Data price wars begin

Nicole McCormick/ Informa
17 Mar 2009

Spurred on by the prospect of boosting ARPU as voice tariffs continue to fall, Asia-Pacific mobile operators are engaging in an increasingly competitive price war to win mobile broadband subscribers.

Australia offers a prime example of the type of pricing battle taking place. Mobile broadband operator 3, which was the first Australian operator to offer mobile broadband services and which helped spur massive growth in the market with a huge advertising campaign, was particularly aggressive with its pricing strategies in 4Q08.

In the quarter, 3 offered an entry-level package of 1GB of data per month for just A$15 ($9.85) a month on a two-year contract and has offered subs seeking greater data allowances a 2GB plan for A$29 a month, a 6GB plan for A$39 a month and a 7GB plan for A$49 a month.

In contrast to 3's cut-price approach aimed mainly at young users and value-seeking subscribers, mobile market leader Telstra continues to price its 850-MHz Next G HSPA service at the upper end of the market, seemingly confident that subscribers will pay a premium for the greater network coverage and higher speeds available on the network.

Telstra's cheapest Next G plan comes in at A$29.95 a month for just 200MB of data, and its 1GB plan comes in at A$59.95 a month. The operator has two Big Pond Liberty premium plans, costing A$89.95 for 5GB of data and A$129.95 for 10GB of data.

Optus and Vodafone have tried to position themselves in between the tariffs offered by 3 and Telstra. Vodafone offers an entry-level 1GB plan for A$19.95 a month and a 5GB plan for A$39.95 a month. Optus has priced its cheapest plan at A$29.95 a month for 2GB of data, though subs on the plan must pay A$199.99 for their data card or USB modem, and the operator offers a range of plans, up to its premium 6GB plan for A$59.99 a month.

Elsewhere in the region, leading Malaysian mobile operator Maxis is trying to stifle the threat posed by the launch of Wimax services by Packet One Networks (P1), YTL e-Solutions and AsiaSpace by increasing the promotion of its own mobile broadband services.

Maxis has launched a promotion offering subscribers a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook for MYR2,376 ($660), with which it bundles its 1GB mobile broadband service for just MYR77 a month for 12 months - a 26% reduction on its usual price of MYR118 a month for the 1GB plan.

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