I was contacted yesterday by a member of the press who amongst other things asked me what I thought were the key factors that were still holding back mass market adoption of mobile data services despite the increasing media enthusiasm for this activity. With a company that has been offering a mobile internet service since 2006 I have encountered a lot of problems, but the 2 that are highest on my list are incorrect settings/provisioning of handsets and the lack of financial safeguards offered by operators to those who dare to use mobile data services.
I thought it might be helpful to outline these issues with some examples, so here are some typical findings:
Operators aren’t doing enough to make the simple things work:
On 23 December 2010, “3 Ireland” (H3G Ireland) had the good idea to send me a “Christmas” MMS – presumably to show their appreciation for my custom:
Unfortunately it wouldn’t open.
To the normal mobile user this abysmal user experience discourages any further interest and use of MMS. This also has a knock on effect in customer expectation of other multimedia services (eg. Mobile Video Calling)
Operator pricing models that penalise customers
PRE- and POST- PAY Data Rates:
360 Data Rates:
So let’s us just suppose a customer engages in the quite typical activity of finding a video clip that they want to download, clicking a link and accepting to download it. The phone will then start the process of downloading the file in the background.
Unfortunately, and customer has accepted the download of a file that is “3GB” in size.
The costs faced by the Vodafone Ireland subscriber are going to be as follows:
For a Pay Monthly customer:
They’ll pay for the day they use the service + 3022 MB extra (3GB – 50MB) (at €1 per MB)
€0.99c + €3022 = €3,022.99
For a Pay Monthly Customer who decides to buy the “Mobile Internet add on – 1Gb per month for just €9.99”:
They’ll pay for the internet add on + an extra 2GB (at €5 per MB)
€9.99 + €10240 = €10,249.99
For a Prepay (pay as you go) customer:
They’ll pay a daily use rate of 99c (for first 50MB) + an extra 3022 MB (at €20 per MB)
€0.99 + €60440 = €60,440.99
For a “Vodafone 360” customer (with a tailor-made or compatible handset)
~40c for the day (covers first 100MB) + an extra 2972 MB (eg. 3GB less 100MB) (at €1 per MB)
€0.40 + €2972 = €2,972.40
Finding these a little bit on the ridiculous side and with the confusing interchanging use of GB and MB (1 GigaByte = 1024 MegaBytes) I called their sales line to check that these calculations are correct (which I recorded with permission) and I also confirmed another ridiculous oversight: Except for the PrePay customers (who will just use up the balance of their remaining credit) there are no credit limits in place for data downloads. So in effect a customer would be allowed to download 3 of these videos and the first thing they’ll know about it is when when they get the bill.