Jon Hoehler, manager of mobile technologies at Deloitte Digital. (plus.google.com)
According to Andrew McHenry, client relations at Rorotika Technologies, and Jon Hoehler, manager of mobile technologies at Deloitte Digital, speaking at the Broadband Summit in Johannesburg, increasing smartphone popularity and the related growth of data consumption gives rise to the need for extensive debate as to who will bear the costs of “data bill shock” - referring to the significant increase in costs experienced by many new smartphone users unaware of the amount of data being used by their device.
This problem will be compounded by the wide-spread launch of long-term evolution (LTE) networks, which is set to consume very high levels of data. The speakers cited research suggesting it will be possible to run up a bill in excess of ZAR300,000 (US$32,500) using LTE if the consumer is not fully aware of data usage and related costs.
“I think bill shock is here to stay,” said McHenry, adding that this necessitates an urgent push for consumer education and discussion surrounding payment accountability.
McHenry and Hoehler argue that consumers must be educated as to the extent of data used by various smartphone-based activities and the costs incurred for these actions. They say that a level needs to be reached where consumers can relate to the costs of each device-based action in a similar way to owners’ knowledge of the fuel costs of their cars.
In order to achieve this, operators must develop tools to enable consumers to understand their data consumption and costs and must work to raise consumer awareness of data usage.
The authorities and operators also need to decide who will be responsible for shock bills run up by unwitting consumers, say the speakers.
At a more basic level, however, McHenry and Hoehler believe that operators also need to come up with more affordable data options suitable for the high-consumption environment that is developing, and will be inherent in LTE networks.
“The data offerings of operators are not keeping up with devices,” concludes McHenry, adding that operators should work harder on catching up their data solutions to the level of devices available and popular on the market.