The broadband battle is being fought between "imperialist" telcos and "guerilla" Internet firms, a Yankee Group analyst told the fBBWF Asia Tuesday.
Anette Schaefer, director of consumer research, EMEA, said the established telcos focused on ARPUs and the idea of guiding consumers to a choice of apps on the network. .
"They are pretty much trying to think about voice, content and access as palette from which consumers can choose."
The guerillas are firms such as Google and Yahoo who don't own a network and aren't focused on ARPU, and whose apps run on PCs, mobile phones, PlayStations and all kinds of networks and devices.
"They're advertising-funded. They have a different view of the world," Schaefer said.
It was unclear how the battle would pan out, and it was possible that the network neutrality debate would lead to a new business relationship between content owners and network operators.
"But we believe it will be decided by the consumer," she said, noting that consumers have a "tendency to gravitate to the easiest or the cheapest way" of doing things.
She said the contest was being fueled by the escalating amounts being spent on next-gen networks and the drive into fixed-mobile convergence.
In a final note of warning over telco business models, she added, "One thing is sure. Free beats fee."