Swedish mobile service operator Tre (3) lets go of charging for data generated by music streaming services

What is great for consumers might have some serious political and economic consequences, though.

Tre, Swedens third largest mobile service provider, now “sets music free” (loosely translated from the Swedish strapline “Nu släpper vi musiken fri!”).

What this means is that the cell phone carrier will no longer charge for any data (i.e. up to 70GB/month) that is being consumed through the usage of streaming music services – and, thus, not deduct such data from a customers monthly data plan. That is, as long as the music service being used is either Spotify, Deezer or Tidal (the latter also offers music videos – video data, however, is not included in the offer). For some reason, Apple Music is not (yet?) included. The offer applies to all forms of subscription and to existing as well as to new customers.

According to an article in the Swedish daily newspaper METRO (September 1st, 2015), industry observers expect Tre‘s competitors (which are basically Telenor, Tele2 and Telia Soneraplus some smaller ones) to follow that move sooner or later in order not to experience competitive disadvantages.

The very same article, based on data from The Internet Foundation in Sweden (IIS), also mentions that:

  • 3 out of 4 Swedes listen to music on their mobile phone
  • 1 in 3 does so every day, and
  • 3 out of 4 pay for a music service.

That means an already existing pretty large customer base that might, all of a sudden, start generating massive amounts of data traffic. I am curious to see how that will work out.

I am also curious to see if there will be any public debate revolving around the principle of network neutrality[ref]Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.[/ref], which I would certainly expect to happen.

Additionally, this move of Tre might also bring along some serious economic consequences and/or options: Obviously, the company has the power to exclude certain streaming providers (such as Apple Music and others in that case) from that offer, which, of course, causes a serious competitive disadvantage for those (see the cross-reference to “net neutrality” above!), because consumers in turn might not want to choose a music streaming provider that is not eligible for unlimited streaming on their respective carrier. Cell phone carriers might start teaming up with music streaming providers along some negotiated lines in order to achieve some kind of strategic objective. In that instance here, Spotify might benefit by stabilizing the market position in Sweden, which has become seriously threatened by the market entry of Apple Music some months back.

Let’s see what happens. There will be some interesting developments in any case, I guess.


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