Lindsey Annison shares thoughts triggered by an eye-opening pre-Mobile World Summit mobile broadband announcement.
Just spotted a pre-announcement for the Mobile World Summit starting Monday in Barcelona. It was on a Spanish TV channel (24h) and said “Surfing the Net at 300Mbps on a mobile is no longer science fiction.” (But in Spanish, obv).
300Mbps on a mobile would be cool. And would make FTTC, all of BDUK’s efforts (ahem), and every penny of taxpayer’s money and council subsidy obsolete and a waste of public funds – where there is coverage. Which is pretty much what everyone was warning the government about before the process even began.
Even if that 300Mbps is still in a lab (as that nice new laser offering a zillion gigabits is), or being demoed at a conference, it means it is within a hair of being reality on the streets, on hills near you, and mounted on the top of a building or in a tube station. Likely before BT have finished failing to connect 90 anything percent to some lasers on one end and the copper that’s been in the ground for all of our lifetimes at the other. (Which was sort of like, well, obvious before the UK Govt began another IT project destined to failure.)
And meanwhile, community projects and altnets are putting 1000Mbps into people’s homes with fibre. Upgradeable gig. Today 1gig, tomorrow 100.
Throwing all the public money for a future-proof, fibre first mile into that black-hole like trench called PLC doesn’t help the mobile industry though. After all, what will feed the masts in rural areas, if not the fibre to the villages and farms? (Apart from Dolphinholme, Lancs that is, where the current odds on BT digging fibre to the O2 mast for 4G coverage instead of ‘superfast’ FTTC or FTTHNOD (Not On Demand; yet, apparently) mean you should keep your wallet in your pocket).
Think about that last. What could get the incumbent out of the FTTC mire brought about by obvious advances in technology that even a child could have extrapolated with a crayon?
BT will have fixed superfastish to the house (cough, splutter), ensured that you can’t cancel your landline (they are greedy for that unnecessary revenue – that ole holey pension pot might be one reason), drained all the public funds, stopped altnets, and overbuilt any remaining, brave competition (legal or not, with State Aid), but at least when you go out, there’s this really great connection on the device you use anyway. How about, “We’ll chuck in 4 handsets per home, BT Vision, Sport etc and a broadband connection, all for £9.99 month* for the first 6 months.”
“Sorry, yes, you will still need a landline as we haven’t worked VoIP out yet, and we don’t want to lose that revenue that we don’t need for an item you shouldn’t actually need in 2014, but you’ve got 4 mobiles now, yeah? Use those for voice calls. And Skype or Viber or WhatsApp or something. We’re counting on your revenue forever, OK?”
*plus landline, plus VAT
Not many companies can make money out of obsolete technology, but this Government has ensured the incumbent can. Wouldn’t it all work even more sweetly (not for the consumer, altnets, Treasury, VOA, or other telcos, of course) if BT brought on board a mobile operator?
Think back to O2’s origins and remember they were BT Cellnet (back in 1985 – forward thinking these telecom chaps, if you hadn’t realised there was technology before the 90s and Noughties – younger readers only!).
And that just makes you wonder. Was that just an obtuse sale of Cellnet by BT (mobile will never catch on), or was it really canny? Or is there simply far more to this than meets the casual observer’s eye? Knowing that mobile was likely to take off, and knowing that BT as a fairly recently privatised company might just end up with some baggage going from GPO – everything-for-the-country mentality to whatever-the-shareholders-and-profits-demand….might it not just have been a risk worth taking flogging baby BT Mobile to another company out of the limelight?
After all, Telefonica are furrin, and most of you don’t speak Spanish, right? Back in the mid 90s and 2000 (when FRIACO hadn’t come into play fully and most people were clueless about this internet thang about to change their lives), the tales of woe of ex-pats out in Telefonicaland didn’t really register, did they? After all, there was sun, why complain if you have to have a really expensive satellite phone?
Anyway, back to the point, with the ‘ride roughshod over everyone’ mentality BT has clearly exhibited in the last decade or more, and with the pretty much unregulated position as incumbent (Yeah, yeah, we can argue this to death in the comments!), it was almost a given that BT were likely to be in a position to offer their cast-off mobile baby an interesting deal a decade or so down the line.
Many people in the UK have zero idea that PlusNet is BT. They think they are choosing a grand Yorkshire company. It’s not though is it?! So, O2 is still, to many, BT, just as BT is still ‘the company that bought us the Penny Red’.
I guess we could also dig into just how much cohesion there is between Telefonica and BT and hence who, in a real world, actually owns what, but that would take yonks and this is just a quick blog post. Honest, guv.
So, as I can’t find the link to the deal I think has happened, or is imminent, I’ll leave it with you this fine weekend. If you were BT, wouldn’t you bring O2 back home? And yes, I could embed a music video just to be entertaining, but…oh, I shouldn’t, but why not?