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Is Base pulling off a mobile flatfee miracle?

Smartphones with mobile internet are a potential game-changer for many industries. Throughout Europe, around 38% of people have a smartphone right now, and penetration grows dramatically. 22% of Europeans state they are considering buying a new smartphone in the coming 6 months. 22% is quite far from 100%, so how dramatic is this growth in penetration really? Data tells us that around one-third of people don’t have a smartphone, are genuinely not interested. No added value for them, end of story. That leaves us however with 2/3rds that doesn’t have a smartphone yet because of other reasons. These are, in order of importance: “my current phone still works fine†(how long is that going to last?) and “it’s too expensive†(same comment). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that a hell of a lot of people will soon walk around with a smartphone in their pocket.

Always on
So…. a smartphone is a nice gadget, but where its largest game-changing ability lies is of course in bringing the internet into your pocket. Always on, 24 hours a day if you’re a no-sleeper. In a recent (unpublished, stay tuned) study by InSites Consulting, we asked smartphone users from Belgium and The Netherlands for their intention to get a data subscription in the coming year. 17% and 18% respectively, plans on getting one. As a reference, in the US, this number lies closer to 30%. I’m curious however, whether the recent actions from Dutch provider KPN and their Belgian subsidiary Base will pull the Dutch and Belgian mobile internet penetration further apart.

Where KPN recently announced a price increase in mobile data (in Dutch), Base explicitly took the opposite road. They announced new bundles (in Dutch, here at ZDnet) where over a certain limit, you don’t pay extra anymore. The maximum data cost is set at 15 euro, which is not very expensive in my opinion, and I’m pretty sure that this will reel in a bunch of (young) smartphone users to get that data subscription. Once you have it, you’re hooked. I personally got it as a 3-month promotion with my smartphone, and I’m an avid user ever since.

Marketing needs online consumers
These are interesting but difficult times for mobile providers, and a whole lot of their actions have a direct influence on the usefulness of the mobile channel in a marketing strategy. Where the mobile internet is a great service that providers can offer, it directly cannibalizes on their other products/cashcows. Texting? There’s an app for that. Calling? For that too (with some obvious limitations). Providers are going to need some serious thinking and data-crunching to decide which strategy is the way to go… And that’s exactly what the people at KPN & Base are going to do: comparing the effects of their differing market strategies, and decide which one works best. If all turns out well, everyone is constantly connected very soon, bringing about a whole new era, with new challenges for everyone, and marketers in particular.

If you have an opinion on where we are going with the mobile internet, don’t hesitate to contact me at @eliasveris, I’m extremely interested in what you have to say!