Roll over, Australia: consumer groups demand data rollover

Metaratings
13 Jan 2015
00:00

ITEM: Consumer groups in Australia are pushing for cellcos to adopt a new rollover model that allows mobile users to carry over unused data in their bucket plans to the following month and beyond.

The demands follow recent announcements in the US from cellcos offering such plans.

In December, US cellco T-Mobile announced a new offering called “Data Stash” as part of its ongoing “Uncarrier” strategy that allows users to carry over any unused data from their monthly plans to the next month for up to a year (provided your data plan is at least 3GB, and provided you don't have a shared data plan). Earlier this month, AT&T responded with a similar “data rollover” plan that allows data to be carried over for one month only.

The rollover model isn’t unprecedented – many cellcos already offer rollover plans for voice minutes. And data rollover does exist in a few markets, albeit typically for prepaid mobile services. But data rollover for postpaid plans is only just starting to emerge.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, consumer groups CHOICE and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network have said they would like to see Australian cellcos adopt their own data stash/rollover plans – not least because recent research by ACCAN, CHOICE and the Consumer Action Law Centre found more than half of mobile phone customers in Australia don't use their full monthly call, text or data quota:

"This amounts to the telcos getting a big free kick from consumers, who are paying for included value that never gets used," ACCAN's spokesman said of the research."With mobile data consumption likely to rise, allowing for unused data to be rolled over would benefit many."It would be particularly useful for consumers who spend extended periods of time overseas as they could accumulate the data they are paying for and use it when they return to Australia." "This amounts to the telcos getting a big free kick from consumers, who are paying for included value that never gets used," ACCAN's spokesman said of the research."With mobile data consumption likely to rise, allowing for unused data to be rolled over would benefit many."It would be particularly useful for consumers who spend extended periods of time overseas as they could accumulate the data they are paying for and use it when they return to Australia." "This amounts to the telcos getting a big free kick from consumers, who are paying for included value that never gets used," ACCAN's spokesman said of the research."With mobile data consumption likely to rise, allowing for unused data to be rolled over would benefit many."It would be particularly useful for consumers who spend extended periods of time overseas as they could accumulate the data they are paying for and use it when they return to Australia."

Telstra, Vodafone and Optus have all issued non-committal statements on the question of data rollover, but it’s a fair bet they're paying very close attention to see how customer response goes in the US.

If nothing else, some analysts are bullish about the prospects of data rollover.

Caroline Gabriel, research director of Rethink Research, described T-Mobile’s Data Stash as “a radical attack on one of the main assumptions of telecoms pricing, the monthly deal, and moves towards a true pay-for-what-you-use model.” Moreover, she added, the plan demonstrates that T-Mobile “is thinking from a consumer's point of view, and is prepared to tear up the rule book if it means gaining more subscribers.”

Lynnette Luna, principal analyst at Current Analysis Consumer Group, said that Data Stash “will strengthen T-Mobile’s value carrier image as it allows users to realise the full worth of their data service cost”. Luna added that it also “plays on customer fears of using too much data and serves as another strong marketing salvo – especially during the critical holiday selling season – against AT&T and Verizon that rely on their customers buying bigger buckets of data to avoid overage fees.”

Commenting on AT&T’s data rollover announcement, tech industry analyst Jeff Kagan predicted it would be a hit with customers: “This is what customers have been hoping for. I think customers will love this idea. It is good to see new plans that will excite the wireless marketplace.”

It will be interesting to see if the postpaid data rollover model gets any traction in Australia, or indeed anywhere else in APAC, as cellcos look for more innovative and attractive ways to price their data plans.

BONUS MATERIAL:CIO compares the AT&T and T-Mobile plans here.

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