Pricing, usage challenge ahead for 4G customers

With big 4G wireless network promotions coming later this year from leading cellular providers AT&T and Verizon, it still looks like the hardest job is going to fall to the potential next-generation wireless customer — who will be forced to pick and choose from a dizzying array of devices and prices, without much help or guidance from the carriers providing the services.

Two things I read over the weekend reinforced my belief that potential 4G customers are going to need a lot more measurement tools if they are going to make sense of what is coming from the biggest providers. The first was a report on the Boy Genius Report site that purportedly was a precursor of some of AT&T’s forthcoming 4G LTE pricing plans that would include sort of an ad-hoc ability to purchase bandwidth on demand. At the very least, such thinking seems to mean that the days of real unlimited data plans are truly at an end.

But even so, for some customers the faster bandwidth may be worth it if they can justify the costs. Of course that means having good, transparent measurement tools, like clearly defined coverage maps or at the very least some kind of on-screen meter (that goes beyond “four bars”) to show a user how much bandwidth is being consumed, and whether or not the network can support high-end traffic in that very spot. As Randall Stross noted in the New York Times this weekend, cellular carriers are already doing all they can to stomp out even the simplest of consumer-friendly regulations. And since those same carriers contribute heavily to political re-election campaigns don’t expect your Congressperson to come to the consumer’s defense anytime soon.

So what does that mean for a potential customer kicking the tires on 4G services? Be ready to do the heavy lifting — and maybe heavy paying — by yourself.

About Paul Kapustka

Paul Kapustka is a longtime journalist who has spent more than two decades covering the information technology business, Paul most recently has been focusing on mobility and how it has changed the computing and collaborative landscape. His newest project outside Mobile Enterprise 360 is a research and analysis operation called WiFi Journal. He is also editor in chief of Mobile Sports Report, which covers the intersection of mobile technology and sports business. Paul is also the founder of Sidecut Reports, a research firm that covered the emergence of 4G technology in the cellular marketplace.