Nielsen has analyzed data usage by smartphone customers
and found that the average smartphone user now consumes 298 megabytes of data a month -- up sharply from the 90 megabytes a month consumers on average burned through during the early part of 2009. The company also unsurprisingly found that the heaviest users consume the most bandwidth -- with nearly 6% of users consuming half of all data used. At the same time, nearly a quarter of smartphone users consume less than 1 MB
a month. Based on this data, Nielsen concludes that AT&T pricing is somehow "more fair," though they fail to say why:
Usage-based pricing may be more fair. The top 6 percent of smart phone users are consuming half of all data. The vast majority of customers, 99 percent according to the 60,000 phone bills that Nielsen collects and analyzes every month as part of their Customer Value Metrics product, are better off with a pricing scheme like AT&T’s new data pricing model than under flat-rate pricing where they are paying for much more than they ever use.
While many people are applauding AT&T's new data pricing plans as money savers for light users today
-- they're not looking at tomorrow's
big picture. One, Nielsen ignores the fact that carriers are now making data plans mandatory for smartphone users who previously only used Wi-Fi. That's not "more fair," nor does it save money. Nielsen takes the stance that light users somehow need to be "educated" into consuming more data -- yet many of those users simply prefer to use their device's Wi-Fi functionality alone. That's no longer possible.
Two, the average
user already consumes 298MB of data -- while AT&T's base cap is 200 MB. That cap's set just low enough to push today's average user to the higher, $25 a month tier (plus overages, ETFs, plus $20 for tethering, plus an endless assortment of fees). That average is going to quickly skyrocket and the heavy user of today will become the average user of tomorrow -- yet instead of having the option of a simple, unlimited data tier at a fair price -- they'll face heavy and often confusing overages just as smartphones begin seeing interesting video service integration (Netflix, Hulu). That's not about saving money, it's about making money.
Again, incumbent wireless companies are not in the business of making less money, and this new media meme that a shift to low caps and high overages is about saving consumers money, or fairness, or helping minorities
-- is simply absurd. If telecom analysts want to analyze -- they should be noting that carriers and investors see the death of SMS and voice minutes heading their direction -- and are changing pricing models to compensate and cash in on an explosion in wireless video (or streaming wireless audio) use. But the suggestion that this shift is driven by altruism is bizarre and disingenuous.