Mobile data plans are expensive. There doesn't seem to be any good reason for the high prices or data caps either. The mobile carriers get away with it by saying its a scarce commodity, and that narrative can continue thanks to a new study out this week.
Amdocs released its Annual State of the Radio Access Network Survey this week. The survey looked at 100,000 mobile devices across the busiest networks around the world. The big finding from the survey is that 98 percent of mobile network traffic is now being used to share and consume data. That's up from 90 percent during the last 12 month period.
Another interesting finding is that all this data consumption is leading to an increase in dropped calls. The survey found that dropped data and voice calls increased by 121 percent from the previous year with the most stressed locations having a 17 percent dropped call rate.
Despite all this talk of mobile devices consuming more data, they aren't consuming that much more high bandwidth data, like video. This particular fact is a little odd as 4G LTE gives users an experience similar to home broadband and it's certainly capable of streaming video. Of course, it would seem that mobile device owners are aware of data caps and restrict themselves to avoid overages. Speaking of which, the survey also found that 30 percent of customers are frustrated with said data caps.
With all this in mind, consumers are on the prowl for a data plan that gives them plenty of data while not breaking the bank. T-Mobile is arguably the king in this regard as the mobile carrier has been on a crusade to kill all the things consumers hate about mobile carriers. In 2013, it introduced unlimited 4G data plans. It went even further earlier this week by eliminating overage fees for those not on the carrier's unlimited data plan.
— T-Mobile (@TMobile) April 14, 2014
Sprint also offers unlimited data, but its plans are a little weirder thanks to its "Framily" plan. The plan allows friends and family members to all jump onto the same shared plan with each device getting 1GB of data per month. For those who want unlimited data, they'll have to pay an extra $20 per device. It's not the worst in the world, and the ability to add friends to your plan is a nice touch; but T-Mobile is definitely better when it comes to unlimited data.
What about the other carriers then? AT&T and Verizon have conceded little ground in the wake of T-Mobile's un-carrier approach, but the two largest mobile carriers in the country have changed their approach to mobile data just a bit nonetheless. AT&T slashed the price of its family, business and individual plans. While the 2GB data cap remains intact, consumers aren't paying nearly as much as they once were.
As for Verizon, the carrier introduced the "More Everything" plan earlier this week to help reduce consumers' monthly bill. Unfortunately, it doesn't make data cheaper, but it does reduce the monthly device cost by $10 to $30 per device per month.
As mobile devices consume more data, consumers are going to be hunting for the best deal. T-Mobile certainly has the most to gain with its consumer friendly approach to data consumption, but AT&T and Verizon can still claim to have the faster networks. As long as that remains the case, the nation's two largest carriers can continue enforcing data caps. Consumers can only hope that T-Mobile puts enough pressure on them that they drop caps sooner rather than later.
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