One of the things that surfaced in our new report: The Changing Mobile Consumer: Trends and Evolution is how consumers perceive (or don’t) evolving mobile data pricing plans. As smartphones continue to become the norm, mobile data plans are going to become more and more of a factor for consumers and their purchase decisions. And for wireless carriers, data plan packages and pricing may be a key differentiator for winning new subscribers and keeping current subscribers from churning.
Some of our recent research shows that 38% of all US adults are willing to switch carriers if one offered an unlimited mobile data plan while another one did not. Guess which carrier was the first to put the nails in the coffin of unlimited mobile data plans this summer? AT&T Wireless. As AT&T’s fears of losing customers when Verizon Wireless (VZW) begins selling the iPhone become a reality, they may need to reconsider making their mobile data plan pricing options more compelling than what Verizon Wireless offers.
Another possible consequence if VZW does indeed start selling the iPhone is that there will be a bump in existing VZW customers switching current mobile data plans to get the new device as well as non-smartphone VZW customers finally taking the plunge into the mobile Internet. We know many mainstream consumers are considering upgrading for the first time, and that VZW is the largest wireless carrier in the US (99.1M customers).
With this influx of new mobile data customers (both upgrades and switchers), VZW’s mobile data network may experience increased strain. Its reputation of having a “better” network experience than AT&T Wireless (one carefully cultivated over the last few years as AT&T wrestled with massive iPhone traffic while VZW did not) may be put to the test. Moving forward, the race to roll out ubiquitous 4G coverage and simplification of mobile data pricing may become increasingly important differentiators in the battle for mobile subscribers.
Chris Neal leads CMB’s Tech & Telecom Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.
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