Unlimited data is both a blessing and a curse to mobile operators. The billions they spent on their networks, including the money they dished out to governments for 3G spectrum licenses, was considered a waste by many since it created an excess in capacity. Then the iPhone came out and it changed everything. People actually began using their devices to look at maps, watch videos, browse the web, and all of a sudden that advanced multi billion dollar network crumbled to the ground. In order to curb growth operators began eliminating their unlimited data plans and started introducing data buckets. Some sneaky operators kept offering “unlimited data”, but with a fair use policy that meant your service would cut off after barely downloading 1 GB. One British operator, 3 UK, has recently eliminated their data bucket plan of selling mobile data and has officially said that they’re now providing “all you can eat” data. Truly unlimited. They’re the 4th largest operator in the UK, so will the others shortly follow suite? Too soon to tell.
Meanwhile, here in Finland, all data plans are unlimited and you simply pay more for speed, similar to how many of you already pay for your cable or DSL broadband access. Why hasn’t that business model trickled to other parts of the world is something I’ve been thinking about for years. Grandma doesn’t need a 21 Mbps HSPA+ pipe to download pictures of her grandchildren, while the business professional who has to deal with heavy files is willing to pay for the highest speed tier available. Verizon Wireless, who promised innovative pricing models for their new LTE network, let everyone down with their $60 for 5 GB or $80 for 10 GB options. People who got the iPad in America now no longer have an unlimited option from AT&T. Maybe one day unlimited will come back, but it’s going to be a long wait.
[More info on the 3 UK Blog]