The Swedish-Finnish venture TeliaSonera, which is so far the only operator that has launched mobile broadband services based on LTE, has taken a cautious approach, and will charge subscribers 599 Swedish Kronor (US$80) per month for 30GB of data, compared to 319 Swedish Kronor for 20GB using HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access). LTE is a premium service with higher speeds -- between 20M bps (bits per second) and 80M bps compared to up to 10M bps -- that users will have to pay more for, according to Indra Åsander, head of product management at TeliaSonera in Europe.
TeliaSonera wanted its first LTE-based subscription to be something that users recognize, and is as easy as possible to understand, according to Åsander. However, in the not-too-distant future it will expand to other offers to mix and match a number of different parameters, including data volume, speed and services backed up by quality of service measures, Åsander said.
In theory, having as many options as possible is a good thing for consumers, but operators also run the risk of confusing them, according to Åsander.
Higher mobile speeds -- using not only LTE, but also WiMax and HSPA+ -- will let users do more with their smartphones, tablets and laptops. The way people use such devices is changing also thanks to a growing number of available applications that let users do everything from sleep-pattern monitoring to visualizing where the Berlin Wall was located.
Today, that market is dominated by Apple and Google, but operators are hoping to change that by working together within the Wholesale Applications Community. The organization, announced in February, boasts 24 mobile operators in its member roster, including AT&T, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Telefónica, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone.
The group aims to let developers create applications that can be sold in all the members' application stores and run on high-end smartphones as well as cheaper handsets. The first applications based on the work done by the Wholesale Applications Community will arrive in February next year, but meanwhile developers can get to work in September, the organization said on May 5.
The fact that the Wholesale Applications Community is proposing a model that spans multiple phone vendors could be great for consumers, since it would allow them to take their applications with them when they switch from one phone maker to another, according to Webb.
"At the moment, people are locked into their iPhones. Even those who are frustrated are sticking with it, because they have spent money on applications, and can't move them to a handset from HTC," said Webb.
Whether they are already too far behind to be able to catch up to Apple and Google remains to be seen, according to Webb. Collins agrees: The operators have a long way to go before they can convince developers that the Wholesale Applications Community is as attractive as the iPhone or the Android platform, he said.
The Wholesale Applications Community is also looking to lure developers by simplifying access to the network APIs (application programming interfaces) at multiple operators, which, for example, would let them access billing features.
There is also a lot that can be done with micropayments using the billing relationship that the operators already have with subscribers, according to Collins.
"These are the seeds of the future of mobile ... If the mobile phone isn't at the center of your life, it is inevitably going to become so," said Collins.