Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular proved it this week when
they all unleashed unlimited voice plans for $99 per month. It's a service that
we all just expect to have at our disposal. The real epiphany will occur,
however, when the carriers come to the same realization about wireless
Many already consider voice to be a commodity. With plans offering customers
buckets of talk time ranging from 450 to 2,000 minutes per month, it's hard to
argue that it isn't. This week's announcements put the
matter to rest. Voice is now just voice. There's nothing the carriers can do
to make it any better or special than its competitors. There's no further way to
dress it up. Everyone already offers call forwarding, voice mail, call waiting,
and so on. Going
unlimited is the only way to differentiate. And now that everyone has gone
unlimited, that's it. Done deal. Commoditization has occurred.
Of course, the entire wireless industry is still waiting with bated breath on
word from Sprint. Will it join its competitors in offering unlimited voice
services, too? Analysts seem to think so. In fact, they think Sprint will
undercut the industry with much cheaper unlimited plans, costing $60 for
all-you-can-eat talking, compared with $99. Whatever the price point Sprint
decides upon, it already has been trialling an unlimited service in four test
markets. Its plan, however, bundles in free messaging and Internet data. The
trials have been under way for months now. Too bad for Sprint that Verizon
pulled a brilliant strategic move and beat it out of the gate.
Now that the carriers have commoditized half of their businesses model, what
about data? It's already happening. Carriers already offer unlimited data plans.
Sure, many force you to go through their respective decks. But with the trend
toward "open" networks (whatever that turns out to really mean), people will be
going off deck for content more and more. Eventually, most content will be
consumed off deck, and the carriers will simply be the bit
pipes necessary to reach it.
What's your view of the commodity issue? Submit comments at my blog
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