Written by Media, Mobile, Radio

Data Reductions Hurt Mobile Media

The news that T-Mobile is dropping its mobile data usage limit to 500MB from 1GB is not great news. This is not just about one operator, but a trend across the industry.
While T-Mobile says that “over 90%” of its customers use less than this a month (does this include customers without smartphones?), it’s not actually an enormous amount of data to be getting through each month. They say that this brings them into line with sister company Orange who already sit at that same level. Of course Orange could have increased its limit, but the reality is that as more people use more smartphones more of the time, the networks just can’t cope. And putting limitations on data usage is their way of coping. Of the main providers, only Three still has decent usage levels left.
But this isn’t great news for any media suppliers, and by that I mean anyone serving video or audio. As one person wrote on a phone blog I follow wrote:
When I first got my Android phone a few months back I installed 3G watchdog just to see exactly how much I used (having had a Sony Ericsson, then Nokia phones I wasn’t really interested up until this point). Within the calendar month, my “normal” usage (surfing, market, 24/7 push email and *the biggie* internet radio) I hit ~1GB. This has been pretty steady since.
Personally, I get through my 500MB without much use beyond email and a bit of surfing. I have WiFi at work and at home, but nonetheless, I get through “a lot” in the operators’ eyes.
My employer has been very successfully developing apps for many handsets, but these data limits do have the potential to limit growth for every media supplier. Of course, there is WiFi, and depending on your plan and location, you might get inclusive WiFi from someone like BTOpenzone which is helpful. But that doesn’t help me on the train in the morning.
The same data issue is true for streaming services like Spotify or (should it ever launch here again) Pandora. You can buffer music in advance to an extent, but downloading is still part of the deal. And this is going to become harder, or more expensive, for consumers.
[These are my own views, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.]