Mobile Broadband: It's Still Gonna Cost You

As the PC and communications industries converge, among the biggest impediments to true interactive mobile computing are the carriers’ business models. The current prices and plans for mobile broadband access are expensive and inflexible. If the technology and communications industries want consumers to buy (and use the web via) laptops, mobile Internet devices and/or some type of smartphone, they need to offer a price plan for data that doesn’t involve paying $45-$60 a month for 5GB a month on each gadget.

Using a USB modem is one way to share a data plan between computers, but then you’re still paying for access on a smartphone. But business models look to be changing. Sprint yesterday added a 3G laptop data connection to its Simply Everything plan, which means a user will pay $149.99 per month for data on their handset and on their laptop. Mblox, which processes mobile transactions, is trialing a service in the UK with four content providers to price the cost of the broadband into a download, much like Amazon does with its Kindle product.

And perhaps less exciting is how, as Om pointed out, carriers are attempting to sell your data as an ever-more invasive way to finance the strain all this mobile computing creates on their networks. When it came to the wired web, carriers offered unlimited plans and cheaper access to jump-start demand for broadband over dial-up. As people take them up on that offer of truly unlimited broadband, we’re seeing the carriers pull back with tiered plans and broadband caps. With the mobile web, carriers are weighing as many alternatives as they can before accepting dump pipe status again.

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