We have written in the past about AT&T’s travails with bandwith hogging iPhone users. Now it appears that they may be serious about reigning in those heavy users (AT&T moves closer to usage-based fees for data, Computerworld,Dec 9):
Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, today came the closest he has so far in warning about some kind of use-based pricing. He spoke to attendees at a UBS conference in New York. “The first thing we need to do is educate customers about what represents a megabyte of data and…we’re improving systems to give them real-time information about their data usage,” he said. “Longer term, there’s got to be some sort of pricing scheme that addresses the [heavy] users.” AT&T has found that only 3% of its smartphone users — primarily iPhone owners — are responsible for 40% of total data usage, largely for video and audio, de la Vega said. Educating that group about how much they are using could change that, as AT&T has found by informing wired Internet customers of such patterns.
That is, much like Ryanair, they are hoping to alter consumer behavior that is costly to the firm. Instead of charging fees (at least initially) they are hoping that providing information alone is enough to alter behavior. I remain dubious.
As Mr. de la Vega notes, their heavy users are the ones listening to Pandora and watching YouTube all the time. Given how everyone complains about AT&T’s network performance they can only be running up these data amounts at off hours. Stated another way, it is unclear to me that browbeating college students listening to online music at midnight is going to make the network better when grown ups are trying to use it in the morning.
I am not the only one unconvinced by this proposal (from AT&T to iPhone users: Cut back on data!, Marketplace, Dec 10):
Broadband consultant Scott Cleland says carriers are going to have to start charging because the problem is only going to get bigger.
SCOTT CLELAND: This is going to be a constant dilemma. The more customers you have, the more usage they want to use, puts more stress on a network.
But iPhone blog’s Rene Ritchie says even that probably won’t solve AT&T’s problem. iPhones make up about a third of the smartphones market and even if customers cut back, it won’t be enough. AT&T will probably have to give up its exclusive hold on the iPhone.
RITCHIE: To have that many phones on one network, unless that network spends billion and billions of dollars, it’s going to be problem.