The Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation: It's Not All About Data- Mobile Voice and Messaging Share Plans Offer Plenty of Appeal

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The Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation: It's Not All About Data- Mobile Voice and Messaging Share Plans Offer Plenty of Appeal

Alcatel-Lucent’s Rich Crowe continues the Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation blog series by examining the degree to which consumers are interested in share plans that include unlimited voice and messaging but don’t include data.

The last Six Degrees blog explored consumer attitudes toward two different mobile share plan options: sharing data only and sharing voice, messaging and data. This blog will explore attitudes toward a 3rd option: sharing unlimited voice and messaging — but not data — across multiple devices or subscribers.

Of course, data is still in the mix. Subscribers who use a shared voice and messaging plan would have the option to purchase a separate data plan for their own devices. This sharing scenario is similar to the one offered by the Sprint FramilyTM plan, where each plan member has the option to choose a different monthly data limit.

Fast-growing Framily

Sprint’s report for the quarter ending March 31, 2014 charts the rapid growth of the company’s Framily shared plan offer. Although the offer was introduced early in the quarter and only available in Sprint-branded stores, nearly 3 million customers had already signed up, making Framily the fastest-growing Sprint rate plan ever. An interesting dynamic of the Framily program is its ability to turn customers into recruiters for Sprint as they try to maximize their discount by getting more people to join their Framily.

Gauging interest in data-free mobile share plans

Market research by Alcatel-Lucent reveals that consumer interest in unlimited shared voice and messaging plans varies significantly from country to country (Figure 1). These plans appeal to a small percentage of respondents in the United Kingdom, United States and France. But interest is much higher in Brazil and Japan: Nearly one-fifth of Brazilian respondents and more a third of Japanese respondents say they are interested in unlimited shared voice and messaging plans. Interestingly, those who indicate a preference for sharing unlimited voice and messaging – including those from Brazil and Japan – aren’t demographically different from those who prefer to share data only or share everything.

The Alcatel-Lucent survey also shows that those interested in unlimited shared voice and text plans are likely to purchase these plans. Among interested respondents, likelihood to purchase ranges from 64% (Japan) to 92% (Brazil). While overall interest in sharing voice and text is lower in France, the UK and the US, those who are interested are highly inclined to make the purchase, as shown in Figure 2. These findings carry on a theme that emerged in the previous blog in the Six Degrees series: consumers attracted by sharing plans are willing to take action to get what they want.


As with data and "everything” share plans, the availability of unlimited voice and messaging share plans has a formidable impact on customer churn and retention for interested consumers. Respondents in all 5 countries show a willingness to switch service providers to get their preferred form of mobile sharing or to stay with their current service provider to keep it.

Figure 3 shows the churn impact of unlimited voice and messaging share plans among those who express an interest in these plans. Willingness to switch is strong in all 5 of the surveyed countries. It is highest in Brazil (86%) and the US (78%), and lowest in France (39%). 


Figure 4 shows the retention impact of unlimited shared voice and messaging plans in the 5 countries. In each case, more than half of all interested respondents indicate that these plans would have a strong or very strong influence on their willingness to stay with their current service provider. Shared voice and messaging plans exert the strongest pull in the US (91%), UK (90%) and Brazil (87%). The retention impact isn’t quite as strong in France (55%).


The survey results show two key ways in which service providers can benefit from offering shared unlimited voice and messaging plans. The first is that they can attract new subscribers from a defined segment of the market. The second is that they can create “stickiness” by giving existing customers the ability to attach multiple devices and subscribers to a single mobile plan. 

Interpreting the results

The primary reason respondents give in favor of sharing only voice and messaging is that they anticipate a lower price. This response is especially common in Japan (87%) but was chosen by more than 70% of respondents in all countries. Saving time by managing a single bill is a secondary motivator in France, the UK and the US.

But why not share data as well? Consumers adding data to the mix could surely expect a lower price and a single, unified bill.

Conversations between Alcatel-Lucent and service providers have uncovered a few reasons why subscribers may not want data included in a share plan. For example, some account owners won’t want to take responsibility for ensuring that individual plan members don’t use too much data. Likewise, some plan members may not like the idea of ceding account control and having their data limits or

In markets with low-price mobile data, there is still interest in individual plans that allow subscribers to share data from a primary account with one or several of their own data devices. See the previous blog in the series for more on data-only sharing.

usage managed by another subscriber.

Because of this, some of Alcatel-Lucent’s service provider customers indicate that they see data usage control as a source of increased tension among share plan members – often family members. Not sharing data relieves this tension even if voice and messaging are shared. In markets where competition has spurred service providers to offer low-price data plans, the barrier to enabling data use for multiple devices and subscribers is low, and data sharing offers limited value. However, sharing voice and messaging still has appeal for the discounts that are assumed to come with it.

Putting data first: the key to satisfying and retaining subscribers

The Alcatel-Lucent survey results make it clear that mobile subscribers who are interested in sharing –whether it’s voice and messaging, data or all of the above —know what they want and are willing to take action to get it. All of these sharing options are possible in a data-first business model. By flipping their business models and putting data first, service providers can give subscribers the sharing options they want. This freedom of choice will help increase customer satisfaction and retention and reduce churn.

Connect with the author on Twitter: @rhcrowe

Past blogs in this series:



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