All you can eat

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2004-11-10 Print this article Print

The marketing ploy that works in America is an "all you can eat" deal. Colligan spends $15 a month, he says, on mobile data—a flat fee. You could, just about, imagine that a UK operator might allow a local user to have a $15 (ten pounds sterling, roughly) bill for data but theyd be restricted to about 5MB per month. And if they crossed any national border? Ah, well, poor them. International roaming charges on GPRS in Europe reflect the scarcity of the resource. I still remember the horror on the face of the PR man who loaned me a phone for a weeks business travel in Spain when he found what it did to his budget. Telefonica hosted me, charged 34 euros per megabyte, and I used the link to read my Outlook mailbox. To this day, I have only got a rough approximation of what the bill was after seven days, but it was close to $1,000. Not all roaming is that extortionate, but "all you can eat" deals of the sort that are essential to Treo and Hiptop users would simply clog every GPRS network in Europe. The capacity isnt there, as any analyst will quickly inform you.
In two years, perhaps, when EDGE networks are spreading to replace GPRS, and when WCDMA universal mobile telephone services are installed in more than a few capital cities, the option of having a half-gigabyte of monthly data to download will be reasonable.
But if youre planning to replicate data usage patterns from American and Canadian networks anywhere else in the world, be aware: Youll be eating rations. All you can eat, in the rest of the world, does not depend on your appetite. It depends on the size of the bowl youre given to load up. And for the foreseeable future, that bowl is a small dish, indeed. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing. Read Guy Kewneys other recent columns about trends in mobile and wireless technology.


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