I was once told that the best exercise for losing weight was pushing yourself away from the table and it’s time for mobile network operators to do the same. Many feel that they risk customers by eliminating all-you-can-eat data plans, but the truth is that most customers just want a data plan and they don’t have a problem paying for what they use but they aren’t going to count mega-bytes (seriously, who can do that anyway?). The key, then, is for mobile operators to offer alternatives – alternatives that enable them to monetize the expense of infrastructure and support while delivering services that suit customer lifestyles and willingness to pay.
Let’s face it, the reason that we have AYCE mobile data plans is that mobile operators weren’t able to design, price, deliver, measure, bill for, or support anything else. But there are alternatives and it’s not about limiting access or eliminating usage, it’s about perceived value. How about time-based plans? There isn’t an international business traveler that wouldn’t pay a premium to have local, mobile data access when traveling outside their home country. I buy a pre-paid product that gives me a week worth of mobile data service using my device (and number) like a local while I’m in their service area. It costs more than a local phone with a local plan, but as long as it costs less than international roaming, the customer is happy to pay and the service is more reliable. That service exists for WiFi in a number of countries and mobile operators should be able to deliver it too. Or applications with an expiration date – I don’t need a map of restaurants in Paris forever but I’d pay to use one for a week or two. The ability to target and focus both services and applications that are currently perceived as free (like AYCE or Google maps) creates a valuable product by eliminating the clutter and allowing customers access to what they really want – and they will pay for the convenience.
We are seeing that mobile data is not profitable for most operators and as demand increases and infrastructure spending tries to keep pace, profitability becomes even less likely – unless mobile operators start to deliver the kind of data products and services that not only support, but enable customer work and lifestyles. And how do mobile operators deliver that? By understanding their customers, enlisting partners and responding with a full menu of constantly changing products and services that range from fast-food to 7-course specialties, kids menus and happy hours. Then it takes leadership, planning and agile, adaptable B/OSS for product management, service delivery, support, and billing. The possibilities truly are limitless but first we need to push away from the table.