In our last newsletter, we started to put some puzzle pieces together discussing the proliferation of public Wi-Fi hotspots, the surprising lack of 3G/4G traffic offloaded onto public Wi-Fi, and the introduction of "Share Everything" mobile plans that allow Verizon Wireless customers to share voice, messaging and data allocations between multiple devices.
Today we'll continue our analysis with an assertion that we hope to prove in the next several newsletters: BYOD (bring your own data) is evolving into BYOT (bring your own tablet). We will further assert that BYOT will have an effect on mobile UC that is at least as profound as today's BYOD trend for employees to use their own personal smartphones as a business tool.
Starting with the effect of Verizon Wireless approach to mobile data services, Weston Henderek, principal analyst at Current Analysis covering U.S. wireless services, commented, "The shared data component on the new Verizon Wireless Share Everything rate plans will encourage more customers to activate wide area data connections on tablets and other peripheral devices -- rather than just relying on WiFi -- since there is no longer a need to sign a separate service contract at a high monthly cost."
He continued, "With the way the plans are structured, customers can now setup a dedicated tablet data connection that pulls data from the user's primary Smartphone data plan for only $10 per month. This new value proposition with shared data across multiple devices will continue to expand as other carriers look to rollout similar offerings over the course of the year and will increase the number of devices that are connected to wide area data networks."
Henderek also noted that other wireless data service plans have evolved to more economically accommodate mobile devices. According to Henderek, "Prepaid data plans that allow customers to activate and cancel service on a month to month basis are becoming more prevalent in the tablet space since the introduction of the Apple iPad. These prepaid tablet data plans make the decision to activate wide area data connectivity a much easier one for tablet users since there is no longer a need to sign a two-year service contract at a high $50-$60 per month cost in order to get service."
His conclusion, "As a result [of these service trends] the number of wide area data connections for tablets will be higher going forward than it would have been if carriers were still requiring separate service contracts for each device."
Our observations: Consumers who own smartphones are already connected to the Internet via 3G/4G mobile data plans, and those buy tablets are more being provided with economical options to connect these additional to the Internet using 3G/4G mobile data connections. So will they move away from Wi-Fi as the preferred data connectivity alternative? We'll come back with to the answer to this question in a future newsletter. But first, we need to look next time at how useful tablets might be for mobile unified communications and other enterprise mobility applications.