3G iPhone to cause mobile data price war?

Summary:Apple's 3G iPhone will hit Australia on 11 July, with Vodafone and Optus confirming they will offer the device. With Telstra also expected to join the party, what is the likelihood of a price war over data costs?

Apple's 3G iPhone will hit Australia on 11 July, with Vodafone and Optus confirming they will offer the device. With Telstra also expected to join the party, what is the likelihood of a price war over data costs?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the 3G iPhone at its Developers Conference in San Francisco, after much speculation that the Cupertino giant was preparing for a 3G launch.

Jobs also announced a significant price drop for the device to coincide with its global release, setting a US$199 price tag for an 8GB handset.

Vodafone Australia confirmed this morning that it will offer the device to its prepaid customers, but a spokesperson for the telco was unable to comment on how data costs will be packaged as part of its prepaid or plan-based offerings, telling ZDNet.com.au today that details are "yet to be finalised".

The carrier's Australian iPhone rival, Optus, also revealed that it would offer the device under both prepaid and contract arrangements, but a spokesperson declined to comment on pricing and whether or not Optus planned to increase the data caps of any of its existing plans to accommodate the anticipated data spike from iPhone users.

"They've [Apple] definitely gone for a very aggressive pricing strategy with this US$199 offering," said Robin Simpson, research director at analyst group Gartner. "I'm not sure if there's been any level of operator subsidy involved, but it's hard to imagine all 70 providers globally agreeing to that."

"There's no doubt that [Australian] operators have been watching what's going on in Europe, where information suggests that iPhone users tend to use up a lot more data than most others ... once people start browsing the Web with rich applications and widgets, that's where the data squeeze will come from," he said.

Mark Novosel, telecommunications market analyst at IDC, expects that Australian providers will offer iPhone-specific data plans as part of the release, saying that a 1GB add-on for iPhone users is a distinct possibility.

"We've never seen a device of this calibre on prepaid before ... but a 1GB data add-on will be very likely, given that the operators will all be trying to outdo each other with what they can offer with the iPhone," he said.

Novosel believes that Apple's 3G device will spur on other Australian operators such as Telstra and 3 to announce their intentions to carry the iPhone.

"My thoughts were that Apple didn't want the world to know it was a 3G iPhone," he said. "If Telstra or Hutchinson had come out with anything sooner it would have been a give-away, now that Apple's gone public I think we can expect to hear from Telstra and Hutchinson by the end of the week."

Topics: Apple, Big Data, Government : AU, iPhone, Mobility, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

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