What the Current Wireless Plans Tell Us About Future Data Prices

While flipping through reviews of the impacts of last week’s wireless pricing changes by AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s VZ) and comparisons of new cell phone pricing plans, I came across the handy little chart below, courtesy of a Deutsche Bank report out today. It made me realize that we have a two-tiered level of competition when it comes to mobile plans (three if we count prepaid), and voice has been utterly commoditized, which means data plans are going to stay pricey.

Here are a few other takeaways from this chart:

  1. For $100 you can get unlimited everything on T-Mo and Sprint. AT&T and Verizon will charge you $120. So if you live in an area where you can get coverage from T-Mo and Sprint, then there’s no reason to pay $240 extra a year.
  2. Voice is utterly commoditized, yet is still the biggest driver of a key carrier metric, average revenue per user or ARPU, (even if that voice ARPU is declining to around $37 or so today). To compensate for the decline in voice, data and SMS fees are going to have to get more and more expensive to keep carriers profiting. Alternatively, we’re going to have to use more data and get charged based on our usage, which is why Verizon and AT&T are adding mandatory data plans for more and more phones.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user Tracy O