‘The Problem With Dumb Pipes’

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Earlier this month, I was trying to upload a photo to Instagram in San Francisco. It took 5 minutes before I gave up. Do you know how long it takes to do this normally? 30 seconds, tops. I was angry, and I realized that all I want is a better carrier. A more innovative carrier. A smarter carrier.

Carrier-related problems have been talked about ad nauseum for years, and during that entire time, there has been one request. That for all of the political wrangling and network incompatibilities, and data-capping, and App Store censorship, the customers at large only want one thing: a dumb pipe.

‘The Problem With Dumb Pipes’ at PandoDaily

Okay, so there is the premise – we just want a big fat pipe from our mobile data suppliers. But apparently there is a problem with that…

… Imagine a world where we can only call on phones. Dumb phones if you will. Do you know who was essential in making sure that dumb phones turned into smartphones? Carriers. Know who was critical in going from text messages to data? Carriers. They did this with the money they got through less-than-loveable means.

Carriers responsible for smart phones? You mean those ones that we all hated because they gave the crappiest incarnation of the Internet on a minuscule screen and an even thinner keyboard. It was a phone that got crossed with a three legged dog. Only Blackberry had a device that people liked, because they took the double bits and did them very well. Then stopped innovating and sat on their arse ripping people off and now look where they are headed.

The entire smartphone market is now driven by Apple because they innovated with both the device and the data network. Ok, Apple partnered with AT&T at launch because at the time they needed to give exclusivity to a carrier to turn the innovation into reality. They weren’t in a position to build their own mobile network, although they could probably afford to now (they won’t, because for now they are driving the carrier market without the cost).

And the carriers didn’t get from text messages to data. They are still making a fistful off of messaging, despite the fact that the market is for email, but they can’t monetize that. They hate data, because there is a demand for it that outstrips the ROI models they are used to using when investing in infrastructure. That’s why they cap it and keep people using text messaging because it’s convenient.

That’s what it all comes down to, if you’re paying attention. The money. You may think that AT&T slows down speeds because it really likes to be mean and hates the customer. In truth, it is because it needs to make money to exist at all. It needs to grow to survive. Not every company can be Apple, and make products that not only are profitable but lovable. Some companies are relegated to the role of simple profit-seeking. A role that doesn’t endear it to the public, but one that does generally get shareholders on board.




Wrong. They hate the customer. They hate them for wanting data. Because data means the Internet which is free right? That what the customer mindset is. So people are resistant to pay for something they consider to be free to use. Facebook = free. Google = free.

Apple are only different because they make products the customer not only wants but loves. Its not magic, it’s just paying attention and not settling for second best. Giving great customer satisfaction. Make it right, and charge what the market will bear. Because Apple products are damn good, the market will pay top dollar. It’s now Apple driving innovation in the carrier market, because demand for the product is so huge, the carriers will do just about anything Apple asks just to retain contracts, which are their life blood.

Any company that whinges that Apple is a special case might as well just hang a sign over the door saying ‘we are dumb, but give us money anyway’. Which is another way of saying the customer is dumb too. Sometimes the customer is dumb, or at least ignorant, and that’s why so many companies get away with such arrogance.

At the moment I am roaming in Europe with only 25mb per day (a £10 per month add on, from Vodafone). If I go over, I pay £1 per MB in 5mb chunks. I only get notified I am likely to go over when within 1mb of the limit, by text message that comes half an hour after I’ve reached that threshold. On 3G, go figure how much overage you can get stung with if you are not paying attention to usage. I loaded a web page the other day that had a video clip with preload enabled. I went 15mb over before I scrolled down and realised the video was even on the page, let alone preloading.

I don’t even get an option to use wifi hotspots as an alternative. My SFR SIM card won’t allow me to sign into SFR wireless hubs or public hotspots – they are reserved for ADSL subscribers. No option to upgrade, just locked out. How dumb is that?

I have no option on this. It’s the way it works. There is no upgrade or bundle that I can buy to increase this. They do this because they care nothing about me as a customer beyond my ability to pay. There is no carrier that provides a facility to pay for what I use, at a price reflective of the costs. I’d pay a healthy margin on their cost if it was just simple, just worked. But that is not an option.

What we all want from carriers is phone calls, as much data as we individually need, support for our favourite phone, and a network that grows with us.

Put a price on it, and put it on the market.

Is that really so complicated?




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