If there is an industry more monopolistic and greedy than the oil industry, it’s the wireless industry. Despite record profits, Verizon and AT&T are looking for even more ways to increase their revenue. It’s understandable as they are public companies and that’s the name of the game but being too overzealous could put a damper on the industry. They risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
At issue are the data plans that never amounted to much for wireless companies until smartphones and specifically the iPhone came on strong. All of a sudden, data networks are being pushed harder than anyone ever expected. AT&T was particularly caught off guard by this and their iPhone service suffered badly.
Now, a secondary problem has arisen in that many people have several data intensive devices on their wireless accounts. A smart phone for the husband, one for the wife and a tablet. Each of these devices requires it’s own $25-30 a month data plan. This is pretty cumbersome and expensive. I have been a proponent of shared data plans for a long time now. In the same way you share phone minuets you will soon share a pool of data.
The industry, which always seems to work together on these things, thus eliminating the competition factor has decided to use the shared data pool to change the game completely. Instead of the usual unlimited data for your $30 a month, you will now have to buy into a tired system of data. The larger the data pool you want, the more expensive it will be. I totally get this model and understand it from a business perspective but here is my worry. When data was unlimited, customers did not have to worry or think about anything. They could download and run all types of applications including streaming music and video services. It’s part of what made the smartphone take off so fast. Now, if customers have to be counting bits, it’s going to put a big freeze on certain apps and innovation that will take up too much data. Mobile, Internet connected devices are only as good as the data connection they have. Capped bandwidth could have a drastically negative effect on the adoption and use of connected devices. It’s like we’re going backward. Customers are now getting less bandwidth for more money.
As far as marketing goes, these location aware connected devices hold the greatest promise for a next generation of personalized, localized marketing. Marketers should want nothing more than the most number of people possible walking around and using a wide variety of connected devices. Wireless service is already ridiculously expensive (have you looked at your bill lately?). Here’s hoping the wireless industry doesn’t commit hari-kari like the music industry did.