Plan to use Mobile Hotspot UPDATE: Make that $50, 5 GB

January 17, 2012

Editor’s note: Conspiracy theorists, start your engines. Just a few days after we noticed AT&T’s switch to make its smartphone customers pay $45 a month for a 4 GB data plan AT&T announced a further change that would mirror Verizon’s plan and now require a $50, 5 GB plan to use that mobile hotspot feature on your phone. All the analysis from the original post below still holds. More on this topic soon.

I haven’t paid attention to the AT&T 4G LTE site for a few months, so I was surprised by a new twist in AT&T’s top-network data plans. If you want to use the snazzy portable Wi-Fi hotspot feature found in almost every new top of the line smartphone, you’ll have to throw down on the “DataPro 4GB” plan, a $45 per month data plan which includes 4 GB of downloadable data and access to the hotspot feature. Don’t want to buy the big plan? Then you aren’t going to be able to use the hotspot feature, according to an AT&T rep I just had an online chat with.

Read the rest of this entry »


Clearwire Finally Goes Simple: But is $50 a Month Too Little, Too Late?

October 31, 2011

It took them a long time to get there but Clearwire finally has the pricing strategy I thought the company should have gone with out of the gate: A simple, one-price plan for mobile or home service, $50 a month, with no long-term contract necessary. It’s easy to understand and easy to purchase (especially with devices priced as low as $39.99) but — is it too late to matter?

When the nascent national wireless broadband service from Clearwire first became available back in January of 2009, the company had a pamphlet with so many different pricing options (dual plans, mobile + home plans, etc.) that it was hard to write simply just how much the new service would cost. And then Clearwire compounded that marketing problem by changing plans and pricing as it rolled out new markets — all under some claim of “finding out what works.”

What works — what always works — is easy and cheap. I always thought Clearwire should have started out selling a $25 per month plan just to see how many people it could sign up. That might sound business-stupid but how is it any worse than the grand plans of former CEO Bill Morrow, which crashed and burned? Inside Clearwire there were reportedly some renegades who wanted to try out a low-cost no-contract pricing scheme but by the time the Rover puck concept finally got greenlighted it didn’t have a passionate executive backing it so it predictably floundered.

Even as late as a year ago January I still thought a simple two-tier plan from Clearwire made sense, especially to get ahead of the tiered-data plans that were coming from Verizon and AT&T. But nobody listened then and instead we got grand plans for Clearwire smartphones and Clearwire Kindles, which resulted in the great Clearwire-Sprint executive collision, which hasn’t worked out well for either company.

Now you have a Clearwire without any of the leadership that brought the ISP to life — former CEO Ben Wolff, who for many Clearwire originals remained the soul of the firm, resigned from the board last week — and with a withered operational budget that leaves Clearwire no choice really but to strip down its offerings to a simple $50 a month plan, no contract, no download limits. My bet is that a bunch of data-hungry types will snap up these deals and run their laptops and iPads off a Clearwire pocketspot for the next few years, loving the last real unlimited wireless data contract around. It’s just a shame this strategy wasn’t tried sooner, when the company had some marketing muscle to put behind it.