The Datalicious Future

I am on a fascinating journey with my employer at the moment. Since a couple of months back,  Nigeria  is where I am. The mobile phone plays a central part in almost every Nigerian’s life. Particularly the Lagosians.

Based on my observations to date in Lagos, I think this city is on the verge of a data explosion. However, monetising data traffic is a huge challenge for operators. In any country.

In simple terms, a mobile network consists of two parts. The Radio Access Network (RAN) and the Core Network.

It is the RAN that carries your phone calls and text messages (SMS). The RAN is hooked up to a billing system, ensuring that you get charged appropriately (that’s the theory!) for your texts and calls.

With both voice traffic (Skype) and SMS (iMessage/WhatsApp?) through the Core, instead of over the RAN, operators risk losing significant streams of revenue. To prevent revenue loss, these seem to be the moves currently on offer.

UAE: Block Skype downloads. For the ones that have Skype from other sources, block the SkypeOut (Skype to landline) feature.

Sweden: Only higher priced price plans include usage of Skype.

UK: Just have slow data networks, which inevitably limits Skype, so that using it over 3G does not work particularly well. (certainly my experience as an end-user).

It is talking that the next generation’s networks LTE/LTE Advanced (aka 4G) completely lack a radio side. It is all core. It also makes sense; core networks can now be built reliable enough to hold voice.

Should operators charge based on megabytes, or should they charge based on what you download through their network? What will acquire/retain/scare customers?

A business that can provide what customers want, will surely be in a better position than a business that is making it hard for its customers to get what they want. Customers who are not getting what they want will look elsewhere.

For me and my employer, it is no secret that higher usage is good news for us. Successful and growing telecom operators require more equipment. We sell equipment.

Teliacommunications and Freetradedom

TeliaSonera has received a bit of stick in the press for doing business with countries that may use telecom network technology against its citizens.

But even if you know that a country may use technology for bad, should firms stop doing business with them? Lars Nyberg, CEO of TeliaSonera, quoted in Swedish media the example of how mobile technology has powered the Arab Spring.

Isolation has not really done anything good for North Korea or Cuba. The gents at the top can get around the restrictions imposed by the international community, whilst the people gain nothing at all.

From what I have seen so far, I am stronger than ever in my belief that isolation and sanctions play in the hands of dictators. Education and free trade will open up this world.

The UAE is a great example of how the government encourages an open dialogue with the rest of the world, whilst making gains thanks to international trade.