New research from Tariff Consultancy is said to reveal that mobile operators' calling plans increase in "super size" and "unlimited" bundles of texts and minutes. Operators are trying to steer away from prepaid putting the emphasis on 30-day contracts and automatic top ups driving price competition. By comparison so far data plan bundling has been more limited and present the new battleground for mobile operators looking for growth.
In a report entitled Mobile Pricing Trends and Service Innovation published by Tariff Consultancy, the market for prepaid, postpaid and so-called hybrid contracts are evaluated from mobile operators across the globe.
The report offers detailed pricing adopted by mobile operators in both emerging and developed markets for new services such as Messaging, Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM), Mobile TV, Mobile Music, Mobile Gaming and more.
Bundling and flat rate data services are gaining ground. The trend towards inclusive and unlimited offers is becoming unstoppable. The bundles of minutes and texts are becoming larger, with Italian operator Wind offering 4,000 on-net texts a month for a Euro 2 per month fee. In the UK T-Mobile's SIM-Only Solo price plans offers up to 500 texts and 1,800 voice minutes to all networks for a 35 GBP(purchased online) per month fee.
"Mobile operators are increasingly using all inclusive flat rate deals to attract users onto a form of contract," says Margrit Sessions, Managing Director of Tariff Consultancy Ltd. "The bundling of core minutes and texts is starting to reach its limit, so providers will have to resort to other means to differentiate their service and gain new customers".
There is also evidence that mobile operators are becoming more selective in how they position their services. Operators moving towards community pricing and plans such as SingTel's RedPAC (Parent And Child) offering allows minutes to be pooled among family members.
Fixed line and mobile providers are starting to integrate their services. Starhub in Singapore offers its Cable TV gaming service over the mobile so that those users can seamlessly transfer their online gaming experience from PC to the mobile at any time.
In new markets such as CEE and Russia, 3G providers are discovering that once a flat rate tariff structure for data is adopted - even at the equivalent of USD 100 per month - there is a ready market for Mobile Broadband, among users who use VoIP and who are underserved by existing fixed networks.
Although mobile operators are increasingly promoting flat rate data services worldwide, in reality there is usually a defined data allowance which when exceeded results in a high per MB charge rate. The can mislead consumers about how much they will really be charged in practice. Given consumers uncertainty about the real cost and need of these flat rate tariff plans operators are revising their pricing strategies and are offering a cut-price daily or per hour usage rate to stimulate user adoption.
"We believe that the next stage in mobile operator evolution will be those who are able to make Mobile Broadband a convenient, available and easy-to-use service", says Margrit Sessions. "This time around mobile operators have the opportunity to provide a varied service portfolio which is geared to the user needs of individual groups, rather than provide pure price discounting".