Pan-Asian roaming groups have tackled the thorny issue of mobile data roaming services with new flat-rate pricing plans across their respective operator networks.
The newly renamed Bridge Alliance fired the first shot in early November with its DataRoam plan, which sports two tiers of usage across Bridge's ten member operators in Asia.
A week later, rival regional roaming group Conexus Mobile Alliance announced its own flat-rate data roaming plan, which will launch in the first quarter of 2008 and potentially.
The Conexus plan differs from Bridge chiefly in that it's based on daily usage rather than monthly fees, which Conexus chairman Chan Kin Hung says is better suited for roaming users.
'If I stay in Singapore, for example, I will go for a monthly subscription because I am going to use the service every day, but when I travel to Japan, maybe once a quarter, staying there for one week, there is no point for me to subscribe to a monthly package,' he says.
Another difference is that usage caps will vary among Conexus operators, whereas the Bridge plan has two caps across all networks - $30 a month for 15MB and $60 for 40MB.
'Based on existing demand, mobile data usage is less than 5MB per month, so what we're offering is a significant increase for those users,' says Bridge Alliance CEO Mary Ong.
With Asian cellcos more focused on 3G rollouts than ever, the objective of both alliances is to bring predictable and affordable pricing to mobile data roaming.
'Bill shock is a major barrier for roaming data users, so if you want to drive mobile content demand, we need to bring roaming prices down,' Ong told Telecom Asia. 'The goal is really to stimulate user demand for mobile data.'
However, Ong adds that because much of that demand is latent, it's hard to predict just how much take-up participating cellcos will see as a result.
'In six to nine months, we'll have a better view of how much data usage customers need when they're overseas, as well as what kinds of data they want access to - say, emails vs web surfing,' she says.