Operators Opinion

Mobile operators? Will they not learn? Charging Google & Facebook? Come on!

Ah dear. Time for a diatribe.

I had to knock out a brief comment on this Financial Times post. Here’s the first few paras:

Leading European telecoms companies want to levy significant charges on Google and other online content providers through an overhaul of the regime governing how data travel over the internet.

Operators in Europe complain that they are contending with an explosion of data on their networks, much of which comes from US sites such as Google’s YouTube video service.

It’s just shocking.


Tons of Youtube and Facebook traffic? You don’t like it? Think that demanding a load of cash from Google is a quick and easy fix? Oh dear. Oh dear me no, no, no.

First of all, what the hell am I paying you for, Mr Operator? That’s right — I pay you for this already. Now it’s your problem if you’ve got the model wrong and can’t afford it. Change your terms and conditions accordingly. That’s my first problem.

But as for charging Google or seeking to make it Apple’s fault and demanding they pay? Oooooooffff. OOOOFFFF!  Oh no.

You don’t want to have that conversation. You really don’t. Not with the Silicon Valley super-egos. Oh no. Not when — for example — Apple has $60 billion in free cash sitting there waiting for a problem to fix.

Would you, Mr Operator, like to be that problem?

Step into my office. Take a seat.

Here’s what we’ll do. You think carrying Google, Apple and Facebook traffic is a bit of a ball ache? Too much hassle? And you can’t be bothered to innovate your way out of the challenge? Fair enough. As of 1st of June, we’ll deny all traffic to your piddly little operator.

Well, no, actually. What we’ll do is this. Anyone requesting from your piddly little operator IP range will get a 500 byte HTML file in return, explaining that the content is unavailable from your bollocks network.

That’ll solve your data crunch nightmare overnight, won’t it?


And then we’ll do a deal with the number two in the market — or, better still, we’ll buy them. Or, actually, it’ll be quicker to do a deal with those LightSquared folk to move you into irrelevance in the next few years.

Actually yes — are you still comfortable? Good. Here’s what we’ll do. You can have some cash. Yes — you heard us right, we’ll pay you as you demand — we’ll pay you to sit there and play dumb, Mr Operator. You can have a few hundred million from us. You’ll think that’s a real result. It’s pocket change in the context of what we’re planning. It suits us to pay you to keep quiet whilst we sort out a better solution. We know you’ll take our cash contributions and spunk it up the wall anyway. You’ll take the cash and you’ll start thinking of it as a ‘revenue stream’ when actually, it’s a set of handcuffs.

Ah dear.

I think it’s reasonably fair to say that your average billion dollar mobile operator couldn’t innovate its way out of a wet paper bag.

Where’s all the smart thinking?

For the avoidance of doubt and for all the people sitting in the propositions and strategy teams trying to coax some kind of strategic-whitepaper into life for the utterly confused telephone men running your operator, here’s a few suggestions:

– Assign all standard mobile internet connections on your network a consumer grade 25k/second throughput. This means I can still do stuff with my internet connection, but that I’ll have to think twice about watching the T-Mobile Royal Wedding Spoof video in high quality, on the bus, for the 18th time today

– Tier your price plans according to speed (e.g. Everyone gets 25k/sec for free, £5/month gets you 50k/sec, £10/month gets you 100k/sec and so on — and these speeds will all be adjusted uniformly according to the available bandwidth on the cell)

– Tier your price plans according to application (“Do you want HQ video with that? Really? That’s £15 extra a month”) — give consumers the choice

– Charge me for the video, not Youtube. Pop-up a little note at peak times asking me to agree to a £0.50 charge to stream the video in HQ. Otherwise make me wait 30 minutes for it to finally arrive on my phone.

Here are some other related ideas I wrote back in December.

Some of those points above are contentious, yes. It’ll certainly stimulate debate. But that’s what we need. The consumer needs to be educated that cell access is a finite resource. Give everyone a basic service to avoid the net neutrality wonks choking on their beards. But since it’s a finite resource, price it as such.

Orrrr… refer everyone to Hutchison’s 3UK who currently offer proper unlimited everything on their data plans.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

10 replies on “Mobile operators? Will they not learn? Charging Google & Facebook? Come on!”

“Change your terms and conditions accordingly.” .. Well.. what if the actual data cost them much more than expected (because of their own stupidty, I agree). Just imagine they would have to charge you 50$ or 100$ a month to sustain that flat rate you have now for $10. As a user, then it is becoming also my problem. Since Facebook and Google makes money when I browse their site and I pay for browsing their site, then, as a customer, I would prefer them to pay (part) of the bill instead of me.

The real issue is that operators have so far been very untransparent on the true cost of data and the extend of the future investment needed.

That’s another way of looking at it Eschnou. I think that would be a rather
useful exercise so we can get a bit of competition going between the
operators rather than letting their marketing teams hammer the ‘unlimited’
phrase at each other. Innovate the network layout. Work to shape the traffic
properly so that my $100/month data experience can be reduced to $5 through
smart application of technology.

It’s not the consumer’s problem. It’s not Google’s problem either.

I want to stand in the middle of a field and make an internet search, right?
I therefore will pay for the privilege — provided it’s not too
prohibitively expensive. So there’s an opportunity for a service provider to
address my needs.

So I’m the customer. I want to access an internet resource. Who’d like to
make some money from me for providing that?

The current round of bleating from the operators demonstrates just how
restricted the mindsets of the senior executives are.

Good rant but I fear in the short term nobody will pay anything and we are going to end up with some behind the scene “traffic optimization” where access to certain sites is hugely slowed down.
Some operators will prioritize traffic to their own services (like Orange for their new Daily Motion and Deezer subsidiaries, at the expense of Youtube and Spotify). Implementing new billing models is complex, telcos do not like messing up with their systems and they are often a lot of legal issues. On the other end, they just have not tweak their internet routers to slow down access to some services.

Solution: allow soft SIM cards so mobile subscription info can be updated over the air, reduce mobile number portability maximum delay to 1 hour and force operators to open access to data only MVNOs. Then just watch Apple, Google and Amazon ruin customer lock in with over the top mobile subscription!

When you have ’12p sms + *unlimited bundles’ everyone looks ripe for the picking

I have always thought operators need to expose user context + charging data to developers so we can make informed “smart apps” it would not be hard to ping a zero rated service that gave you the users current charging rates. Then in your example you can do the search in the middle of the field but the app can say “hey, its 3pm at the moment this search will cost you 50p why not wait 2 hours when it will be free?”. Something like Bluevias API but with much richer information. The devil here will be not having to integrate with 150 differing apis, maybe WAC can agree on a standard?

Unfortunately I think we will end up with a few operators making the move in an attempt to become smart but the super tanker will take too long to turn overall and the West Coast of the US will sail on by to the new destination

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