I love the outrage. I mean, for the media and blogosphere to act shocked and hurt when they’ve been preparing for over a year for some wireless carrier to try this – it’s hard man, real hard. So AT&T is finally going to try its hand at bandwidth caps for its 3G wireless plans, and unsurprisingly they are deflecting the blame onto the people who love their product the most err I mean waste the most bandwidth. Lower prices for the good, decent users who love having bandwidth at their fingertips but use it sparingly, and higher prices for the evil, gluttonous, bandwidth hogs who ruin it for the rest. Ok, well maybe they didn’t quite say it that way, but still…
The fact that Skype’s 3G app for the iPhone just landed is of course not a coincidence. Now it’s true that VoIP bandwidth is far less than video or even music, but the key is perception. Users don’t really know how much bandwidth they are using while talking on the phone, nor do they want to. Hence, the cap will make them think twice about using Skype over 3G as a replacement, and that will slow them down even if economically it shouldn’t. Nevertheless, sooner or later usage had to be tied to price else the economics would soon break down as bandwidth burning apps proliferate.
Paul Kouroupas suggests though that we let the market take care of this, and I agree. Suppose all those heavy bandwidth users now take their business to Verizon and Sprint, burdening their networks instead – those companies will have to deal with the traffic and the cost structure too and maybe they’ll find a better way. Or perhaps they will find their way to WiMAX networks, putting those to a real test at last. But hey, AT&T can take a punch. The iPhone has given them a boost in subscribers but a bigger boost in traffic, and now perhaps as a result they must spend some of their gains by taking the lead in trying to us all from all-you-can-eat plans. Think of it as a bit of bandwidth karma.
The first effort is bound to be improved upon by the competition, so let’s let this one play out before we get Julius involved… You’d think he’d be busy enough already at the moment.
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