Wanted: One Data Plan to Rule Them All

February 13, 2011

The big Mobile World Congress show hasn’t even really started yet and already we are swamped with news of new superphones, tablets and pads, all vying to become the next big thing in wireless. The problem is, no matter how cool, fast or fun each one is, no single device can perfectly answer the needs of all our mobile Three Cs: Communicating, Creating and Consuming. But if we had one data plan to use across all types of devices? That would be something to write home about.

No pad or tablet will ever handle calls as well as a phone, and few phone-size devices can match tablets or pads for making content consumption so pleasurable; and there’s still nothing that really tops a full-feature laptop with its full-sized keyboard for being able to create content on the go. That’s why I subscribe to the theory that says most mobile professionals will soon own a “stack” of mobile devices, each with a singular purpose. Device manufacturers and service providers alike are out there now, nodding their heads, saying Yes! Please let it be so!

But what’s needed to make that happen quickly is a brave mobile carrier to be a trailblazer and provide a single data plan that covers multiple devices, allowing a user to spend their “bucket of bits” via the device, the time and the manner of their choosing. Otherwise, the device stack option is going to remain something that only the budget-rich can afford, and many cool devices will fall by the wayside simply because there isn’t enough reason for folks to sign up for yet another expensive 2-year contract with big early termination fees.

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Pricing, Usage Challenge Ahead for 4G Customers

January 24, 2011

With big 4G wireless network promotions coming later this year from leading cellular providers AT&T and Verizon, it still looks like the hardest job is going to fall to the potential next-generation wireless customer — who will be forced to pick and choose from a dizzying array of devices and prices, without much help or guidance from the carriers providing the services.

Two things I read over the weekend reinforced my belief that potential 4G customers are going to need a lot more measurement tools if they are going to make sense of what is coming from the biggest providers. The first was a report on the Boy Genius Report site that purportedly was a precursor of some of AT&T’s forthcoming 4G LTE pricing plans that would include sort of an ad-hoc ability to purchase bandwidth on demand. At the very least, such thinking seems to mean that the days of real unlimited data plans are truly at an end.

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Google Instant = The Next Mobile Meltdown?

September 8, 2010

While Google’s new instant search feature certainly impressed many at the news conference in San Francisco Wednesday, the impending launch of Google Instant for mobile devices might be the next application that brings fragile cellular networks to their knees.

Why? Though we probably won’t know until thousands start using Google Instant on their cell phones, the application’s feature of guessing what you are typing may actually mean fewer mobile searches since theoretically you will find your answer faster. But with new results appearing with each letter typed, Google Instant may also cause a lot of unwanted traffic as servers, cell towers and handheld devices engage in constant communications to support the “instant” search results. Could all that search traffic clog mobile networks to the point of saturation? We don’t know for sure, and didn’t get any confident answers Wednesday to make us think that the Googlers have thought this through completely, either.

Google reps at the announcement Wednesday all acknowledged that Google Instant would certainly increase bandwidth needs for either mobile or landline connections, but also pointed out that search results were typically very small bits of information, especially when compared to things like streaming video. But the increased amount of connections needed could cause less-than-instant search-result slowdowns, especially in a mobile situation. In demos of the mobile version (which Google said won’t be available for a month or more), there was a noted latency of a few seconds’ delay when compared to the desktop/laptop version of the program.

Google VP for search Marissa Mayer admitted that some beta testers of the service had to turn it off in cases where their broadband connection wasn’t good, and Google reps at the event said that it (obviously) would work better on Wi-Fi, OK on a 3G connection and not at all on “2G” wireless like AT&T’s EDGE network. Though Googlers Wednesday didn’t think the instant searches would cause someone to burn up their mobile data cap while looking for a nearby restaurant, the mobile version will come with a handy “off” button — just in case.