Carnival of the Mobilists #146

If it is Monday, it must be COTM! Scoot over to Carnival of the Mobilists at Andrew Grill’s London Calling to get the latest news and insights in the mobile industry. I found Chetan Sharma’s report on the 3G Americas Analyst Summit – especially his comments on LTE vis-a-vis HSPA interesting:

I think given the current economic climate, we might see the investment plans being delayed. Of course, with one city launch, some folks can claim LTE launch but pervasive availability will be pushed to 2013 and beyond. I think operators will try to milk HSPA technologies for as long as they can.

This business of “unlimited” data in its current incarnation is not sustainable. You have to be careful what you wish for. Mobile data usage is “here” thanks to smartphones and consumer awakening of what’s possible but I think the networks are not ready for a huge onslaught of data usage – esp. the kind of things we are used on the Internet like browsing, streaming, uploading, etc. – in large quantities. At some point, there will be enough users on a cell-tower that will start damaging the user experience. The incremental revenue doesn’t totally justify the investment required to support such a surge. So, what gives … we are likely to see more tiered data pricing and less emphasis on “unlimited” data.

I am not sure if there really is “unlimited data”. All mobile broadband plans (whether it is for smartphones or USB modems/dongles) come with monthly quotas beyond which Fair-Use-Policies are applied by the operators. So I am not sure what exactly Chetan is referring to here? In fact, as we have discussed multiple times in this blog, mobile operators are trying to go after fixed broadband providers and may be forced to raise the monthly quotas if they really want to compete. He does have a valid point on the huge onslaught of mobile data usage damaging the user experience.


Filed under Carnival of the Mobilists, fixed broadband, mobile broadband

2 responses to “Carnival of the Mobilists #146

  1. Hi Ram

    I think that the phase of mobile operators believing in direct substitution of ADSL/cable is just a temporary aberration.

    There simply is not sufficient spectrum, or cell sites, to compete with dense deployments of fixed broadband. And this situation worsens by at least an order of magnitude as FTTH / FTTC starts to be rolled out.

    Even with LTE deployed by all operators in a given country, the aggregate broadband capacity per base station will be less than that of a single fibre.

    If you don’t count femtocells (which obviously need fixed broadband to operate), I reckon that cellular will struggle to get beyond perhaps 1-3Gbit/s per square KM for the foreseeable future.

    Mobile broadband is a good substitute for certain groups’ ADSL/cable usage – ie <5GB a month – but many networks will likely become congested next year, as capacity increments are slowed by the economy.

    I also think that many networks are also vulnerable to unanticipated new bandwidth-heavy applications – whatever 2009 or 2010’s equivalent of YouTube or FaceBook turns out to be. Sooner or later some new app will get virally adopted in months, ramping data consumption faster than capacity can be added.


  2. Ram Krishnan


    I agree with your basic premise that mobile broadband can never be a substitute for fixed broadband. The key as you point out is that it could be a good substitute for folks whose usage is less than 5-10GB/month. I have read that a majority of users fall in this category (need more study). This is also consistent with the observation that 80% of the traffic is generated by 20% of the users. I believe that mobile operators are going after the remaining 80% of the users. Having said that, the usage levels of this 80% segment is bound to increase as you point out (primarily due to video) and it will be interesting to see how the mobile operators cope with this increased usage.

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