Mon Oct 28 22:48:43 PDT 2013

programmatically advertising mobile bandwidth cost: a proposal

You know what would be cool? If your phone knew how much bandwidth from each carrier cost, and could switch between them on the fly, depending on which one was cheapest, like a multi-SIM phone that didn't suck.[1]

You know what would be cool? If your phone could roam between a cell tower and an arbitrary wifi AP, like a parallel-universe version of UMA that also doesn't suck.

You know what would be cool? If wifi APs could programmatically advertise bandwidth cost too, so anyone could compete with AT&T just by nailing a linksys router to a wall.[2]

You know what would be cool? If your DSL modem[3] could advertise bandwidth cost too, just like your wifi AP and your cell tower. You'd have to pay common carrier costs for the last mile of cable to your house, no way around that, but as soon as your bits make it to the first point of presence, you'd have you choice of long-distance IP transit providers, just like the last time we broke up a telecom monopoly.[4]

All these ideas seem very simple and obvious. Have they been proposed before?

1: Bandwidth is a utility service, like electricity, or water. Any profit a utility monopoly makes is extracted from the productive economy, a tax on real industries. AT&T made $3.8 billion last quarter.

2: The implementation details of this one are going to be tricky. With a major carrier, you can just tally up all the kilobytes used and bill the user at the end of the month, but with wifi, it's entirely possible a person will walk into a starbucks, watch a video on youtube, then walk out, never to return. How is that billing system going to work? Are you going to have to manually provide billing information before connecting? That would be terrible.

3: Well, "transceiver".

4: Honestly, I anticipate a lot less benefit from this one. Transit is already a very competitive commodity market, with razor-thin margins. The biggest problem with consumer internet has always been that last mile, and the associate incumbent telcos, who have no useful competition, and therefore lots of monopoly profit.

You'd almost have to mandate embedded cell phone radios in terrestrial internet transceivers in order to guarantee last-mile diversity... wait, shit, that's a great idea!

Posted by Samuel Bierwagen | Permanent link | File under: important, Engineering