The days of minute based plans from your mobile provider are coming to a close. Mobile providers already operate on digital signals rather than analog which means that essentially all voice calls are data anyway but the future lies in data plans on a per kilobyte or per megabyte basis.
Mobile phones are getting far more complex and serving data applications is becoming just about as important as voice calls to some users. GPS, Email, Web, and all sorts of other data based applications have popped up over the past couple of years and with the IPhone’s big buzz, the numbers of people wanting mobile devices that have data functions are increasing exponentially.
The question is why would the networks change from their adopted minute based plans? The answer lies in the future. Think about the IPhone, the long rumored Google Phone, or even maybe an open source phone that hasn’t been released yet. What’s to stop Skype from creating a mobile version of their service so that mobile users can make Skype calls using their mobile? Skype is by nature a data application, so no minutes are ever used. Minutes quickly become irrelevant and mobile providers are out the overage fees that make them some nice cash. Subscribers that make a lot of calls like sales representatives could rack up thousands of minutes using the most basic of calling plans with an unlimited data plan attached.
Mobile broadband is on the rise as well. I am one of the many subscribers who use this as their primary way of getting to the internet. Linksys in association with Sprint have released a router that can accept a PCMCIA card and feed that wireless signal to multiple PC’s via standard WiFi.
As the data usage on the mobile networks increase there has to be a way to limit it, and this is where the data usage plans will come into play. Telco’s are also moving towards this sort charging following the path of Web hosting companies. Although the change will likely take several years, don’t be surprised to see it come to your mobile provider very soon.