Voice and Data Pricing, Net Neutrality, the Auction and MoreThursday, February 21, 2008
Well, Analog wireless voice is history, or at least network operators are permitted to turn it off as of last Monday, and Verizon introduced a $99.99 unlimited voice plan that was immediately matched by AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile. And from Sprint yesterday, however, one of our readers posted a note on my Commentary about pricing models saying that Sprint already had this type of plan, at the same price, for its 5-Star customers. As I mentioned in my Commentary this week, I believe this is only the start of a number of new price model announcements.
Net Neutrality is heating up again. I have been thinking about the implications for wireless networks for a while now. The Internet community is concerned that the cost of delivery of information over the Internet will change and that Internet companies that pay more will get better access to customers. It is, to them, about not letting one company or the giants in the industry be able to buy faster or better access to the Internet.
But when you look at wireless access, and most of you know how I feel about that, it is not about Net Neutrality, it is about conserving bandwidth. The way bandwidth will be managed in the wireless world will provide a level playing field for all Internet companies. The reason for this is that bandwidth, and perhaps speed, will be managed not by restricting or permitting access to a specific company, but by managing the bandwidth available to every customer no matter where on the Internet they want to go.
Wireless bandwidth has to be managed or a few customers will end up creating traffic jams and slow down the wireless broadband experience for others who are also paying for the service. I don’t see any way that this management of a limited resource (bandwidth) by both pricing and speed will have an adverse effect since it will be done on a customer or user basis and not by giving one Internet company an advantage over another.
Why are the auctions dragging on so long? Well, it isn’t as long as it might seem. As of this writing, we are on round 90 and most auctions have gone on for many more rounds than that. These rounds are going faster with an average of two per day and the number of bids is getting smaller with each round―but I’m not sure it is all over for the C or D block yet. Perhaps I am being optimistic, but I keep hoping that whoever did not get the C block will circle back around and go after the D block. The FCC has really set itself up for a big failure here and it didn’t need to do that. I think it was convinced that there would be three active bidders: Frontline (who withdrew), AT&T and Verizon, both of which appear to have lost interest based on the build-out requirements presented to them by the PSST (Public Safety Spectrum Trust) or some other reason. Meanwhile, we sit and wait to see who ends up with what spectrum.
The Choice Awards
Our Choice Award nominations are closed and we are overwhelmed with entries this year. It will be really tough to whittle each category down to three finalists, let alone a winner for each one. Each of the entries is deserving of mention, and it is great to see so many thoughtful products and services in the marketplace. We will make our selections and announce the three finalists on schedule and the winner of each category will be announced at our 18th Annual Wireless Dinner at CTIA. It’s hard to believe that this year is eighteen years for the dinner, which started in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas the first night of Comdex and was attended by all of eight people. It has grown to more than 300 guests and my only regret is that I cannot spend time with each and every one of them at the dinner.
More lawsuits? Yes, unfortunately, that appears to be happening on a regular basis today―who invented what when, who holds patents, how much of someone else’s service or product infringes on that patent, what prior art there is, and all of the other legal stuff that keeps attorneys in business. At the end of the day, perhaps some money will change hands or there will be some cross licensing and we can all get back to work. What I don’t understand is that all of these companies are doing business in the marketplace right now. They are competitors of each other and slogging it out as they should in the marketplace. Yes, intellectual property is important and yes, companies make a lot of money because of the IP they own and the investments they made to develop the technologies, but you would think that once products are in the market they could survive or not on the marketing and sales prowess of the company.
It would certainly be nice if our patent system were updated and upgraded so there would be few disputes about patents and intellectual property, but then I guess the attorneys would not be able to afford wireless phones and ARPU would drop off!.
Andrew M. Seybold