Mobile Money Pit

In the dark days after 9/11, President Bush urged us all to go about our business, and to continue to shop. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, as I consider both my role as an average consumer, and as a marketer.

What brought it to mind, was an article I saw the other day on CNN.com. They reported that mobile devices have become so popular, that there is going to be a serious shortage of mobile spectrum within the next few years.

That came as a bit of a surprise when I read it, because like most people; I just assume my mobile phone is going to work. How it happens is last thing on my mind.

Of course I know mobile phones work like little radio transmitters and receivers, but I just don’t usually think of them as needing access to airwaves like my favorite radio and TV stations. But they do, and the ever increasing numbers of mobile phones, laptops, iPads, Kindles, and other mobile devices are  gobbling up available mobile spectrum like Pac-Man on steroids.

Mobile carriers are scrambling and competing with one another to meet the demand. In fact, obtaining more bandwidth was part of the reason why AT&T wanted to merge with T-Mobile. That gambit failed however, when the deal fell through a couple months ago.

More recently, T-Mobile filed a complaint with the FCC to block Verizon from obtaining what they’re calling an excessive concentration of mobile bandwidth. AT&T meanwhile, is reportedly the process of trying to buy bandwidth from  Dish Network,  as well as from a couple of smaller mobile carriers; Metro PCS and Leap Wireless.

All this, in an effort to feed our ever increasing hunger for mobile.

But I keep wondering, why is it that the people who encourage us to buy more and more mobile devices, don’t ever consider that there is a finite supply of what it takes to make them work?

One answer could be that they just don’t care. They’re living for cash today, not consequences tomorrow.

Another is that that they fully recognize that once mobile spectrum is at a premium; they can charge us even more for a connection.That’s already happening to some degree, and some mobile carriers are trying to manage the situation by “throttling” (slowing down) the connections of customers who use more than a set amount of data each month.

But what gets me is that the companies trying to put the brakes on customers who use “too much” data are also the same ones who are encouraging us to buy the fancy devices and cool applications that use so much of it.

It’s a mobile money pit, and we’re all in it up to our iPhones.

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