Carriers have been lamenting that the amount of pressure on their networks by mobile broadband users has been increasing steadily while investment in networks has been slow, expensive and painful. A recent study indicates that the launch of the iPhone 4S saw mobile broadband usage spike as users made more data calls than when the iPhone 3G was launched. To compound this, the launch of the Google Nexus has also seen data usage in the US increase significantly as these super smartphones make available to users more and more applications and data driven services.
On the back of this, we have seen carriers struggling to contain this squeeze on their networks by introducing data caps in all manner of variety and flavours. From lowered speeds after reaching your cap to additional fees, the story is the same, the demand for mobile broadband is increasing and the services providers are struggling to keep up.
So what’s the problem and why is it that carrier companies cannot simply come out clean and provide users with very transparent data usage guidelines rather than continuing to feed them data usage caps that most can hardly understand? In fact, this capping dilemma is so bad, that a website was recently launched to help you understand what your cap is and what it means in actual practical terms, something which the carriers have failed to do.
It’s a case of mobile carriers wanting to eat their cake and have it. This is perhaps best demonstrated when the carriers advertise their services showing people streaming video and TV over their phones and boasting of superior speeds while on the other hand putting in data caps in the fine print that restrict these very features. It’s time data companies realized that they cannot contain this mobile broadband issue without the help and collaboration of users.
Because over-the-air mobile broadband is a limited and therefore scarce resource (only a given number of data units can be transferred over one hertz of airwaves), the carriers must come clean and make this crystal clear to users. Instead of going on about “unlimited” mobile broadband, why not tell the truth and tell users that there is no such thing as unlimited internet? It would go a long way to helping users understand why capping is important and why personal usage patterns are critical to the ubiquitous delivery of mobile broadband.
The second thing the carriers must come clean on is the cost of delivering mobile broadband. It costs 400 times more to deliver mobile broadband over the air than it does terrestrially; that is, through fibre and copper. So if it is so expensive, it makes no sense to drive demand through hype for unlimited high-speed mobile Internet while at the same time struggling to deliver the actual nuts and bolts that make this service delivery possible.
At the very least, it must be very clear to users that data services are a cost intensive affair and that it takes time and huge investments to upgrade networks in order to accommodate more users who are coming on board as smartphones proliferate the market.
Finally, it’s not about competition but the customers. This far, carriers have made mobile broadband all about competition amongst themselves with a race towards the fastest network being the golden reward. But this only serves to hurt the users because while carriers rush off to build LTE networks and provide the so-called 4G speeds, users already on 3G and similar technologies still have not reached the point of experiencing flawless service. It would be better to have consistent and affordable 3G than to have expensive and fragmented 4G.
What all this shows is that carriers are treating users without the necessary transparency that behoves national service providers. It makes absolutely no sense for operators to create a situation that squeezes the life out of their networks and then rush to perform CPR through data caps. Help users understand the REAL reasons for data caps and inspire fair usage policies instead of creating the image that all carriers want is to charge you exorbitantly for such an important service. If people truly understood why they need to use data more prudently and fairly, it would work much better than what is currently in place.