Are carriers getting desperate for wireless data revenue?

Though the Conference Board of Canada says our telecom industry willsee modest revenue growth in the recession, a major carrier south ofthe border appears desperate to sell expensive data plans.Toencourage customers to sign two-year contracts for AT&TWireless data plans, RadioShack is offering Acer notebooks for US$100 – one fifth ofthe normal cost. To get the deal, customers need to shell out US$60 amonth (more than US$1,400 over two years) for a cellular data plan.

Noneof us at Network World Canada have PhDs in economics, so we’re not surewhy it’s such a good idea to spend $1,400 to save $400. Maybe it’sworth it to be able to get Internet access with up to 5 GB of dataevery month.

Canadian wireless carriers are not as generous withtheir data plans. Rogers Wireless, for example, has a $60 data onlyplan but its download limit is 3 GB. Its data rates were an issue whenit rolledout the iPhone 3G last summer.

One Montreal-basedanalyst says Canadians are afraid to sign up for wireless data plans,not knowing what nasty surprises await them on their monthly bills.

“Currentlybusinesses, enterprises and consumers are afraid top spend on telecombecause don’t have that visibility, we can’t tell how much it’s goingto cost,” said Brownlee Thomas, principal analyst of enterprise telecomservices at Forrester Research. Thomas made her comments inresponse to the ConferenceBoard of Canada’s Canadian Industrial Outlook for Canada’sTelecommunications Industry, published earlier this week.

Theboard’s report said wireless data services are accounting for anincreasing share of wireless revenues. No doubt this trend willcontinue worldwide, especially if buyers fall for gimmicks such as $100notebook PCs.

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