NEW YORK Aug 23 The mobile telecoms industry is
leaning towards ending flat-rate data plans, which have fuelled
an explosion in network traffic while bringing in little extra
revenue, according to a survey published on Monday.
The poll of 391 international mobile executives found that
55 percent agreed tiered pricing was the way forward in mature
markets, with 47 percent saying that "all-you-can-eat" data
plans were damaging their ability to increase revenue.
Almost half -- 48 percent -- predicted mobile operators
would focus on developing new pricing models over the next three
years, in the survey carried out by international law firm
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
"Mobile providers are remodelling their pricing strategies
to sweat their assets whilst tentatively looking at new product
offerings," Natasha Good, co-head of the law firm's mobile
group, said in the report.
"Usage-based pricing is a logical solution. It will ease
current capacity issues by capping demand, contain capital
expenditure requirements and potentially increase revenue."
Mobile carriers introduced flat-rate data plans to encourage
consumers to try third-generation (3G) services like mobile
email and Web surfing, after spending billions of dollars on
building 3G networks and buying licences in the early 2000s.
But the unexpected success of the Apple (AAPL.O) iPhone and
other smartphones in stimulating demand is leading to
overcrowded networks, at a time when operators are cutting back
on capital expenditure rather than expanding network capacity.
In mature markets, carriers led by AT&T (T.N) have begun
eliminating unlimited data plans. [ID:nN02173229]
In developing markets, however, 78 percent of mobile
operators surveyed agreed that basic voice and data plans were
more commercially viable than tiered pricing based on usage.
Freshfields' Good warned that consumers might not easily
accept changes to their data tariffs.
"Questions remain over whether consumers will be easily
weaned off flat-rate data tariffs and how long mobile operators
can stave off the need for investment in new technologies and
infrastructure to maintain quality levels," she said.
A survey carried out last month by GfK NOP in association
with Reuters in Britain found that users of smartphones cared
more about their mobile data allowance than they did about their
choice of operator or even handset brand. [ID:nLDE66T14F]
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Cowell)