Four ways to fix the broken U.S. cellular market

Just read a great feature in my print copy of InformationWeek that focuses on the U.S. cellular carriers. Highly recommended reading since nearly everyone is impacted by one (or more) of the carriers and it also provides a good insight to our overseas readers where the markets are much different. Based on the article, I’ve melded some of my own observations on how the market is broken. Feel free to add your own and comment….I’d especially love to hear from our readers outside of the U.S.

1. Stop removing features. I don’t know how else to say it, but just stop. If a handset OEM puts a feature in the phone, please don’t remove it unless you’re 100% that your network can’t support it. While we’re on the subject: I have no professional experience in your industry, but I’m pretty sure that Bluetooth and WiFi are pretty stable these days. Heck, they even follow established standards, so let’s not mess with them, ‘k?
1a. If your network can’t support a feature that an OEM includes, start looking into how you’re going to support it. I’m betting that the handset manufacturers have a better handle on desired handset features than the carriers. Not sure that folks want the feature in question? Just Google the feature and handset in question to read what bloggers and readers are saying before you even launch the product. You get free market research and we get the hopes of a fully-featured device.

2. Find more ways to work together. We’ve already seen a few attempts at handsets that support both CDMA and GSM, be we need more of ‘em. Verizon & Sprint: meet AT&T and T-Mobile. Good now, that we have the introductions, stop trying to squeeze every dime from your competition by network and technology differentiation. Provide top-notch service with flexibility and that can be the difference. Adding plans that allow for calls to customers on any network is a good start and I don’t expect one side or the other to tear down and rebuild the cellular infrastructure, but really: does the gap between both sides have to be bigger than the Grand Canyon?

3. We crave data more than voice, so don’t bleed us dry with exorbitant data plans and unlimited caps that aren’t unlimited. I have no issue playing more for a data service over a voice service because frankly, I use the data service more often and for longer periods. How about some creative plans that come in at a better price point, say $50 or $60 a month that split that voice/data on a sliding scale? Example: the same price gets you something like

  • Up to 200 minutes of voice and 6 GB of data a month
  • Up to 500 minutes of voice and 4 GB of data a month
  • Up to 800 minutes of voice and 2 GB of data a month
  • These aren’t three separate plans illustrated, they’re one plan…if you go over on the voice minutes, you give up some bandwidth on the data side and vice versa.

My point is: recognize you have different types of customers with vastly different (and often changing) needs. Yes, you have many voice and many data plans, but there can be a happy medium for you and for your customers; plus it doesn’t haven’t to be as complicated as the many current plans you offer. In this case, less is more.

4. Open up to services that as good as, if not better than, yours. In the monopolistic approach of offering your own services for pay on the network, customers are missing out on better services or services that they want and can’t get. Don’t block VoIP, embrace it. If we already pay for a music streaming service, let us use it on your network instead of charging us for a lower grade music service that you’ve integrated. It’s really very simple: focus on what you do best, which is providing the information turnpike that we travel on. If you run all of the rest-stops on the turnpike, you’re just running the risk of customer loss as soon as one of your competitors wakes up and ‘gets it’.

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