broadband End User mobile connectivity Net

Call Me a Cynic, but…300Mbps on a Mobile?

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?


Lindsey Annison

By Lindsey Annison

JFDI Internet marketer, author, Fibre To The Home and rural broadband campaigner, idea merchant

7 replies on “Call Me a Cynic, but…300Mbps on a Mobile?”

If o2 want to provide 4G from that mast they will order a circuit from a supplier or use a microwave radio link. Simple.

So are you saying the government should not have invested in the BDUK projects because if we wait long enough there will be 300M mobile available?

Or is it that they should not fund FTTP as it will not be needed as 300M mobile will be available soon? Given the speed of 3G and 4G rollout across all the UK it could be a long wait.

great post!
I sort of feel sorry for BT. They have some fantastic engineers, salt of the earth, but they are in a constant battle making do and mending. The management has gone to pot. The marketing is a complete sham. Yet people and politicians still believe in the penny red.

BDUK had their chance with the digital switchover fund to break up the cosy copper cabal but they blew it. People are tied to phone lines they don’t use just to get broadband. BT now move over into ‘content’ and shortly we’ll see a big panic as nobody will want to replace the obsolete infrastructure.
Government insists that the phone line is a USC, so BT are held to ransom in one way and instead of replacing said old lines with fibre and doing the job right they prat about trying to preserve their already existing cash cow.
As people are already moving to mobile BT just have to hang tight for a few years and then someone else will have to pick up the gauntlet and replace the copper.
Virgin competition in cities have made the incumbent up their game. It’s competition in the rural areas that will finish the job and save digital britain. Sadly government have not realised this, but eventually they will have to, and support the altnets.
Ofcom will have to help too, instead of protecting their mates in the old boys network. ASA will have to stop covering up the truth.
Councils will have to get their heads out of the sand and instead of relying on spin will have to talk to their constituents and find out the truth. Councils could help the altnets with road/river/bridges but instead they put obstacles in the way because BT are their partner.

Working together the people/communities/altnets/councils could build the networks of the future. Those networks could also feed the mobile masts, and work with the incumbent to make sure coverage is ubiquitous and that we could become a truly digital nation.

Whilst we are controlled by a monopoly this can never happen. They only serve the areas where there are profits, but their infrastructure is too dilapidated to repair much longer. The assets have been leached for too long. We could possibly have another decade of this superfarce to get through before government sees the light.

BT is doing what any good business does, looking after its own and getting the most it can for its product. What it isn’t doing is telling the truth. And selling phone line broadband as ‘fibre broadband’ is proof. It isn’t fibre broadband if it comes through an ageing bit of copper called a phone line.

Just a couple of points on the BT Wireless/O2 affair…

BT were effectively forced to sell off their mobile activities (as “mmO2” back then) due to the huge debt they were struggling to cope with, not least because of the amount of money they spent on their 3G licence. That was in 2002.

Telefonica didn’t buy O2 until around 2005.

Interestingly, BT were one of the successful bidders for 4G licenses – that was announced exactly a year ago but I’ve not seen any mention of BT offering 4G service yet.

Lindsey – you’re a cynic.
Aled – that’s a very good point. It’s a long time since the licenses were awarded and we haven’t seen anything coming out of BT. Perhaps we should ask what’s going on?

Comment 1 – troll. Bridge. Under. Go.

Aled – hi!! Good question. Let’s ask. And thx on date corrections. BT always have some excuse for the debt burden – seems inherent to the business model now…

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