Creative, Confounding Wireless Bills

7:30 AM -- DUBLIN -- Management World -- Flat–rate, unlimited data plans will soon find a place in the museum of wireless history, which is why one question that keeps popping up here in Dublin is, what will my wireless bill look like in a year's time?

The only definitive answer I've had is 32 pages long.

A lot of pricing vendors and their operator customers are exploring new modes of so-called creative pricing to make tiers and data caps more palatable. Volubill is one such company. It's working with operators across the globe that are either deploying or trialing new pricing schemes with customers. Volubill CEO John Aalbers said there is a common core of 10 to 12 pricing scenarios operators are using, along with a number of off-the-wall experiments such as family pricing plans where children are rewarded with data for every minute the spend talking on the phone to their parents. (See EuroProfile: Volubill.)

All this creativity is great for the cost savings it could bring, but it's made me wonder what a beast that bill could be to decipher every month. Now, as someone who once paid for HBO for a full year without realizing it was on my bill each time, analyzing statements isn't my strong suit, but what kind of user would have the tolerance for a statement that has dozens of line items like this:

Monthly data charge, $50, for 5GB of data…
  • plus, used 1MB "toll-free" at the Woodfield Shopping Mall
  • plus $5 for a turbocharge to download on a video
  • less Facebook use not counted against the cap, but plus Twitter Inc. usage at 1GB of the data plan
  • less a happy-hour bonus for unlimited data consumed from 10 to 11 p.m. on weeknights
  • plus $5 for prioritized quality of service for a multi-player game
  • plus $20 for the 2GB of overage from streaming video for 30 minutes
  • plus streamed an hour of music on Pandora Media Inc. at 1.76GB
  • less $3 because the carrier has a deal with Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) to subsidize usage

The bargain shoppers among us might like the challenge of seeing how low we can get our bill through incentives, promos and creative pricing each month, but I think most people will value simplicity, transparency and cost savings above all else.

And, hey, at least it's better than talking megabytes to consumers, but I have to say, thinking about all these scenarios makes me miss those good ol' days of just using however much data I wanted whenever I wanted to.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:32:07 PM
re: Creative, Confounding Wireless Bills

Sarah -- You know that I'm one of the last people who will abandon the comforts of the 20th century. But we're obviously moving toward a time when we (as in consumers) won't have to think much or at all about our spending. Our smartphones will not only handle all commercial activities but also serve as our financial directors, letting us know what we have left to spend, and the most efficient way to spend it. The current issue of The Economist does a good job of laying out this brain-free future.

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