3 UK casts doubt on keeping unlimited data plans for LTE

Three UK's unlimited data plans seem unlikely to be offered to LTE subscribers when the company launches the service next year. Phil Sheppard, the operator's director of network strategy, said that its 3G "All You Can Eat" data plans are at present a sustainable business model, but added that there might be some changes in the longer term.

"Currently we have a network that will continue to grow and be supportive [of All You Can Eat data]," Sheppard told Mobile Today. "We need to look at the spectrum available and see what tariffs will fit."

Any shift away from unlimited data could impact 3 UK's reputation given that the operator's growth has largely been gained from its aggressively marketing a highly competitive unlimited mobile data plan. While the company only has a 10 per cent share of the mobile market, it presently accounts for 43 per cent of all mobile data traffic, according to Mobile Today.

Sheppard also called for more spectrum to be released to satisfy the ongoing demand from consumers and business users for mobile data.

EE remains the only UK operator offering commercial LTE service, though its competitors are expected to launch their own LTE service in the middle of 2013 following the UK's LTE spectrum auction. The auction will begin in January. EE offers LTE plan for consumers that start at  £36 ($57.62) per month on a two-year contract, with 500 MB and Wi-Fi, plus unlimited voice and texts. Prices range up from there to include plans that offer 1 GB of data for £41 per month, 3 GB for £46, 5 GB for £51 and 8 GB for £56. All of the company's LTE smartphone plans come with unlimited voice and texts.

Meanwhile, a new study from UK telecoms regulator Ofcom highlights the issue of mobile data growth in the UK.

Ofcom claims that the UK has one of the highest penetrations of smartphones, at 58 per cent, while just under one in five (19 per cent) has a tablet computer. As a result, for the first time, UK consumers are downloading more data on their mobiles and tablets than any other major nation, Ofcom said.

As of December 2011, Ofcom states that the average UK mobile user downloaded 424 MB, higher than any other major country, pushing Japan into second place at 392 MB and the United States into sixth with 319 MB.

The study said that smartphone data appears to be driven by the popularity of social networking sites on mobile phones. The report noted that 40 per cent of UK adults now use their handsets to visit social networking sites, while among 18-24 year-olds almost two-thirds do so--more than any other major country.

For more:
- see this Ofcom report
- see this Mobile Today article

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