The 4G Dichotomy
In fact, with video, MP3s and many phones constantly updating social media like Facebook and Twitter in the background, it's getting easier for users who live on the edge of their cap to tip over without noticing.
I do wonder how carriers are going to deal with the tension between pushing the latest and greatest video content for smartphones and users getting irritated with overage charges on their bills.
Part of it will involve better alerts about data charges from carriers and more user awareness of times when it might be better to switch to Wi-Fi to watch that YouTube clip.
Of course, unless you live in a major city, it's not always easy to find a Wi-Fi connection. In fact, if U.S. operators do end up pushing out LTE to more rural areas then some might be tempted to use it as a cable or DSL alternative anyway.
Clearly, we not going back to unlimited data plans in the U.S. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is the last major nationwide hold-out with unlimited data for smartphones, but even Hesse and co. have started to cap data for other mobile devices.
So, is there an answer? I would think that making it cheaper to buy extra data before you go over the limit might be popular with subscribers but probably not carrier shareholders.
Lifestyle plans that charge an extra $10 a month for heavy gaming or Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) use might also work. I don't yet see a huge amount of pressure from users to get carriers to rethink data plans yet, though.
This is probably because the majority of users stay within their 2GB monthly cap, at least according to the carriers. Yet it is in the interest of operators to keep driving up data revenue per user (ARPU), and faster phones and tablets make that easier.
So there must be a crunch point for many in the next couple of years. When exactly that will be and what it means for data pricing in the U.S. are the big questions that have yet to be tackled fully.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile