Last week, Engadget reported that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told an investor conference that he expected data-only plans within two years.
Guys like Randall Stephenson don’t normally say things by accident. They don’t want to sound clever or clairvoyant. Their job is to deliver carefully scripted speeches designed to give a message to the industry. If Stephenson told an investor conference this, it probably wasn’t an off-the-cuff kind of statement. He wanted to throw the notion out there to see how it would fly.
The idea of data-only plans actually makes a lot of sense. Younger audiences may do 90 percent texting and very little voice and there are services such iMessage and TextFree, which can replace data text services. Others may use a Voice over IP service like Skype or Google Voice for calls, by-passing traditional network-voice calling altogether.
But does that matter? Data is data is data, right?
As the Associated Press reported, for many users, phone calls are not the primary purpose of the phone anymore. For many, the smart phone is less a phone and more an Internet device in your pocket. But the system right now is to separate voice, data and texting.
From what I’m reading into this, this would basically put all of these items in a single bucket and you would pay a fee for different levels of data. I hope that would mean that carriers would no longer design plans to discourage data usage, as is the case today.
Sandvine recently reported that streaming on mobile devices is exploding as people use popular services like YouTube, Netflix and Pandora. These services tend to be data-intensive. If you doubt me, consider that on a recent trip, unable to access WiFi, my son used his phone to listen to Pandora, only to find that in a few hours, he had used up most of his 200 MB plan. That’s going against how people want to use their phones because you can’t always rely on the availability of free WiFi.
Dave Caputo, CEO at Sandvine, says current systems aren’t meeting user needs and carriers need to get smarter about how they approach usage issues. “The fact that more video traffic is going to devices other than a PC should be a wake-up call that counting bytes is no longer sufficient for network planning. Communications Service Providers need to have detailed business intelligence on not only the devices being used but also the quality and length of the videos being watched so they can engineer for a high subscriber quality of experience and not simply adding capacity through continuous capital investment,” Caputo said.
It seems like going data-only would be a good first step. It would simplify billing and counting for the carriers and it would make life simpler for customers too because they wouldn’t need to try to track three things. Family data plans would be great too and parents and kids wouldn’t have to count texts — and businesses could have special data plans to meet business needs.
Overall, it sounds like a great idea. In fact, it’s so smart I can’t believe that it was Randall Stephenson who suggested it. AT&T has never been known as the most forward thinking company on the planet, but this is a good idea and it’s worth considering.
Photo by jesse? on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.]]>
iPhone is a successful device by virtually any measure. It provides a way to access content and connect with the outside world via the Internet with simplicity and ease — and people who own them love to use them. And that’s a problem for providers. They are clogging their networks.
At least that’s what I’m reading from complaints from the CEO of AT&T and Sprint’s recent financial troubles.
Let’s start with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who admitted publicly at the Milken Institutes’s Global Conference this week that he deeply regretted offering iPhone users the all-you-can eat data plan for just $30.
Turns out when you give people unlimited data, they actually use their phones and damn, that bandwidth adds up. You see when you get a piece of highly sophisticated technology that does all kinds of things from show movies to deliver directions to Siri voice recognition, it turns out you want to, you know, use it. Imagine that.
But apparently poor Mr. Stephenson felt that all those people who bought iPhones and lined the coffers of AT&T through the initial years of exclusivity were bandwidth hogs and he wasn’t prepared for that.
AT&T now offers a tiered plan starting at $20 for 300 MB, $30 for 3 GB or $50 for 5 GB. I still have one of the old unlimited plans, which remains grandfathered in and it’s the only reason I’m still with AT&T at this point to be honest, but if you sign up today, you’re probably looking at a minimum of $30 a month for 3 whole GB. And don’t forget that doesn’t include unlimited texting which will run you another $20 per month.
Make sure you download an App that shows you where to find free WiFi around you. Geez.
Lest you cry for poor Mr. Stephenson, The New York Times reported that the tiered data plan approach has been very, very good to his company bringing in $6.1 billion in revenue last year.
At least AT&T is crying all the way to the bank. Sprint, apparently is not so fortunate.
The iPhone has always been a bit of a conundrum for Sprint. They wanted it so badly and once they got it, in order to differentiate themselves from the bandwidth-controlling AT&T and Verizon, decided to offer the old unlimited data plan. Fantastic for you, but for Sprint, not so much.
According to a Reuter’s article, Sprint placed a $15 billion bet on the iPhone and so far the phone subsidies combined with the unlimited data access is killing the company, so much so that Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has decided to take a symbolic pay cut in his salary and bonus. Nice, but probably won’t dent that bill.
When you see the success of the iPhone, it’s easy to think that it must be a boon for providers too, and in many cases it should be, but it also has a dark side. Users use these phones. They bombard the networks. They tax the bottom line because of subsidies.
I don’t cry for the providers though. Instead of whining, be a network and do your job. Of course phone users are going to use bandwidth. If you don’t like it, you’re in the wrong business.
