Will Unlimited Data Plan Stage a Comeback?

by Harry Wang | Aug. 23, 2012

Written by Harry Wang, Director, Health & Mobile Product Research

Okay, this question is already somehow answered. Yesterday, T-Mobile USA unveiled its own “truly-unlimited” 4G data plan—no throttling, no cap, and no hidden fee (like Sprint’s).  This move puts the nation’s two largest operators—Verizon Wireless and AT&T—under the spotlight considering that the two market leaders both scrapped unlimited data plans more than a year ago, and are promoting and implementing new “shared data plans” aggressively.

T-Mobile and Sprint’s unlimited data plan offerings might be a desperate move to defend their market position and slow down subscriber defections. On the other hand, we might say that these two operators listen to consumers attentively and their unlimited data plans are their calculated maneuvers to attract those unhappy with Verizon or AT&T’s new offerings.

Why so? Because our surveys--not one, but a series of consumer surveys over the last 12 months—show loud and clear that consumers want the unlimited data plan back. What about the new shared data plan? Although people appreciate benefits such as simplified mobile data plan and more usage flexibility across different devices, a slight majority don’t like this form of data plan tested in our most recent mobile survey. Top reason is perceived cost burden. And among those who don’t like it, there is an age divide on reasons—people under 44 believe it is too expensive, people 45 and older don’t see the need to share data plan across multiple devices.

AT&T officially launched its new shared data plans today (8/23). But the operator is shrewd to let users to stay on their current plan (even the grandfathered unlimited plan), if they don’t like the new offerings. Verizon is close to having a full quarter impact of its new “Shared Everything” plans. Will it dial back its aggressive marketing given its competitors’ moves? By early 4th quarter, or after holiday shopping season at the latest, we will find the answer.

My colleague Jennifer Kent will host a webcast on Thursday, August 30 to discuss mobile carriers’ 4G/LTE strategies. Interested parties can register at  http://www.parksassociates.com/webcasts/webcast-aug2012-4g .

Tags: mobile, webcast

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