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Posts Tagged ‘Telecommunications’

We have not posted on bandwidth hogs in a long time, but this month has seen some interesting developments in how network providers price their services and manage their traffic. One comes from Verizon Wireless, which finally got the iPhone and now threatens to throttle heavy users (Verizon Wireless to Throttle Data Speeds for Mobile Bandwidth Hogs, Feb 3, PC Magazine).

Customers who use “an extraordinary amount of data” and fall within the top 5 percent of Verizon data users might be subject to reduced data throughput speeds. The throttling will occur periodically during the current and next billing cycle at peak times and in locations with high demand, Verizon said in a statement.

First, I don’t know who coined the term “throttling” for giving crappy service to a handful of customers (I first heard it in reference to Netflix slowing down how fast heavy users got new DVDs) but he or she is to be congratulated. It’s a great expression. Now one might wonder why Verizon would want to mistreat some of its customers. As they see it, their intentions are pure and for the collective good.

“Our proactive management of the Verizon Wireless network is designed to ensure that the remaining 95 percent of data customers aren’t negatively affected by the inordinate data consumption of just a few users,” Verizon said.

The second development comes from north of the border. A regulatory change in Canada has effectively killed unlimited Internet plans. (more…)

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Lot’s of things happening this week related to queue management. You don’t get to say that too often! They range from priorities at the patent office to Chuck Schumer having a wacky proposal for call centers to, of course, AT&T monkeying with its data plans pricing.

Let’s start with the last one. Beginning Monday, AT&T will no longer treat data plans as an all you can eat buffet.  Instead, they will sell tiered plans that limit how much bandwidth customers can use before incurring additional charges. Or as the Chicago Tribune so eloquently put it, There’s a Cap for That (June 2). Here is what the Trib says AT&T hopes to accomplish.

AT&T hopes to ease congestion on its network, which has drawn complaints, particularly in big cities. But the approach could confuse customers unfamiliar with how much data it takes to watch a YouTube video or fire up a favorite app.

To put this in perspective, consider this stylin’ diagram from the Globe and Mail (The wireless data crunch, Jun 2):

Smart phone and tablet computers induce people to use data-intensive services. But most of those uses can fit under AT&T’s data caps. Their plans are for 200MB and 2 gigabytes. So those who are fairly average users may well be able to get by with the lower cap and actually spend less money with AT&T than they do now. Of course, not everyone is average. The Globe and Mail also has a posting on the biggest data users with Canada’s Wind Mobile (You think you use a lot of smart phone data? Jun 3).  Wind Mobile was the first provider with unlimited data access in the Canadian market.  Here are the top ten:

  1. 118.56
  2. 95.12
  3. 55.32
  4. 51.70
  5. 44.51
  6. 39.21
  7. 33.72
  8. 33.59
  9. 28.94
  10. 26.85

Those numbers are in gigabytes — GIGABYTES!! — per month.  How do you get north of 100 gigabytes? (more…)

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I am the first to admit that it is hard to feel sorry for cellphone companies. However, I must admit there is an industry trend that is really going against them and creating a real operational challenge. Specifically, smart phones are where the action is at in the mobile telecom industry and that is dramatically changing the nature of tech support firms must provide (Smart phones raise stakes for telcos, May 19, Globe and Mail).

Welcome to customer service in the smart-phone era. As cellphones become as complicated as computers, answering customer complaints is no longer a matter of simply reminding customers which buttons to push. It’s become a full-scale – and expensive – technology consultation, in which customer service agents like Mr. Singh are called upon to diagnose software and hardware glitches that can take hours to untangle.

An average service call costs a wireless company $5 to $12 to handle, while the fee for a complicated, lengthy call can soar to $30 or more. Yet Canada’s biggest wireless companies have no choice but to improve their customer service or risk losing customers to new wireless entrants.

“Smart phones are driving more calls per client and longer calls per client. And I’d say that’s a general industry challenge,” says Cameron McCuaig, who has been vice-president of client care at Bell Mobility for seven years. “In essence, we’re in the computer business now with all the functionality that you get in a smart phone.”

To put these numbers in perspective, my cellphone provider charges about $30 per month for data access.  This says that one or two calls about getting to my email or getting some app to work and they are taking a loss on my data plan.

Oddly tempting, I know.

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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