Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, had both good news and bad news Dec. 9 for iPhone users: AT&T is moving to improve service in iPhone-heavy San Francisco and New York, but the company also warned that "some form of usage-based pricing for data is inevitable," said the Associated Press. Currently, AT&T has no data use cap for smartphone users.
AT&T has been under fire in recent months for poor smartphone network performance. According to de la Vega, roughly 3 percent of smartphone users are consuming 40 percent of AT&T's network capacity. The best-selling iPhone offers a number of bandwidth-consuming applications, including streaming media programs.
"We need to educate the customer ... We've got to get them to understand what represents a megabyte of data," de la Vega said at a U.S. Bancorp investor conference in New York. "We're improving all our systems to let consumers get real-time information on their data usage."
But de la Vega added that AT&T needs to give heavy-bandwidth users incentives to "reduce or modify their usage," according to AP. User caps and overage fees are typical carrier responses to heavy use, although de la Vega did not reveal any specific policy changes in the works. He told the Wall Street Journal that any policy change would not affect the majority of AT&T customers.
"What's driving [high] usage are things like video or audio that plays around the clock," de la Vega said. "We have to get to those customers and get them to recognize they have to change their patterns, or there are things we will do to change those patterns."
De la Vega did say keeping customers aware of their data usage has proven successful for land-line broadband customers.
"With land-line capabilities, we used that concept and customers didn't know how much data they were using-including parents who didn't know how their children were using," de la Vega told the USB conference. "Once alerted, they reduced their consumption without anything other than being told that data was being used in an inordinate fashion."