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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Three Reasons Why You Won’t See an ‘Unlimited’ Data Plan for the Verizon iPhone

January 11, 2011

Once again, Verizon has announced an important new mobile device — in this case availability of Apple’s iPhone — without telling people how much it will cost to use that device on Verizon’s network. While we’re bound to find out this information sometime soon since the thing goes on sale next month, I sincerely doubt that the techno-geek’s dream of an unlimited data plan will actually come to pass, for several reasons which I outline below.

1. They Won’t Offer Unlimited Data Because They Don’t Have To!

Seriously — this is the iPhone we are talking about here, the device some (millions) of people just have to have even though there are numerous other phones that might fit their actual needs better. As with any premium product or service, it behooves the seller to charge the highest price possible since price is usually not a factor in the purchase decision. So why give away data when millions have shown their readiness to sign up for 2-year costly contracts with AT&T, which have the standard data-download caps, even after numerous reports about how poorly that network has performed? Why offer “unlimited” if you don’t need it to close the sale?

So why doesn’t anyone challenge the rumor? I think the unusual amount of wide credibility given to a single, unnamed-source report about unlimited plans has to do more with the media’s nodding knowledge of how the Wall Street Journal probably got its information for its Monday story, where it credits “a person familiar with the matter” as saying Verizon is “confident enough” in its network to offer unlimited-data plans. Anyone in the PR and media business knows this game — the “person familiar with the matter” is most likely a Verizon executive who spoke to the Journal in advance of the announcement with the unspoken agreement of a story in the WSJ as the exchange. It might not have happened that way, but it’s as good a guess as any when you see the “person familiar with the matter” sourcing.

But what might have gotten lost in translation is that for years the cellular industry including Verizon called its plans “unlimited” even though they had monthly data caps which few users ever reached. So what was called “unlimited” in that shadowy interview and what really materializes may be one of those cellular-industry definitions of reality. Either that, or it will cost $200 or more a month for a true “unlimited” plan. I’d be confident of my network then too.
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Verizon Intros 4G LTE Device Lineup at CES: Pricing Plans Still Unknown

January 7, 2011

LAS VEGAS — The second chapter in the Verizon 4G LTE story was unveiled Thursday at CES, at a Vegas showstopper special of a press conference where Big Red announced a mix of smartphones, tablets and portable-hotspot routers for its new, fast wireless network.

Left untold was the tale of how much consumers would eventually have to pay to use the cool new devices, all of which Verizon said would be available later in the year with some ready as early as March. While the way pricing and plans are offered will be an important conclusion, between now and when such details are revealed interested observers can busy themselves with the specifications of the forthcoming mobile devices, a list that includes four Android-based smartphones, two tablets, two portable hotspots and a couple notebook computers.

In all it is an impressive amount of new access devices for a new network, one which Verizon launched commercially back in December with a couple USB modems as the only way to connect to its Long Term Evolution-based 4G services. Samsung, an early mover in the LTE market, had the biggest offering with a phone, a tablet and a portable hotspot, with Motorola right behind with a phone and a bigger tablet offering. Also offering devices for Verizon’s new network are LG and HTC, and even corporate-world champion Cisco jumped in with a Verizon LTE version of its new tablet computer designed specifically for an enterprise customer.

Lost somewhat in the device blitz were some other important LTE announcements, including Verizon’s plan to add an additional 140 cities to its coverage list during 2011, as well as the signing of several more agreements with rural carriers who will lease spectrum from Verizon to offer their own-branded version of Verizon’s LTE that will offer compatible roaming across a wider geographical region. So while the Big Red LTE juggernaut advances apace, it still remains to be seen how the carrier will grapple with an emerging dilemma — how to sell ultra-fast powerful mobile devices (which can consume gobs of data quickly) at a price plan that is low enough to attract customers but high enough to ensure profits.

While Verizon hinted that its initial pricing forays will likely look like its initial stab at LTE data plans — $50 for 5 GB per month of downloaded data, or $80 for 10 GB — those price points may not be attractive or flexible enough to entice users to add more LTE to their portable device stack.