Filling in a few more details about the Hutchison 3 mobile broadband announcement....
- The company's CFO made a very public & emphatic U-turn, using terms like "tearing down the walls", and "in principle, what's free on the Internet ought to be free on your mobile". He decried operators who priced their data services according to a resource-scarcity model, and deemed the idea of tariffing connectivity so as to dissuade people from using open-Internet services as "unacceptable". And this is from the guy in charge of the financials, not marketing...
- contrary to various reports, the Skype service is NOT wVoIP - it's a circuit-switched call from the phone into a Skype VoIP gateway in 3's network. I suspect this is because of both radio resource inefficiency of VoIPo3G, and the limitations on indoor coverage. The Skype client on the phone uses IP-based presence, which works over 3G or 2G.
- although there are various proxy servers for things like the IM applications and (I think) Orb, none of the things announced today use an IMS in 3's network. No CSCFs or all the rest of it - most is just a big fat pipe straight to the real Internet. There's some policy management stuff in there to maintain network integrity & throttle back particularly heavy media streams (and, I suspect, watch out for things for filesharing), but it sounds to me that 3 has launched a whole bunch of new appealing things without any of the complexity of IMS.
- Chatting over lunch, it seems that many of the people at 3 share my view that 900MHz refarming & Elisa's trial in Finland is indeed of critical importance.
Overall, I saw the whole event as an example of "beautiful heresy". All the usual so-called operator nightmares - Skype, flatrate data, applications not services, free IM (potentially replacing text), placeshifted media - are being embraced.
Yes, we still don't know the price, but to be honest, it doesn't matter. I think there are plenty of people who will instinctively want a mobile ISP service which enables them to use their handsets the way they use their PCs & broadband modems. Having a select range of tuned / tweaked / customised / optimised Internet brands like Skype and Sling is the icing on the cake. And the fact that they are not subject to extra per-use charges is the cherry on top.
I know I'm sometimes very cynical about mobile operators, but I have to say I've been genuinely astounded by all this. I've been jokingly using the term "legacy mobile-only operators" for some time in comparison with more Internet-savvy FMC carriers. But this announcement makes it clear that not only are some mobile operators going to try & keep up... but that many others are now beyond "legacy" and heading towards "history".