According to a newly released research report, mobile broadband subscriptions on connected tablets will grow eightfold over the next five years, with 165 million new tablets expected to start receiving mobile data. Among the service plans that will drive tablet subscriptions are those that share a pooled data allocation on a single data plan and lower-cost SIM-only prepaid tariffs aimed specifically at tablets.
These finding do not surprise us. The exploding popularity of tablets is such that Wi-Fi only plans will no longer satisfy users who want the maximum mobility out of their devices. Clearly, if this report is on target, mobile operators need to develop appropriate tablet plans for the emerging marketplace.
Tarifica recently concluded a study of consumer data-only plans offered by 18 leading mobile operators in nine European countries. We found that 40% of these MNOs offered no postpaid plans designed specifically for tablets, instead offering SIM-only service that could be applied to a tablet as well as to other mobile devices. This approach makes sense on the prepaid side, where it is already prevalent, but on the postpaid side we believe it to be shortsighted. Instead, operators should be more open to creating plans that include the actual tablet as a means of stimulating sales and increasing subscriber satisfaction.
There is one other related point that we consider worth mentioning: Notwithstanding the results of the recent research report, we believe that Ultrabooks such as the MacBook Air could very well give tablets a run for their money in the near future. Ultrabooks are not much larger than tablets in dimensions or weight, yet they pack far more computing power. We believe operators should think in terms of these types of notebooks representing a potentially much larger share of their data-only subscribers over time, and therefore should design USB-modem plans specifically aimed at these devices. In the Tarifica study referenced above, even fewer operators offered dedicated USB modem plans – barely 10% – and we think that needs to change.