Top cellco leaders kicked off this year’s Mobile World Congress by extolling the promise of 4G and cloud to fuel a mobile ecosystem of digital services – and blasting heavy-handed and lopsided regulatory policies that stand in their way.
At the opening keynote session of MWC 2013 in Barcelona, Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta complained that telcos and OTT players are regulated differently at the expense of the former, which is unfair because cellcos are the ones investing all the money in spectrum and infrastructure, yet are more heavily regulated than the OTT players that use that network.
“It is difficult to innovate when you have to follow regulations that other players don’t have to follow,” he said.
Alierta was particularly critical of “new monopolies” in the digital world from the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and WhatsApp that negatively impact the customer experience.
Alierta demanded a “level playing field” via transparency and non-discrimination in the new ecosystem that will make the internet open, private, secure and transparent.
He also voiced support for open ecosystems like Mozilla’s Firefox OS. “The answer is to make the Web the platform and break monopolies.”
Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile, agreed that OTT service providers are the bigger threat to telcos, especially in markets where penetration is saturated. “In China, mobile penetration will reach an estimated 120% this year. The growth model driven by customer net adds cannot be sustained under this.”
Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, described LTE and the cloud as “the next exponential leap for the mobile sector” to an era where “connectivity is assumed, content is in the cloud, and the network is at the center of everything the customer does.”
But to achieve that, he said, regulators need to implement spectrum policies that encourage high usage and robust growth, not focus solely on driving prices down to the point where mobile is a commodity service.