The carrier split. The Data policy in The Netherlands (and beyond?)
My ever growing hunger for data.
Here in the Netherlands there has been quite a big fuzz about the policies the carriers are introducing with new contracts. For clarification, in the Netherlands, unlike the US, a phone works on any network, depending on who's SIMcard you have. Great for competition you would say. Yes, it used to be. When I got my first smartphone, a Samsung Omnia i900, it came with "unlimited" data, meaning they would throttle it if one used more than 10x the average. Funny thing to note was the average was never published (but rumored to be around 200mb).
However the Samsung Omnia was such a slow piece of cow pie, that I hardly ever used more than 500-1000 mb. Halfway through my 2-year-contract I switched to the HTC Touch Pro 2. More capable then the Omnia, with more screen estate, it enabled me to use more data. When Android was ported to the TP2, becoming quite stable after a while, it gave me apps to eat some more yummy data.
Mobile internet is growing up
Then, last march I was able to renew my contract, and get a brand new phone (for great prices, Holland is good at that). However, something new was introduced. Unlimited data did not exist anymore.. Judging my previous data usage on my phones, the phone I was getting (LG Optimus 2x [T-mobile G2X for US]) and the fact I study New Media and travel a lot by train, I knew my hunger for data would increase exponentially over time.
Thankfully I got quite a good deal, getting 2GB a month, at 7.2mbps (fastest possible in the Netherlands at the time) for 10 euro's a month, on top of 23 euro's for the basic contract. Meaning I pay 33 a month, for 175 minutes OR 350 texts and 2GB data. I got the phone for 25 euro's.
Nowadays however the carriers are all giving you small bite size pieces of data for ridiculous amounts of money. This is a last breath attempt to slow the data growth (e.g. Vodafone NL had 80% more data usage) At my provider you get a staggering 400mb of data! With a great promotion you get 250mb extra! Including about the same minutes as my current contract you pay even more monthly then I do. And here's the most crazy thing, you pay now (8 month after I got mine) 60 euros for the LG o2x!
Features and service growing apart.
Here's the thing that is worrying me. With the manufacturers creating ever faster phones, higher resolution, more cloud capabilities like iCloud, Google's Instant Upload or Google Music, you will only need more and more data. The average consumer will most likely get lured into buying one of these great new phones, with magic cloud functions. They will, however, hit a big concrete wall when they find out they can only truly enjoy their mobile device when having wifi coverage. It's like a laptop with crappy battery life, it looks mobile, but if you want to use it in that way you're stuck to a socket.
The reason for this all, at least in The Netherlands, is the fear of making less profit by the carriers. Whatsapp, Skype, Tango, Facebook Messenger, they are evil. They take away their (ridiculous) profit on texts. There were plans to charge extra for using these services, but, thankfully (from a freedom aspect, not financial) the government stopped them by introducing the Net Neutrality act, which meant data is data, and cannot be charged by what it transfers.
This, however, started a general (almost coördinated) change in the pricing schemes of carriers. If they are not allowed to charge extra for Whatsapp, they will just make every bit more expensive, and reduce the profit on texts, to lure people back into old school texting. But, iCloud doesn't work with via sms, you can't receive your Google Music via sms, you still need your MBs to have a functioning phone in the way it was intended. Look at the graph below, European mobile data usage prediction. People will use more data.
It's as if the carriers are in a split, promoting the magnificent new features of the latest and greatest smartphones, while at the same time limiting these exact features by giving you so little data that these features cannot be used without continuously worrying about your data cap! It's like selling super cars on contract, and only give you a few gallons a month to drive it. It simply doesn't work!
Looking at the current trends, with smartphone's using more data, and carriers giving you less, I fear the future, when in one and a half year I am ready to renew my contract, will phones eat less data? Will carriers feed you more? Or will manufacturers and carriers keep on growing apart, slowly ripping the industry apart?
PS. How is it in your country? And how do you see the future? Am I a pessimist?