I've long argued that one of the reasons 3G uptake in Malaysia has been sluggish is that the cost of unlimited access plans are too high.
The operators will argue that if you browse within their walled-garden 3G offerings, data access charges are waived (you only pay for the content, not the data access).
The problem is that people don't want 3G in order to access telco walled-garden content offerings. What they want is Internet access, pure and simple. And they want it cheap.
So far, none of the operators are willing to give consumers cheap wireless Internet access.
This is not just a Malaysian problem. It happens in most places around the world. Look at the UK. Recently, Orange and Vodafone reduced the charges of their data plans. But, what they are offering is far from satisfactory. The MobHappy blog explains why it's actually a raw deal:
Orange postpaid customers can get unlimited browsing for £8 (US$16) a month, while prepaid users can get a week’s worth for £5 (US$10). Vodafone's new tariff slashes data prices to £1 (US$2) a day for 15Megabyte (MB) usage.
But, hold on, there are caveats aplenty. With Orange, you are not allowed to use VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), P2P (peer-to-peer), instant messaging (IM) or non-Orange Internet-based video. And, it's not even really unlimited as there is a cap of 1GB data usage.
Vodafone has its fair share of caveats, too. If a user goes over 15MB, they're billed at £2 (US$10) per MB. Vodafone says you are not supposed to use VoIP, P2P or IM. If you do, you get billed at £2 (US$4) per MB with a minimum of 5 pence (10 US cents) per session.
It's amazing how these telcos in the UK just don't get it when it comes to data access and what consumers want. But the telcos here don't get it too.
The first telco that gives consumers a cheap, unrestrictive data access plan will corner the market. Will one of the telcos break rank and offer something disruptive?
I'm not holding my breath.