Why Mobile Networks are Different
Mobile networks are technically different from fixed networks. Unlike fixed, fibre-optic, coax or DSL connections, mobile internet networks operate on a shared system where one user’s traffic can have a significant effect on overall network performance. Furthermore, the total throughput and capacity on mobile internet networks are much more limited. These characteristics, combined with the fact that mobile users, by definition, move around, mean that mobile operators need great flexibility in choosing how to manage their networks in order to ensure an optimum consumer experience.
Mobile and fixed telecoms operators are adopting Internet Protocol (IP) technology, which is highly efficient and flexible, to transmit both voice and data traffic across their networks. Although these next generation networks may require changes to regulation, any such changes should be based on evidence of specific problems, which could call for less, rather than more, regulation.
For mobile operators, the evolution to all-IP networks means a significant broadening of their competitive landscape:
- Fixed-mobile convergence and substitution are driving increasing competition between fixed and mobile networks.
- Mobile operators face growing competition from an increasing range of Internet service providers, spanning both web-based applications and downloadable applications for smartphones. The growing competitive interactions between different platforms and providers have significant implications for regulation:
- Today’s communications services bottlenecks may not be replicated in an all-IP world and therefore regulators should take into account actual and foreseeable market developments.
- Where regulation is imposed, it will be important to ensure that it is imposed in a neutral way across all competing providers, so as to avoid distorting market developments.