Once All Data Plans Are Capped, Where Will You Turn?


Mobile device users want unlimited access to data, but most are unwilling to pay a premium according to a survey of professionals and students. The full survey results are expected tomorrow, when Devicescape, a provider of Wi-Fi software solutions, publishes its quarterly Wi-Fi report. Respondents to the survey are adamant about their data needs, with 61.2 percent indicating they wouldn’t pay for an unlimited data plan. If plans are capped, loyalty to a provider plummets, as 77.9 percent of those polled would consider switching mobile operators.

A few other key highlights from the survey, which showcase usage activities and needs for data networks:

  • A little more than 86 percent of respondents want to share user-created content — such as photos and videos –within one week, and 55.9 percent wish to share such media immediately after creation. Thank the improved camera sensors and software in mobile phones, plus the rise of social networks for this use case.
  • On a related note, Wi-Fi integration is becoming an increasingly important factor when deciding which digital camera to buy: 57.5 percent of the survey participants say this is driving their decision-making. Cameras that don’t include Wi-Fi for photo transfers can use a solution like the Eye-Fi storage card; Eye-Fi expanded hotpsot access with a Devicescape partnership earlier this year.
  • Laptops and cell phones are the obvious leaders when it comes to devices that consumers expect to offer connectivity, but web-enabled gaming devices are gaining favor; 43.2 percent of those surveyed want such functionality.
  • Traveling consumers don’t want to leave their connectivity behind, and 88.2 percent of those surveyed expect hotels to offer Wi-Fi access, although it isn’t clear if expectation is for free wireless service.

Although Devicescape only surveyed 160 people, I suspect many consumers crave unlimited data plans because of the growth of media sharing, digital content creation and social networking, just to name a few activities. Although cell phone overage penalties can be as scary as unexpected hospital bills, few folks are willing to pay a premium for unfettered mobile broadband; the survey shows that only 38.8 percent will do so. But many expect unlimited data plans to be cheaper than current offers. Sixty percent would pay less than $25 a month for unlimited plans, while 33.1 percent are willing to pay up to $50.

Unfortunately, most carriers are headed in the complete opposite direction with tiered data plans being just one way to combat the growing demand for wireless data. AT&T reduced plan sizes and costs back in June, and Verizon is poised to follow shortly, for example. If all carriers eliminate unlimited data plans, it would present an interesting situation because customers who say they’d switch providers to avoid such data caps would have no place to defect to. With all of those photos, emails, tweets and videos people enjoy sharing or watching, I doubt consumers would turn their backs on the wireless web.

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