Solving the wireless Net neutrality conflict

Yes, the carriers are robber barons, but unlimited data usage is equally unrealistic. Here's a plan to get better wireless data service for all

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More sensible would be an approach that Hoover described: At an app store, customers can buy business apps that are charged to the company, while personal apps can be charged to themselves, with regulatory policies to aid them. You can envision policies that have video usage accrue to the individual's account, but not be covered by the business plan. Or perhaps SMS usage is counted as personal and thus not paid by the company, but tweeting on behalf of the company is covered. In other words, your device has both a business plan and a personal plan attached to it, and services are allocated between them based on policies.

Carriers' desire for exclusivity won't work in the new world
Of course, what the carriers really want is a deeper relationship with the enterprise, and they hope that offering such control tools will help achieve that. Thus, they can get more money from the relationship both by capturing more users and by charging for management services and extra levels of service quality.

They're being naive. I do expect data costs to go up as employees use more and more wireless broadband, but I'm not convinced there's much room for premium charges beyond usage. Inherent to the carrier approach is carrier exclusivity -- they want companies to standardize on their network by offering a combination of discounts and services that nonetheless increase their total revenue. But Hoover admits that there's no way in the foreseeable future to let IT manage users across carriers, and it's not in carriers' individual self-interest to do so.

Ironically, that exclusivity-in-business conflicts with other carrier arrangements. Many people, for example, belong to family plans, which lowers the total cost of cellular voice service. If that network is different than the one the employer favors, the employer won't get the employee to switch if the employee is providing the device. Likewise, carriers love to get exclusive deals with device makers for specific smartphones. But if an employee wants to use an iPhone (available only through AT&T) and the employer has chosen Sprint, the employee won't -- and can't -- switch. In other words, the carriers' exclusivity zones are now conflicting with each other.

IT is likely going to have to manage multiple clusters of users based on the carrier they've chosen -- and I believe that for most companies, doing so is not worthwhile. It's easier to reimburse a flat fee and use consolidated mobile management tools to handle the various devices, regardless of network.

That's why Hoover is increasingly hearing -- though tentatively -- discussions about divorcing carriers from their devices. A device could have multiple carrier accounts, such as business and personal. If that were to occur, Hoover expects some carriers would specialize, such as for high-availability, fast premium networks or for no-shocking-fees international roaming networks.

In the meantime, the idea of policy management could be helpful in some "bring your own device" businesses and could be used to solve the wireless Net neutrality conflict. Of course, it could also be yielded to increase carrier and business control over hapless users. Given the current winds, I'm betting on the former.

This article, "Solving the wireless Net neutrality conflict," was originally published at Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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