A Limit To Unlimited

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My mom used to tell me, ”There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It turns out that mom’s words were wiser than I gave her credit for and now seem to apply to the world of wireless. Unlimited plans, those wonderful all-you-can-eat-with-no-consequence options, seem to be coming to an end.

Users are consuming more and more data. To align with this trend, a number of carriers are shifting their billing structures and no longer offering unlimited plans. Once common place, unlimited plans are being rapidly replaced with usage based or “capped” data plans, causing consumers to come to grips with the realities of their wireless bandwidth constraints, and to manage their data usage and adjust their plans accordingly.

When Research In Motion® (RIM®) launched its first BlackBerry® device, it didn’t even have voice capability – but in the past few years BlackBerry devices, as well as other smartphones, have matured significantly and their usage has evolved. In my own case, beyond email, I post Facebook® and Twitter® updates, check-in on Foursquare regularly, share GPS tagged photos, surf various websites, check transit and flight schedules, view a number of videos, all of which might explain why, according to a Neilsen report, the average smartphone user (such as myself) is consuming 89 percent more data per month than even a year ago.

With smartphones using more bandwidth and more people moving from feature phones to smartphones, it was only a matter of time before mobile operators would have to begin charging in a more tiered manner. Some carriers have done this for years, with offerings based on functionality instead of raw volume. For example some carriers offer plans for specific BlackBerry services such as BBM™ only or offering access only to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we see student plans, senior plans, family packages, and creative bundles that combine smartphone and tablet use, becoming the norm.

However, it still remains a challenge for folks like me who want it all; to keep doing more, but paying less. Well, it turns out that unlimited plans are not the only answer – instead wireless bandwidth can be optimized by compressing data. RIM’s focus on wireless technology is predicated on the belief that we must be good stewards of bandwidth – we’re in this together with customers, carriers, and developers to make sure everyone’s experience is exceptional. In other words, with a BlackBerry smartphone, living within a tiered plan need not necessarily mean you’ll be paying more to access the data services you want.

The BlackBerry infrastructure – the same system that is designed to allow for real-time push communications, and produces that tiny little ‘d’ and ‘r’ confirmation in BBM – was designed with the ability to compress wireless data coming to your BlackBerry smartphone. And the capability doesn’t just extend to RIM created apps; it can support third-party apps, whether it’s a BI dashboard that gives you real-time updates, or you’re checking inventory on SAP.

The BlackBerry platform has been designed with DataSmart™ technology, which can result in varying degrees of data compression – sort of like when you zip a file on your desktop. So for the same bandwidth, you can get more – up to twice the amount of web browsing, four times more email, and so on.

For my technical readers who want more information, check out the RIM-sponsored Rysavy Research Study from Peter Rysavy, one of the industry’s leading technical analysts. He developed a very robust technical methodology to test data consumption in identical ‘apple to apple’ (no pun intended) settings. When I was on the Analyst team at RIM, I worked with Mr. Rysavy on a number of projects and was always impressed with the technical depth and scientific approach he applies to his research. So, while other device users may need to start conserving bandwidth and doing less, in general, BlackBerry smartphone users can keep on computing with minimal impact from new usage based plans.

How does your organization manage wireless data costs? The recurring fees represent the majority of any mobile expense – do you bother to track this? How? What tools do you use? Is it hidden away in expense reports, or do you actively try to reduce it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About Roger B.

Joining Research In Motion® (RIM) in 2001, Roger has worked in BlackBerry® Alliance Marketing, vertical segment marketing and product marketing. By leveraging this diverse background, for the past few years Roger has been involved with market research, analyst relations, and other research initiatives. A graduate of the Ivey Business School and MIT’s Executive program in Strategy & Innovation, Roger has been involved in technology marketing for the past 15 years working in Asia, Europe, and North America. Passionate about the impact technology has on people and processes, he brings this vast array of experiences together as a lead contributor to the “BlackBerry For Business” social media presence.

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