Internet-service competition Archive

Four-play service competition intense on both sides of the Channel

Article

Brit mobile firms in FOURPLAY TUSSLE – how very French of them | The Register

My Comments

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

France and the UK have recently become hotbeds for Internet-service competition whether at a pure-play (single-service) level or with packages that integrate landline telephony, fixed broadband Internet and / or multichannel pay TV. Those companies typically are offering this service via a “single-pipe” setup with some of them reselling content and services from competitors who offer it on a wholesale basis if they can’t sell it directly.

This has been due to government telecommunications and competitive-trade authorities enforcing real competition through measures like stopping incumbent operators from selling wholesale service to competitors under unfair terms compared to their retail offerings. As well, in France, it took Free to offer broadband and triple-play packages with increased value at ridiculously-low prices to effectively “shake up” the market and start this level of competition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

The smartphone to be part of cost-effective home telecommunications and pay-TV packages in the UK

Now this is being expanded towards “four-play” or “quadruple-play” services that include mobile telecommunications along with the fixed telephony, “hot and cold running Internet” and pay TV. This is facilitated typically through their own mobile networks or buying mobile telecommunications from an established. typically pure-play, mobile operator on a wholesale basis as a “mobile virtual network”. Some companies may call the mobile broadband service as a distinct service and describe the packages that include this service as “five-play” or “quintuple-play” packages.

Over previous years, France has established an example of a healthy competitive market for this level of telecommunications and entertainment service. This is with all their telcos and broadband operators offering the “boxes” which integrated telephony, broadband and pay TV at some very keen prices, something I have covered regularly on HomeNetworking01.info. But most of these providers either have their own mobile infrastructure over the country or are putting themselves in a position to set up mobile virtual networks that they resell with their packages. An example of this is Free selling mobile telephony to their customers for an extra cost that is effectively “pennies’ worth”.

The way this level of service has come about for a lot of the UK operators is through varying levels of consolidation and business partnerships. A lot of these consolidations and partnerships have been with the companies who offer one or more services that can complement their own service packages to construct the “quad-play” package. But one of the situations that this has led to is for BT who sold off their Cellnet mobile-telephony service to O2 which is part of Spain’s Telefonica company in the 1990s, wanting to buy back the mobile network from this telco to run as the “mobile arm” of their quad-play package.

The directions that this could lead to include the availability of private femtocells that provide local mobile-phone coverage for the customer with the broadband connection serving as a backhaul or “cellular over Wi-Fi” for voice calls on one’s smartphone; TV Everywhere which is about access to the pay-TV packages anywhere in the country with your laptop or mobile device; and integrated landline / mobile telephony setups i.e. to receive calls destined to your landline on your mobile phone for no extra cost or call from home using your mobile phone at home-phone tariffs. As well, multiple-mobile-device Internet service could become very much part of the packages which can cater to those of us who maintain more than one mobile-broadband device like a “Mi-Fi” device.

Even integration of “over-the-top” telephony services like Skype and Viber could become the norm for these service providers by allowing customers to make or take calls through these services via either the mobile or the landline phone for nothing.

Other countries like the USA, Germany or Australia could be highly aware of this level of competition and know how to be prepared when it hits their shores or to know how to encourage it in a viable and sustainable manner.

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US President Obama takes action on Net Neutrality

Articles

Obama’s Plan To Save The Internet, Detailed | Gizmodo

Battle lines drawn: Obama’s net neutrality stance puts rift on display | Mashable

Radio Broadcast

Obama moves to bolster free flow of internet traffic | ABC The World Today (Listen here)

My Comments

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA common issue that is being raised in relationship with the Internet service in the USA is “Net Neutrality”. This is where there is the desire for any one who provides content to the Internet to gain access to the Internet’s bandwidth on an equal footing to each other.

It is in contrast to the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Communications who want to sell a faster pathway and guaranteed access to their subscribers’ bandwidth to companies who are willing to pay for it.

I have also seen the issue of Net Neutrality in a similar context to real service-provider competition in most of the USA. This is because one company, typically an incumbent telephony provider or cable-TV company provides Internet service to a neighbourhood via a particular technology. An example of this is Comcast providing cable TV and Internet via coaxial cable, along with AT&T providing landline telephony and DSL Internet service via telephone lines and, AT&T even providing cell phone (mobile phone) and mobile data via the airwaves in that same neighbourhood.

The situation that comes about in most US markets is that these companies establish cartels in order to control the service that people benefit from. Here, this has led to poor customer service and Internet-access packages that represent poor value-for-money, including the arrival of bandwidth-throttling for some cable-Internet services. This situation was leading towards an environment reminiscent of the telephony service in the US before the Carterfone decision and the enforced breakup of AT&T (Ma Bell) in the early 1980s.

Here, when you don’t have Net Neutrality and you have the status quo associated with uncompetitive Internet service, the companies can charge Internet content providers an arm and a leg to gain access to that neighbourhood.

This issue was going to take a long time to be sorted because the US politicians in both the Congress and the state governments were effectively being paid by “Big Business”. But Barack Obama, the US President, had taken action to have the FCC provide the level playing field for Internet service.

