Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mobile Broadband Access - Myth and Reality - No IM allowed 

I posted something similar already in September 2005 about E-Plus and Skype, but VoIP is VERBOTEN.

This time the phun comes from T-Mobile UK, regarding their web'n' walk professional product, which proudly presents it's great value for 20 Pounds a month:

Web ‘n’ walk professional makes surfing the internet on your laptop simple and easy. Just put the web ‘n’ walk card in your laptop and away you go. And it's great value.

  • Download and send large files and emails quickly
  • Fast download and upload speeds
  • No data download limits*
You see the * - Watch OUT, it is in very small print:

*Web ‘n’ Walk professional is subject to a minimum term contract and credit check. Compatible handset or device required.

OK, this is normal

To ensure a high quality of service for all our customers, a fair use policy applies. T-Mobile defines fair use as total UK data use (both sent and received) of up to 2GB per month. T-Mobile may contact customers who exceed this volume of data in two (or more) consecutive months in any six month period to ask them to reduce their usage. If usage is not reduced, notice may be given, after which network protection controls may be applied which will result in a reduced speed of transmission.

So unlimited means 2GB. And note the ENSURE high Quality for ALL OUR CUSTOMERS: you must not use it too much, because if two or three of you bastards are in one cell, there will be troubles. This definitely leads to the next statement, which is outragous:

Use of Voice over Internet Protocol and Messaging over Internet Protocol is prohibited by T-Mobile. If use of either or both of these services is detected T-Mobile may terminate all contracts with the customer and disconnect any SIM cards and/or web ‘n’ walk cards from the T-Mobile network.

Not only VoIP, but also IM is VERBOTEN. And because they cannot prevent it technically, they do it in the contract.

So no Skype, Jabber, Messenger, etc. not even with text messages.

They must have a lousy network, if even text messages are degrading it.

What applications will they block next? Video download from Warner Bros? Large File tranfer? VPNs?

This raises one question: is the contract really terminated. Since the above 20 quids are for a 18 month minimum contract, do they simply throw you out or do you have to pay the fully monty?

I suspect the latter, because otherwise this would be a nice way to get out of such a contract ;-)

This is going to get worse - if it ever gets better. The problem is really that the operators are going to proactively deploy the networks that limit access, work to cut us off, wait for us to complain (while they fool themselves into thinking we won't), then try to keep the limiting-networks in place by relying on their lobbying talent to keep the government out of the equation. (They'll use the argument "We need to control access in order to recover the cost of our investment in the wonderful network everyone enjoys; oh, and so we can protect your children from bad content." Both will be effective methods to get the government to leave them (networks and operators) alone.)

The only hope for us regular people (and software providers like me) will be if there are alternate internet (mostly local loop) providers that choose to provide unfettered network connectivity. If they're available, and have decent bandwidth, customers will choose these. Only a hemorrhage of customers (and revenue) will force operators to open up their (closed, IMS-based) networks and abandon wasted network investments. Creating products and method to buils this type of alternative access network should be the focus of all serious technologists in the next 36 months.

Oh, and you said "... they cannot prevent it technically...." I wouldn't assume this; the Session Border Controllers (and other similar devices) being deployed by such providers are performing deeper and deeper packet inspection. And if they can't already, they'll soon be able to determine all kinds of packet types, and disallow anything they don't like. (Even, e.g., secure tunnels to to a proxy that acts on a user's behalf.) "If we can't decipher, and approve it, it doesn't get through."

I do not think the owners of the next 5-years worth of Internet network connectivity have a good track record of good faith. Until someone can convince me otherwise, I remain extremely pessimistic about the future of open, unfettered Internet connectivity.
Of course I meant "cannot prevent it NOW"

The problem with the "Alternate" or "Genuine" Internet is that you basically roam with your device from one to the other, e.g. with a dual-mode device between UMTS and WiFi. You may not even know what type of network you are on (or do not care). And suddenly your chat or voice session is illegal.
I agree with all you (Jay) said and I add a couple of comments:

- if they would decide to stop encrypted traffic it means all corporate users will not use the service. I would guess corporate users would be their first source of revenue, so that would be strange. But if you allow me to use my corporate VPN, be sure I'll use my company IM service!

- before the net neutrality came into the picture some time ago, I was very sure we would simply see slowly and painfully (from the operators' prospective) migration to full flat data rate. But now I would guess the opposite! ISP are trying to emulate mobile operators in charging usage given the content. I wonder how it will end. I guess if they manage to agree (over or under to table) on a similar business model, only users will suffer.
I work remotely with other developers. If I cant chat online then the network is basically useless to me.

That said, I dont see how they could do anything about chatting over a secure tunnel unless they're planning on locking out internet banking too.

Anyway, I dont feel like fighting with an over restrictive operator. I'm not interested in T-Mobile's half-arsed offering.
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