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#TBT: Data beats out voice; the FCC looks at ‘bill shock’; iPad apps go global … this week in 2010

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Data surpasses voice use, but the minute-plan still rules the market
Recently mobile data exceeded voice for the first time for all devices including phones and computers. In fact, voice has been essentially flat for years with data experiencing exponential growth.Yet, most carriers are still focused on selling cell phone service packages primarily based on voice minutes and bundling these with unlimited data and SMS messaging as add-ons – all the while complaining that today’s unlimited data plans are unsustainable, while simultaneously daring each other to be first to change the paradigm in a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma. Currently, carrier business models rely on getting customers to buy the largest bulk plans possible while delivering the minimum acceptable quality of service – as demonstrated by spotty coverage in suburbs, insufficient bandwidth in urban areas, and outright banning of high bandwidth services like video streaming, VOIP, and tethering. … Read more

FCC scrutinizes ‘bill shock’
The wireless sector is likely to continue to be under increased scrutiny from government with the Federal Communications Commission releasing a survey that said one in six mobile users have experienced bill shock. Earlier in the week, a group of congressmen said they are going to try to revise the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and 74 congressmen said they were concerned with the FCC’s plan to regulate broadband services. CTIA President Steve Largent issued a strong statement on the FCC’s survey. “I am very troubled with the current direction the FCC is taking with respect to the wireless industry – from the messaging sent last week in the Mobile Competition Report to today’s survey release. It seems the Commission is going to attempt to micromanage what is an incredible array of choices for consumers. From prepaid to postpaid, subsidized handsets to unsubsidized, contracts with ETFs to those without, large, medium or small buckets of minutes and ‘all-you-can-use’ plans, consumers have an unbelievable range of choices. Contrary to the statements in the press release, the industry does provide ‘simple and easy to understand’ plans for every type of American consumer.” The FCC survey said 30 million Americans have experienced bill shock, which it defines as a sudden increase in people’s monthly bills that isn’t caused by a change in service plans. … Read more

iPad app store goes global
At long last Apple has woken up to the fact there is a whole world outside the great US of A, and has started rolling out its iPad store internationally, albeit in rather piecemeal, half-baked fashion. Until now it has been almost utterly impossible for non US resident iPad owners to get their fill of iApps, at least of the paid variety, with the store requesting a US based iTunes account complete with American credit card details. Sure, there have been those who have managed to sneakily get around the issue by having US friends set up an account using an American credit card and then buying a plethora of gift cards for themselves, but it was all very convoluted and somewhat ridiculous. Now reports are emerging that the UK, Belgium, Spain, Israel, France and New Zealand have all been blessed by the Dukes of Cupertino with iPad app access … Read more

Mobile meets automotive
With mobile apps being developed at blistering speeds, it was only a matter of time before the mobile eco-system met the automobile industry, and infected smartphone addicts with a new kind of love bug. As years go by dependence on mobile devices is steadily increasing – to the point where even being able to continue using mobile devices safely while driving has become an issue – and something which many companies are attempting to find fixes for. Indeed, smartphones now contain practically our whole world and enable us to carry everything that’s important to us in the palm of our hands, so realistically, it was only a matter of time before the cell-phone and car merged. Now, reliable sources tell us Google will be partnering with automobile giant GM, to bring it’s Android OS to the firm’s OnStar car service … Read more

Nokia teams up with Yahoo to compete with Google
Nokia and Yahoo announced a worldwide strategic alliance to get Yahoo services on Nokia’ Ovi platform and Nokia’s navigational tools on Yahoo’s online offerings. The companies have been collaborating for years and this alliance could give them a better chance to compete in a digital world increasingly dominated by online search giant Google. Specifically, Nokia will be the exclusive provider of Yahoo’s maps and navigation services, branded as “powered by Ovi.” Yahoo will be the exclusive provider of Nokia’s Ovi Mail and Ovi Chat services that will be branded as “powered by Yahoo!” The companies said they will work to make it easier for Ovi users to access their content on Yahoo … Read more

AT&T’s ETFs evolve
In an “open letter to our valued customers” AT&T Mobility last Friday announced it was increasing the early termination fees on its “more advanced, higher end devices, including netbooks and smartphones” from the current $175 to $325 beginning with devices purchases after June 1. AT&T Mobility said that its prorating policy for ETFs will see $10 lopped off the charge for each month that a customer is into their contract, or up to $230 off the charge if the customer for some reason decides to cancel service with one month left on their contract. That will leave $95 in ETF for a customer with one month of service left on their contract. While the increasingly-popular smartphones will see ETFs increase, customers purchasing a “basic” handset or quick-messaging device will see the fees drop to $150. … Read more

Concentrated vs. competitive
The Federal Communications Commission said the wireless industry is more concentrated, rather than effectively competitive, in its 14th annual report on competition in the wireless sector. The commission also said innovation abounds in devices and applications, but that capital investment is declining relative to the growing size of the industry. The report could impact the FCC’s ongoing development of mobile broadband policies, including the National Broadband Plan and its efforts to reclassify some broadband services in order to be able to regulate them. The report covers the years 2008 and some of 2009. While the report said key trends include a movement toward a data-driven traffic and that access to spectrum is important to competition, other findings may cause concern for operators that are fighting against more regulation. “There appears to be increasing concentration in the mobile wireless market. One widely used measure of industry concentration indicates that concentration has increased 32 percent since 2003 and 6.5 percent in 2008,” the FCC noted. … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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