Talking tech since 2003

It’s no secret that it’s really easy for a smartphone user to use a lot of bandwidth.  Blame it on documents, email, or the latest viral video, but every smartphone user will tell you that it’s not challenging to become a bit of a bandwidth hog – especially with one of the newer “feature rich” phones.  This is a concept that I demonstrated in a previous post, where I briefly discussed the high loads that mobile networks often face as a result of smartphone users.  In this article, I drew the conclusion that there no mobile network that was truly “able to handle the sheer volume of traffic that is generated from the data-intensive iPhone”, and ultimately summed it up to the fact that the infrastructure of most mobile networks were too outdated to handle such a powerful and resource-intensive device.

More recently, a group of telecomunications companies in Europe have made an effort to upgrade their admittedly outdated networks.  But instead of fronting the billions of dollars necessary to do so themselves, they are asking Apple and Google – the manufactures of major smartphones – to pitch in to pay for said upgrades.

To me, this is concept is completely and utterly absurd.  Anyone who uses a smartphone knows that their doing so isn’t free, as most mobile providers have separate plans and rates for “smartphones”.  While this isn’t an “average” by any stretch of the imagination, I know that my smartphone plan costs about forty dollars per month more than a simple calling plan would.  And, because I shell out this money each month, I – like your average mobile user – expect that my money is being put to good use.  One aspect that I assume this money is being being invested into is improving the mobile networks to ensure that they are scalable and capable of handling the present and future traffic that they will inevitably incur.

Moreover, one has to consider that in many cases, the mobile networks compete in order to be the exclusive carrier for a phone.  After all, when a carrier has the “latest and greatest” phone, they are sure to see an increase in their subscribers.  However, it’s more or less common sense that the newest phones – the ones that everyone want – are feature-rich, and thus bandwidth intensive.  For this reason, I don’t feel that a mobile network should take on a phone if they are not confident in their ability to finance and maintain their networks without the help of the phone manufacturers.  At very least, the mobile companies should make better efforts to plan the necessary network upgrades and incorporate the costs of said upgrades into their contracts with device manufacturers.

The mobile networks have even gone as far as to ask Facebook for help, claiming that the millions of users who flock to the social networking site from their mobile devices are partially responsible for the sluggishness of the networks.  This is down-right comical, because mobile networks flat-out advertise social networking on the go as a feature of their services.  After all, if people didn’t have a constant desire to stay in touch, significantly fewer people would have been sold into mobile communications and the networks would have never capitalized on them as users.  And to turn around and blame the problems on Facebook, all the while using them as a meal-ticket into selling consumers is two-faced.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that anyone would argue that the mobile networks aren’t in a desperate need of upgrades.  But the fact of the matters it that the networks themselves should have better business practices and should be able to finance their operations a bit better.  While European networks have been the only ones to ask manufactures to pitch into network upgrades, I imagine that we may see a similar trend here in the United States if the European networks are successful in getting what they want.

More importantly, part of me believes that this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in pushing phone manufactures – most notably Google – into creating their own mobile networks; networks that they can ensure are optimized for their devices and networks that they financially back on their own.  After all, if the manufactures are being asked to pay for network upgrades, what is to stop them from simply investing in their own and eliminating the issue altogether?

What do you think?  Sure, smartphone manufacturers are indirectly at fault for the stress on mobile networks, but do you believe that they should be asked to invest in mobile networks that they have no say in?  More importantly, do you feel that the mobile networks have been irresponsible thus far in maintaining their networks?  Let us know in the comments!

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