Flat-rate tariffs will spur HSDPA services

Pricing strategies will determine the uptake of high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) services, says analyst firm.

Pricing strategies will determine the uptake of high-speed downlink packet access (HDPA) services, says analyst firm.

Devine Kofiloto, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, noted that mobile operators today capitalize on HSDPA's mobility benefits over fixed DSL (digital subscriber line) and Wi-Fi, to justify the premium pricing of HSDPA services.

The touted successor of today's 3G mobile networks, HSDPA is a beefed up version of the Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) technology that improves the downlink speed, and is capable of supporting data connection of up to 1.4Mbps (megabits per second).

"In the voice world, the so-called 'mobile premium' has for years allowed mobile operators to get away with vastly higher tariffs than those charged by their fixed-line counterparts," he said in a statement Wednesday.

According to Informa, the average price of an operator's HSDPA data bundle is between 50 and 70 euros (US$60 to US$84) per month, offering data limits ranging from 1GB (gigabytes) to 2GB.

However, if mobile operators aspire to achieve the data traffic volumes which fixed broadband service providers currently enjoy, they must recognize the factors that had propelled such growth, Kofiloto said.

One driving factor is the availability of single-fee, unlimited data access plans, which mobile operators are still reluctant to offer, he said.

"Looking at the fixed [data services] world, broadband uptake only truly took off after the introduction of flat-rate tariffs and the settling of average monthly fees at around 25 euros," he noted, citing Informa's research on the European market.

As of Mar. 7 this year, only six HSDPA networks support commercially available services, including Cingular Wireless in the United States and O2 on the Isle of Man. In the Asia-Pacific region, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, are among the countries which plan to roll out HSDPA networks, or are in the midst of doing so.

Gartner predicts that sales of HSDPA handsets will reach 6.3 million this year and will jump to 102 million by 2009.


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