Why I Want to Ban the Word “Data”

I am not picking on AT&T Wireless, but I wanted to have a familiar-looking graphic for this article (disclosure: I am an ATTW subscriber). I have heard lots of telecommunications industry analysts remark that it costs $250-300 to acquire a wireless subscriber in the United States. What does this have to do with my quest to erradicate the word “data” from carrier marketing literature? The overuse and misuse of the word “data” has convinced me that telecom companies are still learning how to market non-voice services to their customers.

From about 2000-2002, almost every major wireless carrier touted the fact that their network supported wireless data. We had AT&T Wireless’ mLife (now mMode). We had Vision from SprintPCS. All of these carriers talked about this nebulous word “data” that has some meaning to business users but absolutely no meaning to your average wireless subscriber. The reason that “data” is such a nebulous term is that having support for data is a capability and most users want to know about applications, not capabilities. A “data” network is a capability, not an application.

I am glad to see that wireless companies are beginning to adjust their marketing. Now, instead of talking about “data”, they are talking about real applications that users understand, such as the ability to send and receive email, the ability to download and play games, and the ability to take, send, and receive messages.