4G and Away!

4G_technology_smUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you are undoubtedly aware that the 4G ship has sailed into port. The 4G network is a completely different technology as compared to 3G, the network it is replacing. 3G was fast, but 4G will set the world on fire. It’s kind of like the difference between a farm tractor and a Lamborghini. Rather than just being able to check email and (slowly) surf the net (as with 3G), 4G users will be able to watch live television and rip through online content like nobody’s business.

So what does this mean for communications companies?

Change device, change carrier?
The big question for wireless providers is whether or not customers will change carriers as they upgrade to new, 4G-supported devices. The simple answer is, it depends. Customers who are currently under contract will not likely jump ship for the simple fact that it will cost too much. For example, let’s say I want to upgrade five devices. I can probably buy these less expensively by changing carriers (due to attractive introductory offers). However, if I have to cancel three contracts prior to term end to do it, it may cost me upwards of $1,000—probably more than I can save by changing carriers.

For customers who are at the end of a contract term, upgrading to 4G presents a golden opportunity to change providers, if that’s something they’ve been considering. Wireless providers will obviously need to contact these customers well before their contracts are up and make them an offer they simply can’t refuse.

Other concerns for wireless providers
Obviously, key players in the market have invested a significant amount of money to develop the 4G infrastructure, and sooner or later they’re going to want to recoup those costs. Introductory offers will motivate many to upgrade to 4G, but will all these new/upgrade customers be able to pay the higher monthly bills that will likely come with their new 4G devices? While locking in all these new contracts will positively affect sales quotas, it will be more important than ever to assess these customers’ cash flow situations and credit-worthiness, so they don’t end up negatively affecting the bottom line.

Concerns for other telecommunications companies
One other interesting aspect to consider is this: With a 4G device, consumers can effectively create their own “hot spot.” So the question is, just as many people are dropping their landlines in favor of wireless, will 4G device users decide to drop their Internet providers? How about their cable television service?

I intend to revisit this topic in 3-6 months to see whether early 4G adopters are in fact jumping to different carriers and/or dropping other services. What do you think might happen as 4G becomes the new normal? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.