Mobile
Commentary
2/11/2010
12:05 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
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Lower Voice Rates Doesn't Mean Lower Bills

Most if not all of the US carriers have recently reduced their voice plans which may give the impression that monthly phone bills should be going down. For many though, the reverse may be true. Oddly enough, for those with feature phones, the monthly data rate may be on the increase. Of course, for those with smartphones, the threat of higher bills for higher data usage always looms.

Most if not all of the US carriers have recently reduced their voice plans which may give the impression that monthly phone bills should be going down. For many though, the reverse may be true. Oddly enough, for those with feature phones, the monthly data rate may be on the increase. Of course, for those with smartphones, the threat of higher bills for higher data usage always looms.CNNMoney.com has an article on how the rates will affect users. It notes that Verizon is requiring non-smartphone subscribers pay $10 per month for data plans to access certain features. That may be for either very specific phones or only applies to new customers. I've got two feature phones on our account and both have only the $9.99 charge for an extra phone on the family plan. I've received no notification that data is required, even though both phones are capable of email, web browsing, Facebook and other online access.

The carriers have been requiring data services for most smartphones for quite some time. I agree that most people with smartphone would want or need data services, but not all of them. An acquaintance of mine recently asked for opinions on a phone for a relative and the ideal choice were any number of smartphones, but the extra cost for data was out of the question. The user just needed to sync data once in a blue moon so things like contacts were backed up. This could easily be done with a free WiFi connection.

Now it seems the carriers are forcing the issue with potentially any data capable phone. The article quotes Brenda Raney, a Verizon spokesman. "Many customers didn't understand they could use the Web on their phones. We hope that people who were reluctant to use data plans because they didn't know it was affordable will use them now."

"We hope?" Sounds like "we mandate." If a user wants to buy a high end device and not use all of the functionality, that is their business. If I buy a Porsche and want to drive it 50mph everywhere I go, that is my business. I don't have to by expensive Z rated tires and take a course in advanced driving. Why can I not buy a high end phone, smart or not, and walk away from the data plan?

It is because, as the article notes, that money isn't in voice anymore, and the more people the carriers can hook on constant online access, the more likely they are to want even more, including more expensive devices. I agree with that line of thinking, but shouldn't the carriers do a better job of advertising and educating the users rather than mandating it? If they truly wanted to get their users to enjoy their devices, give them a month or two of free data usage, maybe with monthly caps to limit abuse. Those that fall in love with the service will gladly give up $10 or more to continue with the plan. As it stands now, people that don't want it will be forced into increasingly less powerful phones.

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