back to article Mobile net kingpins v the world: 'Why should we pay the 4G tab?'

Life’s tough for a mobile operator. The regulators treat you like a cash cow and the over-the-top services are leeching all the money. And unless we get back to the good old days of the 1990s, they "won’t be able to make the investments necessary for 4G". This was the tone of the Mobile Operator Strategies Keynote at Mobile …


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  1. Ru

    "But being a good corporate citizen is expensive"

    Not in the UK it isn't! All it cost them was lunch with Mr. Hartnett.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AT&T and Vodafone?

    Aren't these the same companies that take great glee in bending their customers over for having the temerity to tether their phone to a computer or go over some pitifully small "fair use" "unlimited" Internet access limit?

    Fuck 'em. They're making enough dough, and if they aren't then it ain't my bloody fault nor anybody else's. Mobile Internet has been a cash cow for years, and companies like these just want the gravy train to continue. It won't. Just like telephone calls used to be hugely expensive, we're facing a point where consumers are realising that those little 0s and 1s don't actually cost anything, and they can send lots and LOTS of pictures and videos to their friends. Presuming they don't get raped to the tune of 10p, 30p or more per megabyte on shitty carriers, that is.

    Personally I'll be happy with a reliable 2 or 4Mbit/sec. Sort that out before moaning about 4G, eh? And spend some of that money on network upgrades instead of a second yacht.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AT&T and Vodafone?

      ""Mobile Internet has been a cash cow for years,.......consumers are realising that those little 0s and 1s don't actually cost anything....""

      So you read the bit about only 15% of revenue being from Data, and the bit about ARPU dropping from €26 to €20 and figured you'd just ignore that bit as it doesn't fit your hyperbole?Remember you're talking about Mobile Here, not wireline.

      There is already more 0's and 1's as data over the networks for data than for voice and that is growing. So that 15% has to pay for 70-90% of the infrastructure. As spectrum becomes full, you have to buy more, and more radio to deal with that spectrum. Just what part about those 'don't actually cost anything'?? I suppose that when they add lanes onto the M25 to deal with extra traffic, you also think that is free? At least there you have more cars paying road-tax and fuel-duty to pay for it, but in your example it's OK to trade in the car for a bus or artic without paying more, and expect the government to fund extra road-space for you to drive

    2. Fatman

      RE: Fuck 'em. They're making enough dough ....

      My sentiments exactly!!! Especially AT&T and Verizon.

      Icon department, how about an `erect middle finger` icon.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poor signalling

    Do you wonder how devices with poor signalling and massive data appetites got a foothold among the operators, who usually have such strict approval demands?

    Apple's marketing is brilliant, and there wasn't an operator that didn't want a slice of that pie. IIRC, TMO NL had massive network problems due to Apple's crap signalling, but TMO got the blame - pointing at Apple was not something consumerland accepted.

    IIRC also - Nokia Siemens has a neat network trick that works around fruity naughtiness and enforces clever signalling (fast dormancy?), something other mobile equipment manufacturers don't (didn't?) have.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Poor signalling

      I call bullshit on this excuse.

      Last time I checked—and iFixIt's teardowns appear to back me up—Apple's iPhones and iPads use the same damned off-the-shelf signalling hardware as every bugger else's kit.

      The manufacturers of these components (e.g. Qualcomm) provide reference designs and tons of developer support too.

      The problem with the iPhone is that it actually does what it says on the tin, so customers are actually using it to suck data over their 3G connections. Until the iPhone was launched, telcos were complaining that practically nobody ever used their "smartphones" for anything other than making calls and playing Snake. Nobody seemed to be using all that data they were offering.

      Along comes Apple and—oh shit!—it's all going pear-shaped! Telcos were caught on the back foot with infrastructure that's simply unable to cope with the massive increase in demand.

      I live in a town of some 4000 people and it STILL has no 3G infrastructure from Telecom Italia Mobile, or any of their equally feckless rivals. It took Telecom Italia until 2009 to roll ADSL out to my parents' place in a nearby village of similar size too. Even now, there are gaps in 3G coverage even in major cities like Milan and Rome. Sod next year's technology: Telecom Italia haven't even finished rolling out last century's yet!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poor signalling

        You're looking at the wrong sort of signalling. This is data network signalling, and some apps and devices do it more than others.

        Think of it as automotive signalling. The basics are traffic lights and car indicators, standard stuff, as you say, between infrastructure and users (although it is still possible to not bother indicating). Then you have the user-to-user signalling that varies from driver to driver. Some drivers get by with little more than a raised palm of acknowledgement that you let them out, but some have a wider vocabulary of tuneful horns, raised single and double digits, devils horns, given out at regular digits. They may only drive the same distance, but they're more tiring for others to deal with.

        And so it is with mobiles, where blackberry and Apple decided that they were going to ignore network signalling. Then the native apps can generate different data signalling loads typically you can look at push/pull e-mail as an example. With push e-mail there's only simple signalling 'you got mail' when a message is received on a server, with poll e-mail the app can be like a paranoid teenager desperately asking every 30s if there is a mail waiting, and then asking 'are you sure'. This is the kind of 'signalling' that is usually referred to.

