"All Mobile Traffic Isn't Equal"

Following the revelation of AT&T's potential solution to the problem of increased mobile data usage, The Wall Street Journal has an overview of all of the measures being taken to counter the average mobile user. As you'd expect, the findings are disconcerting to say the least. Anton Troianoski reports:

[...] Network technology companies are busy producing equipment and software that will allow mobile traffic to move at different speeds and be billed at different rates, so carriers can create more complicated data plans.

At the mobile-phone trade show here this week, Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. offered a glimpse of such a technology. One tap of a tablet screen running Huawei's software opened up more Internet bandwidth for a user paying more. Another function would let cellphone carriers limit which websites certain users can access, or charge them differently for different Web domains, a spokesman said.

Not only is this a huge blow to net neutrality, but more so to the way we view the Internet altogether. Carriers are essentially looking to embrace and market the despicable offspring of pay-as-you-go billing and draconian parental control for all users in order to wrestle control back into their court.

Innovation in the mobile sphere has provided a catalyst for development throughout the technology industry. Rich web services, imaginative UI concepts, and location awareness have all been given rise thanks to the increased viability of the mobile platform. And yet, for every ounce of innovation, there is blatant push back and vitriolic fear visibly seeping from most mobile carriers. Innovation has penetrated their domain and it has occurred outside the bounds of their control.

Seeking to right this, carriers are relying upon antiquated visions of the mobile marketplace and increasingly pathetic attempts to cling to power - the carriers repositioning themselves from useful services to obnoxious roadblocks against sustained innovation.

Hamstrung apps, deeply integrated limitations, and novel means for increasing billing characterize a market at complete odds with the average consumer.

"AT&T Plan Would Let App Makers Pay for Subscribers' Data Use"

Anton Troianovski for The Wall Street Journal:

AT&T Inc. is preparing a service that would let content providers and developers of mobile applications pay the wireless carrier for the mobile data its customers use, the carrier's network and technology head John Donovan said in an interview Monday.

Mr. Donovan likened the service to toll-free calling for the mobile-broadband world. The move comes as carriers are hunting for new ways to make money on the rising data traffic on their networks, while mindful of limits on what consumers are willing to spend.

If AT&T can persuade some data-heavy culprits (i.e., streaming video services) to get on board, this could be of enormous significance for the end-user. Although that's a rather steep challenge, it certainly seems possible. Unlimited use of Netflix on the go, for instance, would be quite a positive selling point for both Netflix and AT&T.

Having said that, for smaller up-start services, such consumer-benefitting costs will be impractical. Facilitating unlimited mobile use will become expected, but many will not be able to stomach the initial expense, thus harming their chances.

It is important to remember that the cost of data does not dissipate, AT&T would merely redistribute it. Rather than giving your money to AT&T for your service, it would just be charged by data-heavy services - particularly as this would increase their data costs. Furthermore, reliance upon such a system would likely give AT&T license to reduce data package size, thus harming the average smartphone user.

Although AT&T might frame this as innovation, such maneuvering is transparently self-serving. Evidently tired of having the customer blame them for high costs and decreasing data allowances, AT&T can place the blame elsewhere.

Knowing AT&T as we do, the potential for good in this model is somewhat woefully undercut by its obvious potential for bad.

Still, if this is the way the market is set to turn, it's interesting to consider how this might affect the mobile landscape in the coming years.