There is a substantial amount of consternation across the geek community at the rather limiting new data policies from o2. Whereas before most customers enjoyed a fair use data policy of 1GB, the company’s new plans introduce a monthly data cap of 500MB. If you go over this, you’ll then have to buy another 500MB for £5. Check out this piece in PC Pro by Barry Collins for more information.
Well, it seems Orange is likely to follow suit. I heard yesterday from a source at Orange who, on condition of anonymity, explained that we should expect revised data plans sometime soon (“over the summer”).
It’s a sad state of affairs, it really is.
The mobile operators screwed up the introduction of mobile data in the first place and now they’re having to change things around… again. I remember having an ‘unlimited’ T-Mobile data account back in 2006 that was truly unlimited. Because they didn’t have the technology in place to track my data usage. I think I had about 9 months worth of unmetered access until they sent me a letter to tell me they’d finally bought and installed the right kit to measure my usage.
We have this expectation, for some reason, that the mobile operators should know what they’re doing. This much is true when it comes to voice (and SMS). Beyond these key services, the operators haven’t been truly comfortable with mobile data since it was £5/megabyte. If they can’t meter it and charge by the second/minute/message/megabyte, they feel naked.
Conversely, the average consumer doesn’t have a sodding clue what 1MB means in terms of usage. Is that 20 minutes worth of IM chat? Or is that actually only 2 minutes worth of chat and an 800k picture exchange? There’s no indicator on the handset that shows a little battery-style meter filling up across the month indicating your data usage. Why not? You’d think that mobile operators should have agreed a common API that any handset can use so that consumers can query their data usage directly from the network.
Well, you’d think.
The technology and services exist. Most operators haven’t gone anywhere near implementing it though. Which makes it incredibly difficult to know whether, on an average rainy Tuesday, whether you’re hitting 100MB of usage or 500MB.
Oh it’ll be nice to get a text message notification. But really, is this the peak of the technological innovation of our mobile operators? A text message when you’ve got to 450MB? Puhhh-leeeeze.
The big risk is with these pricing strategies is that consumers literally switch off.
Back in 2006, the biggest issue for developers wasn’t discovery. No. It was data usage. Most consumers had experimented with data in some form or another (e.g. downloading a ringtone or a screensaver) and had got bill shock. I remember asking people why they had a 5 megapixel camera and never uploaded them or used any applications. The overwhelming answer was because they didn’t know how much it would cost. So they simply didn’t bother. They got on with their lives and used bluetooth to send the photos to their PC. Or didn’t bother taking the photos off their phones.
We’ve only just got over that. I hope we’re not set to go that way again.