  4. James 100

    The business model needs to consist of carrying data for a fair price. No more "free" this (but we'll screw you until you bleed on X, Y and Z to make up for it): when calling mobile->landline costs ten times more than landline->mobile, someone is taking the Mickey.

    I'm sick of seeing £500 handsets and calls in one direction "free", while calls in the other direction and "line rental" get charged at stupid prices to make up for it all. Ban the handset subsidies - or at least, require they be unbundled - and make termination charges reciprocal: if Vodafone want to charge BT 2p/min for calls to mobiles, they should have to pay BT 2p/min for calls from their mobiles too.

  5. ratfox

    I don't know how they managed it but...

    Telcos are the most hated players in the industry. For instance, I believe consumers would in general prefer their NFC system to be managed by anybody – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Visa, even the banks – rather than the telcos.

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  7. karlp

    Poor Signaling

    Read "Poor Signaling" as in "Vastly more traffic that breaks our usage models". And I doubt they are only talking about Apple here.

    While I am general sympathetic to the struggles of large infrastructure companies, this whole thing wreaks a bit to much for me.

    Yes there were signaling issues, most of which would have been fixed in phones and base-station firmware updates by this point.

    What has remained is an entirely new usage paradigm, absolutely decimating the old long-term growth trajectories.

    This necessitates rapid, over-arching capacity buildout everywhere from the radios themselves and their density, to the frequencies allotted and backhaul provisioned.

    While the carriers are working on dealing with these issues, they are also tasked with increasing revenue and profits for their shareholders. This has put them in the unenviable position of needing to maintain exceptionally high levels of CAPEX investments in a market which is mostly saturated and a client base which are already near the upper end of what they are willing to pay for the service.

    The only place for these funds to come from at this points would be new revenue opportunities (such as selling content or acting as a payment provider) or to decrease costs they already have (say, lower wholesale costs on your popular smartphone de'jure, or maybe decrease the going rate of spectrum?)

    What we are seeing here, I think, are vague plays towards all of the above.

    Not saying any of it is right or wrong, but I do wish they would just outline what they see the real issues as, and what they would like to see as potential solutions for them.

    Then we (as in anyone from governments to individuals, businesses to the telcos themselves) could have a meaningful discussion about the entire matter.

    Karl P

  8. Christian Berger

    Can't we just get rid of those companies?

    Infrastructure belongs into the hands of the users, not some company which doesn't care.

    A few years ago, you would have brought forward the following objections against such networks:

    People could listen in to your data because there is no licensed company responsible. Today we know that such licensed companies don't care about laws. T-Mobile Germany for example researched the connection data of lots of reporters in order to find a leak. Others add Telephone numbers in HTTP-Headers. Do you really think home router owners would do the same?

    In the past we also thought that people would somehow not care about the network and somehow make their routers rot away. This is exactly what we are seeing now at German cable companies. We will probably see this in other areas, too, sooner or later.

    So get out the mobile phone companies, and make a user run infrastructure.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    because your taking the future infrastructure costs and all other expenses/in every single phone and data call tariff profits in every single penny the end users are paying you to provide that service.

    its not rocket science, if you have spent all the allotted future infrastructure cash on other things that not our problem, and you given you need to use 3rd party fibre to carry this growing data flow from your towers etc, then just partner with the countries cable providers (such as virgin media/bt etc) to install your own dark fibre in the area's not yet covered by fibre optic cable to kill two birds with one stone.

    hell between all you massive EU mobile companies could even provide fibre directly to the home at a discount and that would provide you new long term income at a cheaper rate to the end users than now, and you could even string up high street fibre and hang your micro/nano wireless router kit directly off that as you build out your new data /last mile/back haul fibre/wireless infrastructure

  10. David Hicks

    Same tune as the ISP

    Why do we have to pay for the BBC delivering iPlayer to their customers? They should pay us!

    Made about as much sense too.

    You are paid, by me, to provide the pipe to the internet. If you can't do that at your current price point then put the price up and allow me to choose between you and your competitors. Don't go and put the shakedown on service and hardware providers because your business model is flawed.

  11. Killraven

    Not enough bandwidth?

    How about some proper use of the bandwidth? Why in the name of Farcus does a device with the display area (inches, not pixels) need Hi-Def video? A standard Low-Def, analog TV signal from twenty years ago would look absolutely awesome at that size! But no, we make devices that consume ten times, or more, the bandwidth they realistically need just so the marketing can look more impressive.

  12. RelevantMusings

    600 PB

    " He said OTT players had understood, and at times generated, consumers' need for mobile data, which has built up its use to such an extent that the operators last year handled 600 petabytes of mobile data – more than whole internet traffic two years ago."

    According to Cisco (http://, mobile carriers transported 600 PB per _month_. However, they also estimate that just the _public_ Internet traffic (excluding intra-carrier and private peering) was 350 PB/month in _2002_, and was actually _15,000_ PB/month in 2010. (Wikipedia quoting Cisco, http://

    The first page says 2011 average traffic per smartphone was up 171% over 2010, but still was only 150 MB each per month. (Tablets averaged 500 MB, and laptops 1.4 GB.)

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