Photo by Yutaka Tsutano on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.]]>
Nokia’s launch of the Lumia 900 in the US next month is a big deal. How big? How about so big it warrants a string of cliches. So big, it’s do or die time. It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time to walk the walk. It’s now or never.
It’s all those things and more, and then again it could be in the words of Suzanne Vega, “Nothing much, not much.” Let’s start with why it’s important.
For starters, word is that AT&T is going to push the Nokia Lumia 900 more than any phone it has ever pushed before — even the iPhone. We’re talking a big deal.
According to a post on CNET yesterday, AT&T is going to pull out all the stops for this launch. Nobody is saying just how much money is going to be spent, but given the level of the rhetoric, it’s going to be significant As CNET writer Roger Cheng indicated of the launch blitz, it’s really, really big including a massive ad campaign along with making the Lumia 900, the centerpiece of AT&T Stores.
There will be signs and posters and special training for employees — and there will be brass bands and parades. OK. I’m exaggerating a bit on the last two points, but you get the idea about the scope of this launch.
It’s big I tell you.
And because of the scope of this launch, it tells you just how important Nokia sees this in its attempts to break back into the US market because it’s been a long time since Nokia has had any significant presence here at all.
But for all of this time and effort, I’m not sure it’s going to amount to much. As I wrote in Lumia 710 is Impressive, but Is That Enough?, I’m not sure it’s going to matter how cool this phone is or how fast or how impressive it is. When you are as far behind as Windows is in the US market, it might be a case of being too little, too late.
And it’s not because I’m rooting against Nokia and Microsoft on this one. In fact, I think with Blackberry fading badly in the US market, Apple and Google could use a kick in the butt that only some good, old-fashioned competition can provide. But I’m skeptical that with Google and Apple so entrenched that there’s much of anything that Nokia can do to even put a dent in that dominance.
But neither do I expect them to simply roll over and cede the US market to the competition. They have a nice phone. The Lumia 710 I tried out was snappy and even fun to use, and while the 900 is a bit bigger with a better camera and a nicer display, the guts of the phone are pretty similar.
In the end, I don’t expect much, the splashy launch notwithstanding. The high end of the US cell phone market is not really where Nokia will make its last stand. Instead, as my colleague FierceMobileIT Editor, Wayne Rash predicts, it’s far more likely to be lower-end smart phones in Europe and Asia, where Nokia once dominated (until it was displaced by Android) where it will stand or fall .]]>
Whatever Microsoft and its partners spend, they need to produce quality, compelling ad campaigns that makes people stand up and take notice. There has to be a reason for looking beyond the obvious Android and Apple choices. While Apple and Google have a way of creating interesting ads, Microsoft always seems to miss the mark.
If Microsoft, Nokia and other partners want these phones to succeed, they have to find a way to make them cool. Advertising alone won’t work of course, but it’s certainly a traditional starting point for building brand awareness.
Whatever the total ad budget, it’s clear Microsoft is in a spending mood, but it also needs to find ways to promote these phones any way it can. If you’re a Hawaii Five-0 fan, you’ve probably seen Windows Phone 7 phones used in cool ways on the show (along with other Microsoft products). Microsoft should definitely be doing more of that. Product placement in popular shows and movies is always a good bet.
What Microsoft doesn’t want to do is follow in the foot steps of its previous failed ad campaigns.
Back in 2008, when Vista sales were flagging, Microsoft decided to hire a fancy ad agency with a $300 million budget. It recruited 90s TV star Jerry Seinfeld as a spokesperson and teamed him with Bill Gates. It was a disaster. (Watch for yourself if you dare).
Here’s what I wrote about it at the time on DaniWeb:
What I found was frankly shocking; an ad so brittle, so horrible, so not funny; it was actually puzzling. A true ‘What were they thinking?’ moment.
Microsoft wisely pulled the plug on these clunkers after just two commercials.
The I’m a PC campaign was better, but was still a clumsy direct response to the highly successful Get a Mac ads.
Microsoft has to do much better than these previous attempts or it will be tossing money down the toilet, but more than producing good ads — although that’s a good first step — Windows Phone 7 needs to be on great phones.
One of the reasons the Apple and Google ads work is they show the companies’ products in the best possible light often with a sense of humor or whimsy. The music fits well with the ads. They seem natural and care-free and they produce a feeling that makes you want to try them.
In addition, to the ads Beta News reports that AT&T will give the phone “hero” status, which means, according to the article, “AT&T itself will promote the device in its advertising, through its retail channels and direct store associates to push the device within its stores.” That should help too.
But it’s not just consumers, Microsoft should be trying to convince businesses that Microsoft provides a good platform for building phone applications for your business. With a huge hole in the US market left by RIM, there is a need for a more business-oriented phone, one that is not trumpeting the availability of Angry Birds.
Google and Apple are firmly entrenched in the top two market positions, but Microsoft can make some headway if it plays its cards right. There are probably few mobile chances left for Redmond and it needs to be sure it gets it right this time, but the ads need to be more than a fluffy cover for a bad product, they need to communicate the greatness of a quality product. Otherwise, it’s throwing good money after bad — again.]]>