So let’s just start our own telco, eh?

While my piece about iPhone data plans brings you the disturbing imagery of Telstra’s Sol Trijillo bending over for Steve Jobs, Mark Pesce’s iPhail is blunt about telcos’ data plans and offers another possibility — creating our own data-friendly telco.

Mark reckons all three carriers offering iPhone have completely failed to recognise the pent-up demand for the device, and the way it will change network usage.

A typical example is Optus’ plan (general consensus holds that Optus has the most generous plans of the three carriers), which provides a maximum of 1GB of internet usage per month — for a hefty $179.

Let’s run some numbers here. The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald clocks in at just about a half a megabyte. That’s fat, but also fairly typical. The widespread deployment of broadband has lead to a proliferation of media-rich pages. Now, if I hit the SMH page (or a similar site) sixty times a day, I’d reach my 1GB cap. Add in any Google Maps activity, or push email, or what have you, and the figure could easily double. Now, instead of $179/month, I’d have that bill plus potentially hundreds of dollars in data charges.

On the other hand, if I wanted to buy 3G mobile data service for my MacBook Pro from Optus, they’d give me a cute little USB dongle with the Hauwei 3G/HSDPA modem and SIM card, plus 5GB of data — and it would cost me only $39.99 a month.

Have I missed something here? After all, data is data. The network usage for the dongle is completely indistinguishable, as far as the network is concerned, from the iPhone 3G.

Mark’s conclusion is that there’s an “iPhone tax”.

Not only are we asked to pay a premium to purchase iPhone 3G, we will also be paying a premium to receive every bit of data on iPhone 3G.

The solution, he says, is to start our own MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator.

It’s not as hard as you might think,…

If we put the word out through our various social networks (both human and electronic), I’m sure that in practically no time at all we’d have 10,000 or more subscribers ready to sign up for an MVNO. I don’t know how many subscribers we’d need to get to a break-even point, but I doubt it can be many more than that. Given the amazing facility of many members of the community for setting up and running online services that scale to handle many users, I suspect that much of the infrastructure for this MVNO can be created by the community, for the community, at very low cost. The power of social networks — as has been endlessly pointed out by Clay Shirky — is that it allows large numbers of individuals to self-organize quickly and effectively.

I’ve heard people complain about the mobile carriers since before I moved to Australia. I suggest that it’s time to put up or shut up. Passive resistance is no longer enough. It is time to show the carriers that we can do this ourselves. We can service ourselves and our needs. We will do this because doing anything else is abhorrent.

We could name our MVNO the Future AUstralian Carrier, or FAUC.

Don’t like your plan from Telstra, or Vodafone, or Optus? Well, get FAUC.

As I write this, the Facebook group FAUC (Future AUstrailian Carrier) Interest Group [sic] already has 127 members…

6 Replies to “So let’s just start our own telco, eh?”

  1. Pointed this out to a friend, who replied “…websites such as the SMH recognise being accessed by an iPhone and actually display in a low bandwidth mode — there are plenty of peeps on Whirlpool who have had plenty of time to test out the first gen iPods (imported from the US and hacked to work on our networks) to suggest that average useage is around 100mb — including daily checking of emails etc.”

    Is that the case?

  2. a FAUCing good idea; then again — why not see if we can take the Skype mobile option??

  3. No way is Telstra’s data pricing a “failure of recognition”. They deliberately hid their data charges until it was absolutely necessary.

  4. The only people who will use them at the early penetration stage (is that too rude to say here?) are poseurs (who should be taxed merely for existing) and geeks (who avoid paying tax by not going out in petrol guzzling cars, failing to buy alcohol and cigarettes, obeying speed limits and all manner of other socially ireesponsible actions). I don’t see a problem here. 😉

  5. @Snif: You’re quite right. Using my Nokia N80 just now on a Vodafone 3G plan, detects that I’m on a mobile device and bounces me to to deliver a well-stripped-down version of the news. The SMH example, which was from John Allsop’s analysis, is therefore a furphy.

    As an aside, at Mobile Content World I heard that some people are using the mobile versions of websites even when on “normal” desktop or laptop computers, simply to avoid the clutter. Good idea.

    @jason : Over recent years Telstra’s data charges have almost always been the worst in the country. It would seem this is no exception.

    On Brisbane radio 4BC recently, presenter Michael White tried to get Telstra’s Phil Burgess to answer a simple question: If Vodafone and Optus offer 5GB/month on a mobile broadband plan for my laptop for under $40, what is Telstra’s charge for the Next G network? You can hear Burgess avoiding the question on the Monday and Thursday interviews (though sadly in Windows Media format only).

    @Gywnfor: What astounded me yesterday was the steady stream of geeks whining that the data plans were all rip-offs — and then queuing to sign up for an iPhone anyway. I have no sympathy for them, especially since it seems that a few days of shopping around could deliver better results.

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