A couple of interesting developments in mobile broadband pricing in the UK over the last couple of weeks.
First, 3 increased the bundle on its £15 plan from 5GB to 15GB for anyone taking a 24 month plan. Or you could think of it as reducing the price on its 15GB plan from £30 to £15 for anyone taking a 24 month plan. Either way it's a whopping increase in value for money. 3 is clearly eager (to say the least) to sign up subscribers, particularly on 24 month plans, and seems unconcerned about increasing traffic. This is a risky strategy that could backfire. Clearly having the "cheapest" offer in the market for a virtually unlimited offer is a good place to be, but they need to be sure that the economics stack up. A £15 15GB plan will be very appealing to those high usage early adopters that were signing up in Q4 2007 and are coming round for renewal now.
Elsewhere, T-Mobile has cut the allowance on its Mobile Broadband Extra package from 10GB to 5GB for £25/month (also on 24 month plan). I tend to be a strong advocate of having a big plan available for big users, even if you have to charge a hefty fee for it. Admittedly this is a "fair usage" policy, so don't expect large out-of-bundle charges for heavy users. T-Mobile has looked at its base, looked at the bandwidth economics, and decided that 5GB will in almost all cases provide the required capacity for all but the heaviest users. Even where users stray beyond the 5GB limit, as long as they aren't a serial offender it won't be a problem.
This represents two different approaches to the issue of balancing subscriber acquisition and network economics. What's interesting is that a lot of it stems from the approach taken to out-of-bundle charging. 3 charges high rates, T-Mobile does not charge at all. This issue is explored in depth by my colleague Richard Thurston in a series of pieces he has been writing recently for Analysys Mason's Mobile Broadband research programme including Preventing mobile broadband network overload: strategies for excess usage charges and throttles.
At the same time as reducing the bundle, T-Mobile has allowed access to over-the-top VoIP services such as Skype. An obvious move really as PC-based VoIP never represented much of a threat of cannibalisation of voice services or a risk of network congestion. The question-mark was always over whether the latency was good enough to offer the service.