Forbes magazine ran with the headline “AT&T posts strong Q1 on adoption of Mobile Share and Next plans”, whereas in the land of telecoms publications, PPC Mobile Broadband went for “Shared Data and Overall Wireless Revenues Drive AT&T's $32.5billion First Quarter Income”. Clearly the market sentiment is that AT&T’s Mobile Share plan is doing well. The figures back up this sentiment as the number of AT&T customers on Mobile Share plans almost tripled in the past year to 11.3 million accounts with nearly 33 million connections (about 45 percent of postpaid subscribers). This is up from 21 million connections (about 29% of AT&T’s postpaid base) at the end of Q4 2013. In addition the take up rates of its 10GB+ plans grew from 27% of its Mobile Share base at the end of the Q4 2013 to 46% in Q1 2014.
Over in the red corner shared data plans continue to perform well for Verizon. By changing their main reporting metric from ARPU (average revenue per user) to ARPA (average revenue per account) Verizon put shared data plans centre stage in their plans. In the past year (to Q1 2014) Verizon have seen total retail connections jump by 4.45%, ARPA increase by 6.26%, and the average number of devices per account increase by 3.75%. Verizon now has 50% of its postpaid accounts on its More Everything plans. The correlation is an increase of customers on shared data plans means an increase in corresponding revenue.
Sprint only launched their Framily (friends and family) plans in January 2014, but already their CEO is promoting it as an ‘innovation platform’. Framily is a group share scheme that encourages existing customers to add more members (up 10 phone numbers per group) by promoting cost reductions (the more you add, the more you save idea). Sprint has now enhanced their Framily offers by adding content into the mix and is offering free trials to Spotify’s music service. By marketing other services to Framily members there is the opportunity to make the plans very sticky, as the more services used by more Framily members delivers increased benefits.
Meanwhile T Mobile US is looking to attract more tablet customers by running ‘Operation Tablet Freedom’. In an attempt to liberate oppressed tablet users from the tyranny of life under a Wi-Fi only regime, T Mobile is offering tablets with LTE cellular connectivity at the same prices as Wi-Fi only tablets, trade-ins on Wi-Fi tablets and an amount of free LTE tablet data. This marketing initiative (sorry – Operation Tablet Freedom) makes sense when you consider that there were about 60 million tablets sold in the US in 2013, and of these 10 million are using an embedded cellular connection. This suggests a very large untapped market.
Tablets are only the start. The number of LTE connected devices from cars to home security services is increasing almost daily. The number and range of services available on these devices is booming. Sharing data provides a cost effective and equitable way for customers to get on board, and as we’ve seen it’s good business for operators as well.
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