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.