I am not sure why we didn’t see this one coming. But only days after the LTE-adorned iPad was released, stories are already surfacing of people sucking down high-speed data so fast they are seeing overages in under a week. The Wall Street Journal encountered a sports fan who just wanted to see some March Madness on his new 4G tablet. It only took five days of game play to burn through his 2GB limit.
The iPad and its hefty demands on bandwidth (Retina Display + LTE) are helping to spark a long overdue discussion about the scarcity of wireless bandwidth and its increasing demand.
In a weird way, data may be in the place SMS was a number of years ago. Back in the day, marketers had to be respectful of the fact that customers were paying for every message they received -- and at times for the advertisers’ messages too.
The last thing publishers or marketers want is to have users watching the meter every time they get invited to click on a rich media experience. How much is that ad going to cost me, they might well ask.
Of course, the scarcity and expense of data for consumers could also be an opportunity for marketers to help subsidize the load. The carriers need to figure out how to make more on the data channel. Data represents 85% of mobile traffic but only 39% of carrier revenue, according to Chetan Sharma. This is where operators may be willing to partner with marketers so that ads can be data cost-neutral to consumers or even accrue credit to defer future data costs.
I have been around this field long enough to recall a number of strange models that tried to trade ad views for additional minutes. Swapping ad exposures for mobile service turned out to be a viable model in some developing countries. The company Jana rewards customers with airtime coupons in exchange for receiving marketing messages. If consumers really come to value their mobile data in the same way most people covet talk minutes, then why not build some models around swapping ads for megabytes? It should remind us that when it comes to a wireless data infrastructure that is really up to the dreams we have for it, even the U.S. is a developing nation.