Sane wireless data prices on the way?

Dragan Nerandzic does indeed have a grand vision. Ericsson Canada’s chief technology officer pictures a 144 Mbps wireless world by 2010, an opportunity for carriers to deliver TV, interactive gaming and rich media to handset users in a high-speed environment. “We are creating a garden that will allow new fruits and flowers to expand in our industry and create a new ecosystem of lifestyle-changing opportunities,” he told industry analysts in Toronto. A little fulsome, that, and particularly for a Canadian market in which cell phone data plans are simply far too expensive to be useful. While in the U.S. unlimited data plans for under $50 aren’t uncommon, that’s just not the case here. Analyst Amit Kaminer points out that for a Canadian user, Nerandzic’s scenario is a $300- to $400-a-month proposition.

It’s time for sane pricing on cellular data plans. And for a change, change might actually be on the horizon, courtesy of our friend Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

The heavily-hyped American launch of the iPhone has been wildly successful. This is partly because, as Apple Insider noted in February, Apple leaned hard on exclusive carrier AT&T with regard to plan pricing. Exclusive Canadian carrier Rogers is likely facing the same pressure, and might risk losing a monster seller if it doesn’t acquiesce.

The ripple effect is inevitable. Rogers also markets Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices and services. RIM products have been edging further and further into the consumer market of late. They even have built-in digital cameras now, unthinkable a few years ago. With the BlackBerry Curve, for example, being a direct competitor to the iPhone, how can Rogers justify to its partner a data package for Apple that’s considerably more attractive?

Downward pressure on its own prices leads to downward pressure on the data plan pricing of Telus and Bell. With Bell soon to hang out the under-new-management shingle, it might be seen as a bold move to seize the high, er, low ground in data pricing, while the Apple effect makes it inevitable. If sane data plan prices really do materialize in the near future, we may have Steve to thank.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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