The future is data for mobile operators. The industry’s smallest operator Three clearly thinks so, as its growth strategy is predicated on consumers demanding more and more mobile data. And it aims to supply it too, by providing unlimited data at a very agreeable price.
But Three is bucking the industry trend. O2 began the clampdown on unlimited data last year by imposing higher tariffs on heavy data users. The move was designed to ease congestion on its network, as well as boosting data revenues to offset the decline in traditional voice and text revenues.
In contrast, Three has capitalised on its reputation as the industry disrupter by offering its range of ‘all-you-can-eat’ One Plan data tariffs. The operator’s key focus is to acquire more customers and unlimited data is the bait.
It seems to be working too. Number porting figures reveal that for every four O2 customers moving to Three, only one goes in the other direction. Three is also taking customers at a ratio of two to one from some of the other networks.
Smartphones are the key of course. As more customers move to a smartphone, the more they will want to make use of the vast range of data they can now access on the move. Three revealed this week that 98% of its current sales are for smartphones.
The operator has acknowledged that getting the iPhone last July greatly boosted its sales in combination with the One Plan tariffs. Galling as it might be for other manufacturers and as uneasy as its dominance makes some operators and retailers feel, the iPhone really matters.
Figures seen by Mobile show that at the beginning of September the iPhone 4 was grabbing over 20% of the total contract market. That dominance has continued for much of this year with a handset that is now over a year old.
As Mobile went to press, Apple finally announced that it was holding a press conference on 4 October, when the new iPhone, or iPhones, will almost certainly be announced.
There have been plenty of rumours as to what the iPhone 5 will feature, but whatever it comes with you can bet that it will dominate sales just like its predecessor. Three will no doubt be keen to get it as fast as possible to spearhead its ambitious plans to grow its customer base from 5.5 million to 10 million over the next four years.