Netbooks may push combo data plans

Will Bell, Rogers or Telus get into the netbook-selling business? It'snot as far-fetched as you might think. Netbooks, those light laptopswith screens 10 inches and less are hot items these days. And they comewith draft 802.11n connectivity. What's the connection?As growth in broadband service slows, operators willbe looking for more ways to make money. AT&T thinks it's foundone way: Bundle DSL home and mobile service into one package for US$60a month on a two-year plan and subscribers can get a choice of netbooksstarting at $50. It's like subsidizing a mobile phone. The deal,called the “Internet at Home and On the Go” plan, lets subscribersdownload 200 MB a month on the mobile network and access toAT&T's WiFi hotspots. Market research firm In-Stat thinks its agrand way for AT&T to steal subscribers from other providers.”Our research shows that current broadband (U.S.) broadband userswould be willing to switch from their current broadband provider to onethat could combine a home and on-the-go service,” said analyst DarylSchoolar in a press release. Clearwire has been using the same strategyto pull subscribers to its new Clear WiMAX networks in Baltimore andPortland. The operator, hopes to extend Clear service to 80 U.S. citiesby the end of next year.

A survey done last year by In-Statsuggests subscribers want a single service that combines both home andmobile service. Over 80 per cent of respondents showed some level ofwillingness to switch from their current broadband provider to one thatcombines both home and mobile service. Over 40 per cent would bewilling to pay their current home provider an extra US$10-$15 a monthfor home and mobile data service.

Of course, AT&T has aleg up on some Canadian providers because it's heavily into backingWiFi hotspots. As I've written before, WiFi hotspots aren't in demand uphere. Still operators on this side of the 49th parallel take close noteof what's going on down south. As WiFi spreads here, netbooks may bethe excuse providers need to offer combo data service.

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