Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pay as you go data charges. Grr, grr and double grrrr

I've just been digging around to see what the state of play is around Pay as you Go data charges in the UK having downloaded a half a meg *free* video file. So, what did I discover...
  • Vodafone £7.50 per megabyte. Yes, that's right, a whopping £7.50 per megabyte. Mr Vodafone, justify yourself!
  • O2 is typically £3 per megabyte or you can have a bolt-on of £5 a month which gives you 4mb browsing and downloading. So that's like err 4 videos then, if you're lucky.
  • Orange on their pay as you consumer rate is £4 per mb or £1 a day browsing or £4 a month for 4mb.
  • T-Mobile - I couldn't really get a straight answer from their website. They have varying packages from £1 a day to £22.50 pcm but I'm not sure what they do or don't cover and I didn't have the time or inclination to really delve.
  • Tesco Mobile - £4 a megabyte.
  • Even three doesn't escape scot free with a charge of 50p for 60 minutes and up to 2 mb of data (which is around 200 pages of *mobile* websites or £1 for 24 hours and up to 4 megabytes of data). So that means, you click on a link quickly and you've just spent 50p. At least it's capped at a £1. It's not clear however what happens after you've reached your 4mb limit.

So what conclusions do I draw?

1. Data charges are unacceptably high and unacceptably complicated to understand. How are you supposed to know how much data you're using anyway? Grrr.

2. It was really really really hard to find out what the data charges were. They weren't promoted, they weren't explained and they were too expensive. There are even some networks who are still selling wap minutes. What good is 30 wap minutes pray tell? And what is it anyway - pretty meaningless to most normobs (normal mobile customers) I imagine. Grrr.

3. I know lots of mobile industry folk, including network operators, who are pushing for a mobile internet. And amazingly enough, despite these ridiculously high charges, still 30% or so of the UK are browsing and downloading from wapsites in the UK. But I wonder how different the scene would be and how much more vibrant if we weren't penalised so greatly for doing so. We have a burgeoning wap advertising industry and a successful mobile content industry. How much more successful could they be if the operators and the way they charged were more customer friendly? And I wonder how much more that would affect the operators' bottom line in a positive way in terms of greater ARPU and more subscriptions? Anyone want to hazard a guess?

I'm still hopeful we'll see a change this year and for me, it hinges on engaging PAYG customers into using and enjoying wapsites and mobile internet services.