Telcos and Dinosaurs

All mobile phone companies (Telcos) are dinosaurs, awaiting the asteroid strike. Why?

They are all based on a business model where they sell you a SIM card, and charge you per month. And charge for voice calls. Data has blindsided them as their voice only 2g networks didn't do it, and their 3g data networks are expensive, and especially in O2's case - badly run, unreliable. Basically pants.

However, whilst talking to Three - perhaps the least dinosaur-like Telco in the UK - they don't understand that their value add is:

  • A reliable ubiquitous mobile data network
  • The ability to route an incoming phone over their VOIP network to a secure handset

Nothing else matters to them. They get extra when they can sell you a handset on a contract and basically charge you full retail for it.

What they don't understand is that they're in the business of shifting bits. Lots of bits. Over mobile data networks (which O2 can't do) to business and personal users. Some business users want to 'tether' their laptop, thus consuming gigabytes of data. And they immediately get scared, because they want to preserve the voice capability of their network, and not support mobile data users with reasonable demands.

So we get rubbish like Vodafone - the blue chip, rolls royce provider here in the UK - restricting all accounts to 1gb or 2gb. Per month. Ridiculous. Just try leaving your on-line backup software running for a day on mobile (as I once did) and get a £400 mobile data bill, and see what I'm talking about.

So how can they fix this? They can realise that they sell a number of services, some that revolve around mobile phones getting incoming calls. For instance, I'm sitting here at ABZ network, gently burping after a fry-up. ABZ have their own Wifi, which they charge for (thus reinforcing the stereotype that all Aberdonians - me included - are grippy sods). And Vodafone, Three, T-Mobile and my old chums still have to put their expensive, slow base stations on the property. Mostly so we can swear at them when they don't work.

This was fine in the nineties, when we all had huge amounts of money and time and patience. And Telcos could install base stations, instead of being told by their accounts department that a new call center - to deal with the lack of network investment - might help. *cough* *o2*.

So why not think of a new way of doing this? Why not have all smartphones automatically roam to local Wifis, register over that Wifi with the telecoms provider, and have their incoming calls routed automatically? Okay, the Telco would lose their roaming surcharge - but lets face it. Roaming charges are basically a tax on the stupid, and Darwin states that they'll disappear.

So lets grow up a bit here. All of this is possible. But the bone-headed Telcos refuse to accept this next step. So what will happen?

Someone like Microsoft - with their Skype Voip solution - will basically allow incoming calls to their devices. As they already do with mobile phones. Should they educate the public that this is available, we might even see mobile phones that dont actually do incoming mobile voice calls - they rely on Wifi networks.

Of course, the Telcos could preempt this by setting this in place. The first would call it a disruptive technology. Three is best placed to do this - they seem to have an innovative approach. They're not the market leader, and therefore a supertanker that has to be pushed in a new direction. They're not useless like O2. And they're not enduring a forced marriage like EE is, with all the relevant distractions.

The only issue, in fact, is that no-one at Three appears ready to grasp this nettle - despite having one of the best mobile data networks here in the UK. My dealings with the 'executive support' team have been somewhat marred by the chaps inability to distinguish between a simple signal amplifier and a Femtocell. So there's work to do.