This is a tale of Eric Schmidt waking up to smell the coffee beans.
Google’s claim that the mobile platform is where the next generation of search is would be true, if they weren’t so keen to kill off the mobile data market themselves.
So I’d like to suggest that, contrary to their marketing and mission statement, Google might just be evil.
After their recent dealing with Verizon and an agreement on non-net neutral mobile networks, prices are bound to soar. Those fat cat telcos will make even more money while avoiding the fate of the music industry (and the Dodo, for that matter).
Take a brief look at today’s mobile data market and see how users really have to curb their enthusiasm for the mobile web in order to avoid the crippling data charges. With 4G networks just around the corner, our headline could well read ‘£4,000 per day’ in a year’s time.
I turned to Tesco Mobile’s ‘Unlimited pay monthly SIM only’ deal, at £30 per month (prepaid). There appeared to be very few pitfalls in this mobile tariff, allowing me to enjoy the full potential of the mobile web. As always, I checked the sales pitch to make sure that there was no catch to this seemingly great deal (I’d have paid double for 02’s equivalent offering):
So no asterisk, no small print, and no catch, right? Wrong. Unbeknown to typical customers (and even more savvy users such as myself), a hard data cap of 1GB per month is in place, followed by a £4 per MB data tariff. As such, I was stung with a £400 bill and a suspended phone contract without warning – all in the space of a 24 hour period:
As a mobile web consumer and customer, there are three points to consider:
- There is by no means an ‘unlimited’ anything now; Ofcom are ‘looking into’ it ten years too late. Theoretically, unlimited should mean never-ending, or at the very least the absolute maximum a user could achieve at full throttle.
- Tesco (in their small print) call the 1GB hard cap “a fair usage policy”. This is not officially defined anywhere apart from Wikipedia, and the rest of the IT industry seems to disagree with Tesco’s definition.
- If 1GB is ‘unlimited’, it comes as no surprise that Tesco Mobile couldn’t explain why Vodafone, Virgin Media, T-Mobile, Orange, 3 Mobile and O2 offer ‘limited’ mobile data deals of 1GB or more.
Let’s not treat this as an isolated case; users abroad have been hit with bills running into thousands of pounds (how about this 300 page itemised bill?!).
So, to summarise, using your mobile to listen to internet radio for 2 hours can cost the same as a flight to Malta. With mobile data capped at such low limits, and with connectivity often patchy at best, it will be another decade before the mobile web begins to flourish – by which time the next ‘big thing’ will have superseded it.
For now, I urge users with smart phones firstly to turn off their internet connections when not needed, and secondly to install some kind of client side data monitoring with alarms to prevent you from bursting through your limit. Try these:
- Android: http://code.google.com/p/netsentry/
- iPhone: Use the built in monitor Settings -> General -> Usage
- Symbian Series60: http://www.symbiantweet.com/datamonitor-monitors-gprs-wifi-data-usage
In conclusion, and to add another twist, if mobile data was as affordable as it should be, we’d all be using VoIP to call each other. I doubt the telcos would be very happy about that prospect. Maybe its time Google/Microsoft launched a mobile network?
For those in a similar situation to myself, one can rejoice that the small print Tesco Mobile so lovingly crafted (at the time of writing) includes a clause that limits your maximum monthly charge to just £90 on a normal phone and £300 on an iPhone.
“All Pay monthly accounts have a maximum limit of 3 times your monthly subscription this excludes iPhone see details below:”
Visit the Tesco website for full terms and conditions.