Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Europe needs China-style 3G service

A China Unicom telecommunications tower in Yun...Image via Wikipedia
Earlier this week I was pleasantly surprised as my Belgium telecom company Telenet reacted on Twitter when I had some minor complaints about their service. So, I signed up for their twitter account and was invited for a rather large-scale press conference on the launch of their new 3G plan, expected coming Friday at midnight.

Here you can see what their basic promotion will do to fight the competition: you have to pay 199 euro for an iPhone 4 and a 'plan' (teleco's jargon for screwing their customers, while they are profoundly confused by different offers) for 45 euro. I was shocked, but that is perhaps because I'm used to the introduction of these systems in China.

What is the main difference between China (where close to 500 million citizens are online and even more on mobile)? In China telecom communication is considered to be an utility. Of course, the telco's can make a profit - and they do so if I can believe the figures - but their first task is to get everybody connected.

Where does that lead to? China Unicom, the smaller player in the 3G market, just launched their plan to fight the incumbent mobile provider China Mobile, here in a report by Bloomberg. What is their plan? A 7 euro per month subscription. Now you might know why so many Chinese are online.

The EU is doing a lot of work to make the telecom markets more transparent, but when I look at European comparison site like this one, I'm sorry, but that is not going to help me.

In Chinese hotels an internet connection is complimentary, just like they do not charge for using the bathroom. That would still be an unthinkable service in most European hotels.

Europe needs to change its ideas of telecom connection, now they are becoming crucial for the economy. They should considered to be utilities and pricing should be accordingly. Real transparency would be a nice start.
(Earlier published at Fons Tuinstra's home)
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