Prepaid customers of UAE operator Etisalat can now access a new service called Start/Stop data, as and when required, for only 2 fils (US $0.05) per minute. The service,launched for the first time in the region, is expected to foster a completely new usage behavior of short-period on-demand mobile internet access, making data easy to use and affordable to all UAE prepaid subscribers. By dialing*777#, customers can start or stop a data session and will be charted only for the data used during that time, with no volume limit on usage. Data speed will be limited to 1 Mbps during any Start/Stop data session. Khaled El Khouly, the operator’s Chief Consumer Officer, said, “Etisalat’s launch of the ‘Start/Stop’ data service will be a game changer for the industry, making data usage accessible to all prepaid subscribers and most of all affordable. Time-based data access with pay-per-minute charging has not been launched on a commercial scale as we have done here. We are confident customers will enjoy this innovative new data service that gives them the agility to use and pay as per their usage.”
Whether or not Start/Stop data will revolutionize consumer behavior, we do believe that it is an innovative offering with the potential to tap into users’ oft-stated desire for more flexibility in mobile offerings. Prepaid users in particular tend to be budget-oriented, and a service such as this one which frees them from being charged for data that they do not use seems likely to be popular. The limit on speed may dissuade some, but 1 Mpbs is probably fast enough to enable basic internet use without undue difficulty.