Mobile Data Sharing Plans are Gaining Popularity, but They Come at a Higher Cost

Oyster Bay, New York - 11 Sep 2014

The aggressive deployment of LTE networks has encouraged higher data consumption, providing an opportunity for mobile operators to focus on introducing mobile plans with a higher data quota. According to ABI Research’s Mobile Data Price Tracker Market Data, countries that have a monthly data quota in the range of 8 to 10 GB have increased from 21% in 1Q 2014 to 83% of the total in 2Q 2014.

Facing a downward trend in ARPU, mobile operators are in search of solutions to boost their income. The introduction of multi-tier, multi-device shared plans allow mobile operators to target different customer segments more effectively, and in some cases, increase the price. “This shift in monthly data quota provides an opportunity for mobile operators to actually revise their pricing strategy,” commented Lian Jye Su, research associate at ABI Research. This is reflected in an average increase of 11.31% in the monthly tariff in the top 20 markets. In Canada, all three major mobile operators increased their price by US$4.50, despite offering an identical data quota (limit) before the price hike.

On the other hand, all-you-can-eat data plans are slowly disappearing, dropping from 50% in 1Q 2014 to 27.6% in 2Q 2014. Instead of unlimited data plans, major mobile operators in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, and Australia are offering multi-device data sharing plans. For example, U.S. Cellular focuses its pricing strategy solely around data sharing plans and has increased its prices significantly.

“A shift toward shared data plans signals the mobile operator’s strategy to tap into family-centric consumption,” stated Jake Saunders, VP and practice director for forecasting. “Personal mobile plans have reached market saturation and mobile operators are keen to search for other growth segments in the market.” Apart from family-centric consumption, mobile operators are introducing new “customizable” personal plans. In Singapore, SingTel launched Asia’s first customizable post-paid mobile service that allows complete customization of voice, messaging, and data services. On the other hand, Virgin Mobile introduced a customizable prepaid plan with Walmart in the United States.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Deployments, CAPEX and Traffic Market Research.

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