Thursday, 5 November 2009

Fair Usage Policies and other hazardeous terms

This post is both a reply to Giffgaff's questioning about naming unlimited offers and a statement about why I expect in terms of unlimited internet. ( I have also posted this reply on the Giffgaff forum)

As a carrier never use the terms ‘for life’or ‘forever’ except if you are actually offering the service for free even once the customer is not topping up or paying x£ a month - that T mobile add just annoys me and I'm surprised they haven't been attacked for false advertising yet.

‘free’ is borderline but is acceptable if it is pay 10texts get 1 free or something like that.

'Unlimited' is the trickiest and the one which o2 mobile has been ok so far. There is 2 cases; home broadband and mobile internet:

-home broadband, unlimited should be really unlimited no fair usage policy, no traffic management, no gimmicks. It's totally economically viable and possible. I 've had had experience with the french market and they don't have an issue providing it at all so data caps etc in the UK just feal like prehistoric and ridiculous limits.

-mobile internet however is a totally different problem as the spectrum and data speeds are limited and even with improved infrastructures a mobile network cannot replace the fixed one. Having a fair usage policy on this is therefore acceptable, however having a ridiculous 750MB/month for the iphone like orange did this week and calling it unlimited is really taking consumers for idiots as no iphone will use less than 1GB per month except if left in a draw (seriously I can't leave my iphone more than 20mins without having an email or checking news so in a draw or under 750MB is nonsense). I read earlier this week a blog post complaining about the fact that the o2 FUP didn't say what was considered a fair usage. Honestly I was a bit scared of it when I first signed up as I know I am a big data user and the iphone uses a lot of data too but after a year of using up between 3-5GB/month (with months not using any data as abroad or getting the iphone repaired/replaced) well I still haven't reached the point of being warned or being told off for using too much data. I know my data usage might even go down now that I can offload most of the traffic on to my wifi routers at work and at home and progressively use less data intensive apps as video is just not worth it (even if flash and therefore full youtube support would totally change this). So in this case femtocells have no appeal; the use I can see with them is to have other users being able to connect on it in a femtofonera community case and/or in a international no roaming fees on the femtocells agreement.

So far I've only been focusing on unlimited data. Unlimited calls and texts are difficult for me to appreciate honestly as I call about 10-15mins/month and send 60 UK texts/month & 60 EU texts/month. Most of the offers I know in the french mobile market are 1-6 hours of calls so "600 mins and texts for 15£ a month" offers sound to me like they are already unlimited offers but with a much more advanced and clear FUP. Unlimted texts should be truly unlimited.(obviously using automated systems to spam or resell these credits can't be allowed but that in the T&Cs and is not a FUP)

Calls packages are already unlimited calling plans but are not termed as such which obviously points out the carriers have not been consistent so far but should it really be called unlimited -I don't know - but an unlimited calling plan with no FUP could be successfull it worked out pretty well for the french DSL markets with calls to landlines in france +100 destinations unlimited combined to data and TV channels(triple-play) - this is what Tmobile's project dark in the US is trying to offer but on a mobile network and I think it is ging to prove popular for all (eventually with LTE and femtocells accessible to all users on a network that will be a viable option). I think carriers are or at least have been so far better placed to propose such offers than MVNOs so we don't expect giffgaff do offer a project dark type of offer.

To conclude unlimited titling for mobile services if the FUP has a quite large margin is ok. So maybe have an "unlimited internet for feature phones"(ie any phone) and an "unlimited internet for app phones/smartphones"( for iphone and android - WinMo and WebOS aren't going to survive long but they can be included along with blackberry until then) with undisclosed FUP but potentially being 500MB and 5GB respectively but only doing something about it when users are 2-3x over that FUP and doing so consistently over 3-6 months. No FUP on unlimited texts. Unlimited calls to mobiles, landlines and non premium 08 numbers (ie SIP, free helplines, etc) with no FUP would make a good offer.

Bottom line carriers don't be scared of launching trully unlimited services with no FUP, yes some users will be getting more than what they've paid for but they are the one's who will drive your userbase numbers up which will compensate for this. Have a look how "Free" a french ISP revolutionized the country with this type of offering and has a massive base of fanatic supporters. By doing what consumers want you to do you will get the most reliable guarantee of customer fidelity - devotion.

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