There's another subtle factor at play: Because spectrum is not yet in very short supply, some companies are buying it on the cheap and essentially hoarding it in hopes that prices will spike in the future, says Voellinger. When that happens, costs will increase for everyone.
Are we in a crisis? Not yet, but we're moving in that direction. And the crisis will hit enterprise IT along with consumers.
The most obvious impact will be on quality of service (QoS). More and more businesses allow employees to use their smartphones at work, and workers are doing a lot more with them than playing Angry Birds. As slowdowns and even outages become more common, business will suffer and management will expect IT to help -- even though IT has nothing to do with bandwidth.
Meanwhile, traffic from VoIP and IM applications increased by a massive 101 percent in mobile networks over the past six months, Allot found. Not only does that surge place a burden on networks, both mobile and wired, it reduces traditional sources of carrier revenue, such as SMS text-message charges. What will the carriers do about it? Raise prices, of course.
That just happened in the Netherlands. KPN, the country's largest carrier, posted weak first-quarter earnings as its mobile data customers flocked to Skype and other Internet-based messaging services. That undercut the company's more expensive offerings, so to make up for the loss, KPN is charging more.
Interestingly, KPN at first was going to use application-based pricing to charge more for VoIP calls. But that move was met with outrage, and the Dutch parliament then passed a bill barring companies from hindering competitors or giving preference to their own traffic on mobile networks -- in other words, a Net neutrality act.
Consumer groups hailed the law, but E.U. guidelines allow companies to charge more for certain services as long as they do not do so in a discriminatory fashion. You'll probably see that happen in the United States as well, so already tight budgets will be hit with higher mobile data bills.