Tuesday, July 06, 2010

As True As Ever: Today's Abuser is Tomorrow's Average User

AT&T surfs the Data Tsunami

One of the nicest things about AT&T's replan of their mobile data rates is that it has brought a lot of new clarity to the discussion about mobile broadband consumption.  So far, based on the all the online dialogue I have been reading, two key things have been uncovered:

  • The lowest consumption tier is too low for most people, pushing them into the higher rate category or leaving them with significant overages
  • The highest rate category is fine for almost everyone and for those on the $30 unlimited plan, switching will save $5/month
But, based on the latest report from Nielsen, that may not always be true.  According to a new report from Nielsen (link) the top 1% of smartphone users are consuming about 1,800 MB per month today, just under AT&T's bandwidth cap.

More importantly (see chart below), those same users are consuming twice what they did a year ago.  In fact, at just about every level of consumption, the difference between 2009 and 2010 is about 100%.   A year from now, users in the top 5% of so will be bumping up against their bandwidth caps and another year on as many 20% of all users will be bumping up against those caps.

Source: NielsenWire

It's likely that AT&T will have to adjust these caps going forward.  The deployment of LTE in the next two years makes this feasible, but even without that, competition will demand it.  With T-Mobile and Sprint both offering unlimited consumption on their 3.5G and 4G networks, it will be hard for AT&T and Verizon to avoid that competitive position.

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