Here, he outlined a plan where there would be no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency and no paid prioritisation of Internet traffic. Here, he wanted to see the FCC place all Internet traffic on the same footing as telephone traffic by classifying it under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act which guarantees the reliability of telephone traffic, in a similar equivalence to having the broadband Internet treated as a “utility”.

One issue that would be of concern is that outgoing FCC commissioners would be heading to top positions in the US’s broadcasting and telecommunications firms especially if they did what these companies wanted. This is although the President of the United States Of America, as head-of-state and head-of-government is technically the FCC’s Commander-In-Chief and has that level of oversight.

At least a US President has had the guts to stand up for Net Neutrality, especially with a pro-consumer angle rather than pandering to “Big Money”.

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Google puts the wind up Comcast and Time Warner Cable

Article

Comcast, Time Warner boost net speeds in Google Fiber city – COINCIDENCE? | The Register

My Comments

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRegular readers will have noticed my comments about the lack of real competition in the US fixed broadband market thank you to very cosy deals arranged by incumbent cable-TV and telecommunications companies and various governments on a state and federal level.

Google have just rolled out their Google Fiber FTTP broadband service, known for offering headline data-transfer speeds of a gigabit each way, into Kansas City. Now Comcast and Time Warner Cable, for fear of hemorrhaging cable-broadband customers to Google, have upped their cable Internet service’s headline data-transfer speeds without charging their customers a single penny extra for the upgrade.

Issues have been raised about the pricing and customer-service behavior of cable-TV companies when they are faced with real competition beyond the DSL service offered by the incumbent telco. This has come in to play during discussions concerning the proposed merger between Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, as well as the issue of Net Neutrality.

As well, I would see the Google Fiber rollout as a boost for local government in Kansas City because the properties in the area that have Google Fiber past their doors become increasingly valuable to live in or do business there. It is a similar situation that has happened in various UK neighbourhoods where houses are assessed by prospective buyers on whether next-generation broadband is passing their doors or the property is connected to a next-generation broadband service.

Who knows what this means for other US cities who are pushing Google for their fibre-optic service?

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Allowing competitive infrastructure can help US broadband

Article

Killing Muni-Broadband Bans First Step to Helping U.S. Broadband | Broadband News & DSL Reports (USA)

My Comments

As previously covered, the US broadband Internet service is heading down the path of a poor-value service. This is due to very cosy duopolies and cartels that exist in providing this service on both the fixed and mobile platforms and are placing householders, small business and community organisations at a disadvantage.

This article is highlighting how the state governments are doing their bit to protect these cartels by passing laws that proscribe companies and local governments from deploying their own infrastructure to provide retail communications services in their neighbourhoods. These laws came about when various local governments were setting up free public-access Wi-Fi services for their constituents and this activity was disturbing the likes of Comcast and the Baby Bells.

But the issue is being highlighted again by Google launching their own Google Fiber service which has its own infrastructure and has an intent to provide next-generation broadband at next-generation speeds for rock-bottom prices. The same issue could be raised concerning a competing provider who uses other technologies like fixed wireless or even their own coaxial cable to raise the Internet bar in a neighbourhood.

Some of these efforts may be to either provide real broadband Internet to rural communities or enable disadvantaged communities to have access to high-quality broadband. It also is about igniting business development and sparking up residential and commercial property values in various neighbourhoods, especially where a lot of business is being conducted online.

What is being raised in this article is to have some form of oversight concerning the state laws affecting the deployment of municipal or other competing retail broadband services. Personally, I would like to see these laws looked at in the context of antitrust (competition) issues, because they have been architected to protect uncompetitive behaviour.

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Net Neutrality and competition are at risk of giving way to US big money

Article

Guess Who’s Winning The Money Battle In The War On Net Neutrality | Gizmodo

My Comments

This recent article is showing how the US government is capitulating to Big Money, especially from AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, when it comes to Net Neutrality and, to some extent, competing service. Here, it also highlighted how FCC are pandering to big-business interests because the jobs with telcos and cable companies are becoming a popular destination for outgoing FCC Commissioners.

Why do I think of Internet-service competition in relationship to Net Neutrality? This is because when you have fewer Internet-service providers or telecommunications companies serving a particular market or providing a backbone service, you also have a greater risk of these companies selling privileged access to Internet service at very steep costs.

Previously, I had raised the issue of government departments that regulate telecommunications being independent of established telecommunications providers which brought around the idea of competitive Internet service in the UK and France. Here, I mentioned about these countries having cheaper or better-value Internet service because these government departments don’t curry favour with incumbent telecoms operators and there is oversight of the telecoms market by competition regulators and drew this comparison when I touched on Deutsche Telekom being “Drossel-kom” (“Throttle-kom”) in Germany because their telecoms regulator curried favour with this incumbent operator.

What I suspect that is happening now is that the US is effectively heading to a business climate for telecommunications, Internet service and pay-TV similar to the business climate for like services that existed in the 1970s before the Carterfone decision and the anti-trust rulings levelled against AT&T came about. This is where AT&T (Ma Bell) was able to get away with poor customer service and phone services that were of poor value for money because they were the only option for telephony. This is also shown up with repeated customer-satisfaction surveys in the US placing these companies at the worst for customer satisfaction.

Some public-interest foundations like Represent.Us and the Sunlight Foundation are targeting the issue of Big Money controlling American politics and an American could support these efforts if they want to restore real competition with their telecommunications services.

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