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Sweden and Clearwire buck tiered pricing trend

3 Scandinavia says usage-based billing is now less, not more, necessary


Published: 18 June, 2010

READ MORE: Clearwire | HI3G (Sweden) | Dongle/Datacard | WiMAX

As operators on both sides of the Atlantic start to abandon flat rate, unlimited data plans to introduce a measure of tiered charging, some carriers will gain differentiation and score marketing points - at least in the short term - by retaining all-you-can-eat policies. Sprint Nextel has already made much of that, contrasting its tariffs with the new tiered structures of AT&T, although the smaller cellco has introduced tiering for notebooks and dongles. Clearwire is also talking up its unlimited strategy, backed by its huge spectrum capacity and new, so-far uncongested network. And in Europe, two Swedish operators, 3 and Tele2, are bucking the trend and competing aggressively on the basis of unlimited data.

"In today's on-the-go world, everyone deserves fast speeds and the usage they want at a fair price - without constantly checking their usage or worrying about their end of month bill," said Dow Draper, VP of product development for Clearwire, in a statement. The firm, which offers its own branded services and powers those of partners like 'Sprint 4G' and Comcast, was extending its range of devices.

The new options include a dual-mode mobile hotspot, the ClearSpot 4G+, which allows sharing of a WiMAX connection between several Wi-Fi devices, and adds CDMA support to the previous WiMAX-only ClearSpot (it is a version of the Overdrive already offered by Sprint). Also added was the Clear 4G+ Mobile USB modem, the first to work on a Mac as well as a PC. Both the new devices come from Sierra Wireless and can be bought outright or leased for a monthly fee. The router costs $225 or $6 a month and the modem costs $115 or $6 a month. A lower cost mobile hotspot, ClearSpot 4G, made by Infomark, was also announced, or $100 or $5 a month.

Over in Sweden, where TeliaSonera is the first commercial LTE operator in the world, two of its rivals are luring customers by removing data caps for high end, dongle-based data plans. 3 Sweden has removed a 20Gb limit for its Max plan, following Tele2's decision to abandon a 10Gb limit for new adopters of its Large tariff. Telenor has never had limits on its high end data plans, while TeliaSonera retains a 20Gb cap for its most expensive option, while its new LTE offering has a 30Gb ceiling.

Peder Ramel, CEO of 3 Scandinavia, took a very different view from AT&T and O2 UK, both of which have recently added new caps as they are forced to update their networks significantly to cope with data traffic and signalling from dongles and smartphones. Ramel said that the cost of upgrading networks was now coming down, so data capacity was not such a limited or expensive resource any more, especially as 3 has found fewer than 1% of its users come close to the 20Gb monthly limit. In 2009, the average amount of data per user was 2Gb in Sweden, a heavy user of mobile data, and under 3% of mobile consumers crossed the 5Gb barrier, according to regulator PTS. However, 3 Sweden still has a 10Gb data cap for its most expensive smartphone package, which costs SEK149 ($19) a month.

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