The Disparity between Smartphones And Mobile Carriers

There’s a massive disparity between data sucking smartphones and data plans offered by carriers. Customers know this, and the carriers are fully cognizant of it. The problem is they make a ton of money from you already, and since you probably don’t have a lot of choice as far as competition is concerned, they can charge whatever they see fit.

In Canada and the US, I have seen numerous carriers adjust their data plans and pricing — typically for the better. As mobile device devices become ubiquitous with super fast HSPA+ and LTE connectivity — and as carriers commensurately upgrade their networks — carriers are slowly forced to offer better plans to their customers. Using myself as a prime example, just a few years ago I was paying — on average — what I am now, for less than half of the data that I currently am allotted.

Regrettably, the rate at which carriers all across North America have been adjusting their data plans does not keep pace with the ever changing landscape of mobile technology. Carriers are not stupid, they clearly see the benefits of the latest mobile technologies being offered to consumers, and consequently they upgrade their networks to support these new wireless technologies at a regular pace. Overall all, carriers across North America have been pretty good about rolling out HSPA+ and LTE, and coverage is getting better as the months roll by. With the benefits of ultra fast wireless technology like LTE, carriers are well aware their customers are going to naturally consume far more bits and bytes than what they could before on 3G. This is not to say it isn’t possible to stream video or audio or upload content via 3G today, however people will consume more data on LTE because it’s just so easy to do so.

You can quite easily compare what’s happening now in the mobile space with the transition from dial-up to broadband Internet over 10 years ago. I remember when we first got broadband, and our monthly data consumption more than doubled. Once again, I could do all of the same browsing and downloading I could over dial-up, but because broadband was that much faster, it was far easier and less painful for me to consume copious amounts of data. This is what’s happening today on LTE networks, and perhaps to a lesser degree on HSPA+.

The larger, and perhaps more onerous question is this: when will carriers come around and open up their data caps to a reasonable degree? I’m not one to argue that carriers need offer truly unlimited data plans, however, I posit that if they were to offer dramatically higher monthly caps, they might be able to attract new customers — not to mention keep existing ones happier, all whilst charging them a more reasonable rate. The problem now is that users are increasingly holding back from paying more, only because current data-to-price ratios are draconian. If carriers can get the data-to-price ratios just right, customers will be happier and more inclined to renew long term contracts.