In developed countries with high rates of broadband Internet usage in homes, mobile Internet will be seen as a separate category from fixed broadband offerings. In the UK, incumbent operator BT is adding mobile broadband to its consumer packages, positioning the technology as a complement to fixed broadband:
BT Total Broadband customers can now get up to 8Mbps cellular broadband including 1GB of monthly data usage. The lowest option costs £15.65 per month over 18 months for both fixed and mobile broadband, with BT claiming HSDPA download speeds of 7.2Mbps.
In developing/majority world countries, where broadband Internet usage rates are low, consumers are less likely to see the services as complementary. As speeds on next-generation wireless networks catch up to what is typically expected of wired connections like cable, there will be less of a distinction between the two types of service. Already there are devices on the market that blur the distinction between fixed and mobile Internet service and hint at the exciting possibilities convergence will offer down the road.
The New York Times recently covered the Novatel MiFi 2200, a device that will be made available from Verizon in North America in mid-May. It is a new take on existing cellular-modems as the device uses a cellular 3g signal from a mobile network to create a portable Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere you take the device. The Wi-Fi signal covers about a 30ft. radius and can be shared with up to 5 users.
What is incredible about this device is that Verizon even suggests that the MiFi device could be used as a primary family Internet service at home. Just two short years ago, sharing a cellular-modem account was discouraged by the same provider–a real sign of the maturation of the ability of 3g networks to carry greater traffic.
Mobile Internet offerings from operators like Vodafone and Digicel are to be expected and do not come as a surprise for anyone. Leadership at TFL should take notice of the BT case. Combining mobile Internet, fixed Internet, voice, and IPTV in a consumer package could make TFL Fiji’s first triple-play or quad-play threat.