Businesses and consumers are buzzing about Verizon announcing an unlimited data plan once again. But while exciting to see, realistically this move is nothing more than a marketing play to compete against the other large carriers and reduce customer churn. Unlimited data plans will impact consumers much more heavily than enterprise mobility efforts.
However, if you step back and look at the bigger mobility picture and where the industry is headed, there are other, more impactful enterprise shifts occurring.
IoT drives the creation of a new type of plan–and new challenges
For businesses, Verizon’s recent Internet of Things (IoT) program moves are much more impactful than their unlimited data plan announcement. IoT deployments present a major business opportunity, but carriers must account for a completely different set of devices accessing their mobile data networks. The huge number of IoT sensors being deployed in commercial, municipal, and residential spaces constantly move small amounts of data over wireless networks. As a result, carriers like Verizon and Sprint are tailoring their mobile services to better align with the usage patterns of enterprise IoT devices.
As this happens, new considerations will come into play–for example, what happens when a sensor goes on the fritz and racks up data charges? Unlike a phone, no one is there to monitor it. A faulty sensor could misuse data for days or months before being noticed if it is not managed correctly.
Seamless interplay of WiFi and cellular data
Data will continue to grow in importance as both consumers and businesses increase their dependence on mobile devices. To keep up, carriers and technology developers must push the boundaries of innovation. We will soon see both WiFi and wireless technologies progress beyond current limitations. WiFi will improve in range, cellular data will handle greater data capacities, and both technologies will allow devices to roam seamlessly. Carriers like Verizon will start buying access from companies that run WiFi networks, which may also impact the price of plans offered to consumers and businesses.
Un-bundling of carriers and devices
Another important shift we will soon see in the wireless carrier business model is the decoupling of network services and devices. Carriers’ commitment to network services cross-subsidizing a mobile device is quickly fading.
Because consumers may have to pay the purchase price for a new phone upfront rather than adding the cost to a two-year contract commitment, it’s likely they will upgrade their mobile devices much less frequently.
The bigger impact, though, will be on businesses. Decoupling carrier services and devices means companies will have more freedom in selecting devices, but it also means that the procurement process will be far more complex. As a result, we’ll see third-party sources and new suppliers step in to assist in recoupling networks and devices to try and remove some of the complexities created.
Pixel dominates the Android OS
Apple owns its ecosystem of devices in addition to the iOS Operating System (OS). Android, on the other hand, has traditionally provided an open OS, offering users many types of devices from dozens of manufacturers. However, Google is beginning to challenge the status quo and disrupt the mobile device market.
Google continues to develop its Android OS for enterprise usage, but its Pixel smartphone better complements this new version of Android than any other Android device on the market. This shift in Google’s approach shows the company’s determination to push beyond their Nexus product line. Like Apple, Google aims to create an end-to-end mobile experience, giving them greater control by reducing the variety of Android devices available. If Google succeeds, this will cause a major shift in the mobile phone market.
Keeping the big picture in mind
Having new, more suitable options can seem like a huge step for consumers. As society becomes more mobile and the definition of “mobile” itself expands, we’ll see more and more industry shifts. Looking back in ten or fifteen years, an unlimited data plan will probably seem very minor in the grand scheme of things.
Mitch Black is President of MOBI Wireless, a company enabling enterprises to centralize, comprehend, and control their device ecosystems.