The new 4G/LTE iPad has only been on the street for a week, and already there are complaints and horror stories of voraciously burning through data plan bandwidth caps. People who are used to 3G speeds are shocked when the 4G/LTE iPad eats the data allotment in a fraction of the time.
Over the course of the week, I have only used up about 200MB of my 2GB bandwidth allotment. But, most of the time my iPad is connected to my Wi-Fi network, and I’m not downloading Infinity Blade II or watching Netflix movies over my 4G connection. If I were to travel with my iPad, though, and have to rely on the 4G data plan, I’d expect it to be able to use my iPad just as I always do without having to micromanage how many kilobytes of data I’m using.
The reason people buy any 4G/LTE device is because they want to be able to surf faster, and stream content more smoothly while on the go. Telling people to restrict what they do on the iPad in order to limit data consumption is silly—like suggesting that users turn off Location Services on the iPhone 4S in order to conserve battery life.
The solution for the issue can’t be to reduce the value and functionality of the device in order to accommodate its weaknesses. When it comes to blazing data consumption on 4G devices, wireless providers need to be more creative with the data plans or 4G/LTE will just die.
So, here are some ideas:
1. Bang for Buck
I realize that AT&T and Verizon want to squeeze every penny they can from customers, but the current situation can’t continue. Once upon a time, mobile voice minutes were nickel and dimed, and massive overages were common. But, eventually there was enough user backlash, and a competitor willing to make the first move, and the industry as a whole was forced to come up with voice plans that people can actually afford to use.
2. Cheaper Overage
If the data plans are going to remain what they are, the providers could at least make the overages more tolerable. Instead of $10 per GB for an overage, make it $5 for the first 1GB to give people who go over just a little bit a break. Beyond the first 1GB, it seems reasonable to charge more for the overage because the customer should be aware, and should just choose a higher bandwidth data plan.
3. Pool the Megabytes
The wireless providers all have family plans for voice minutes. I don’t have five separate allotments of minutes for the various smartphones in my household. I have one pool of minutes we all share. One person might use 300 minutes, and another might use 30, but it all works out.
Right now, I have five separate data plans. Each smartphone is costing me an additional $30 or so, and most of the devices are not coming anywhere near using up the allotted data. Instead of $150 for five 2GB plans, I’d gladly pay $100 for a pooled 10GB plan we all share.
4. Rollover the Megabytes
AT&T has an innovative approach to voice minutes with its rollover plans. If you have 1000 minutes but you only use 600 in a given month, the remaining 400 rollover to the next month so you now have 1400 minutes to work with.
So, where’s the rollover megabytes (I suggested it in this article a year ago)? Why not do the same thing for data? If I buy a 3GB data plan but only use 2GB, roll that remaining 1GB I already paid for over to the next month so I have 4GB in my data pool.
5. Bundle the Megabytes
Both AT&T and Verizon also provide home TV, phone, and Internet services. If someone is a customer of AT&T or Verizon for both home Internet, and mobile data, they could take the pooled megabytes concept to the next level by bundling the home and mobile together. Sell the two services combined as a bundled package with a data allotment to be shared between home and mobile so customers don’t have to pay for separate data plans all over the place, and can manage their data consumption more efficiently.
These are just some ideas. But, they’re ideas that AT&T, Verizon, Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and others better be paying attention to. They can’t expect to continue marketing and selling 4G products and services if customers get burned by buying them.