Are mobile downloads overpriced?

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Will Head writes…

Is it unfair that downloads from mobile phones cost more than those on a PC, or does the network operator deserve to make back some of the money it’s invested in setting up and maintaining the network?

Victor Keegan at the Guardian thinks the current system is disgraceful and “grossly unfair on consumers and could stymie the growth potential of a new industry”.

But does it really make sense to download large amounts of data directly to a handset when you could achieve the same result by waiting until you get home and transferring the content over from a broadband connected PC?

Don’t get me wrong – internet while you’re out and about is a wonderful thing. After a while of living with a BlackBerry, you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed when your email didn’t turn up with beepity-beep, just like text messages.

It’s also great for finding a quick address via Google Maps or checking film times and the like, but it’s more for snacking rather than gorging. You can put off getting the latest music tracks until you get home, with the mobile more for quick updates and finding information that you need there and then.

Providing the infrastructure can’t be cheap and it only has a limited capacity, so pricing it in such a manner that people think twice before making a large download seems a sensible thing. Of course, consumers should be made aware how much it’s going to cost them, to avoid any nasty surprises.

Mobile internet is always going to be a step or two behind fixed access and it wasn’t so long ago that all internet access was effectively on a pay as go pricing scheme. With dialup you paid by the minute – even if the access itself was free. It was only with the introduction of broadband that we got used to the idea of all you can eat access.

Will Head