Why mobile is taking one step forward and two steps backNewsBy Timothy O'Neil-Dunne | March 28, 2011Share This article was originally published on While Wall Street is lauding the AT&T takeover (sorry, this ain’t no merger) of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile brand in the USA, the finance folk are punishing the owners of mobile antennae.The consolidation is going to be brutal on these tower owners. These guys just thought they were rolling in the money as the next generation (misnamed 4G because in reality it is somewhere between 3.1 and 3.5 G) and new tower infrastructure would be required.However, the thinning of the numbers of players will hurt - and not just the cell tower owners. What about the consumers?Now, interestingly, there are other opportunities for the mobile players to gouge the consumers and in the USA the opportunities to do so are increasing not decreasing.The carriers have been successful in making the unlimited data plans go away, at the time when such plans have become very popular in international markets.One of the gripes of the telco operators was that they failed to control the use of unlimited data via fixed line services. The competition between the old line copper operators and those who were able to lay fibre down allowed for strong competition and therefore realistic pricing that allowed the universal spread of the web to occur in the 1990s.With telcos and cable companies competing for customers, the all-you-can-eat models emerged and encouraged the spread of high bandwidth services or, more accurately, any bandwidth services. Thus the digital economy was able to accelerate.Now we see the darker side. The mobile economy is being stifled at the very time when it should be enhanced and encouraged. All at the temple of - yes, you guessed it - corporate greed.The mobile economy has seen a battle emerge for who can claim the title of best gouger: the information owners or the information carriers. Oh, and let’s not forget the handset vendors and, of course, the great sucking sound which can only come from the Googleplex.In the case of the information carriers, mobile telecom providers, we see them being successful in moving away from the all-you-can-eat model.Now the information owners are wanting to get in on the act by placing restrictions based on not just the amount of data consumed but also even the device on which it is consumed.And behind this is – yes, you guessed it – the evil hand of Apple. Actually this is the unintended hand of Apple, but iPhones and iPads are at the root of this evil.Apple has shown that it can milk the consumer dry in the number of ways that these devices can divert cash to the mothership.Correspondingly around the world there are the young MBA educated (and some not as smart) who are dusting off their Powerpoint skills to show how iPads can be the savior of the information businesses. Think this isn’t happening? Guess again. I suggest you have a good read of this article.The article points to the new usage charge model from the New York Times. In a desperate effort to recapture some (any?) revenue, the NYT is espousing a model that penalizes and, in the view of several analysts, will stifle the growth of mobile data services.A two tier model, charging for the service and then charging by individual devices, will hurt mobile more than anything else. But be careful what you wish for.In the 1980s, Borland, then one of the feistiest software houses, challenged the big boys like IBM and Microsoft with a suite of products that were better and had more customer friendly commercial practices - more customer-focused systems, lower prices and a decidedly better licensing model. They used what is known as the "book" or "library" model (portable use, one copy at a time).Like I said, be careful what you wish for. The likely output of this is a higher incidence of piracy and abuse of copyright.The unintended consequence of all this is that mobile is going to be delayed, stifled and possible crippled.Let’s just hope someone’s creativity will break through this and that the greedy folk are suitably screwed. Personally I am hopeful.