It is something of a truism that fixed network Internet access is "faster" than mobile Internet access: except where that is not the case.
In the German communications market, mobile Internet access speeds arguably exceed fixed network access speeds on a national basis. That is the impact Long Term Evolution fourth-generation networks have had, at least for Deutsche Telekom.
Consider the latest Deutsche Telekom retail packages. Deutsche Telekom’s “MagentaEINS,” (Mobile One) consumer packages combine mobile and landline services in three basic packages.
But note how the offers supply Internet access across the fixed and LTE networks. The most-affordable MagentaEINS S package costs EUR 49.90 per month for the first seven months, EUR 54.90 per month thereafter, and offers Internet access at 16 Mbps on the fixed network.
MagentaEINS M costs EUR 59.85 per month (EUR 69.85 per month from the seventh month on) and features “iMagentaEINS S Entertain,” adding 100 linear TV entertainment channels, over 20 of which are provided in high-definition format.
Fixed network Internet access is at speeds up to 50 Mbps, with Long Term Evolution access at speeds up to 150 Mbps.
That is the first example of inverted capabilities. Normally, one expects the fastest speeds in a market will be provided by a fixed network. For Deutsche Telekom, the LTE network is fastest.
That might not be the case for every contestant in every market, though. Cable operators might argue they can--or will--top 150 Mbps in the future.
The largest package, MagentaEINS L, sells for EUR 64.85 per month (EUR 79.85 per month from the seventh month on) and features mobile communications, landline and Internet up to 100 Mbps, plus “Entertain Premium” with more than 45 HD channels.
In that case, fixed network speeds operate up to 100 Mbps, while LTE still offers speeds up to 150 Mbps.
One might argue Deutsche Telekom is trying to avoid the market realities in Austria, where mobile Internet access has proven to be a widely-accepted substitute for fixed network services.
As early as 2009, mobile access represented 38 percent of all broadband connections in Austria.
One service provider response is to improve the value of the fixed network offer by combining fixed and mobile services and features in ways that blur the line between fixed and mobile resources, and create a unified experience that draws on each network’s advantages.
For Deutsche Telekom, and, arguably other providers such as AT&T, the new strategy is to create retail packages combining features of fixed and mobile networks as seamlessly as possible.
LIkewise, some service providers such as Free Mobile, and cable operators, leverage fixed network assets (Wi-Fi) to create mobile experiences and value.
As foundational as triple-play offers have become for fixed network providers, a growing number of tier-one service providers now are starting to bundled access across fixed and mobile networks.
One characterization is that the quadruple play now becomes the new offer. A different characterization might be that the new effort is not only to essentially blur the difference between network access methods, but create different experiences where the “network access” is invisible and irrelevant.
Many mobile service providers have attempted to create mobile substitutes for fixed products.
They have largely done so for voice. In messaging, mobile services have surpassed fixed services as well.
Internet access and video are the new battlefields.
In Germany, Deutsche Telekom will try to head off substitution by combining a faster mobile Internet access offer with other fixed network features.
In the U.S. market, T-Mobile US already offers 150 Mbps Long Term Evolution speeds in Dallas.
Sprint has recently argued it will introduce 200 Mbps LTE service, using its new Spark network.
AT&T also has talked about launching 100-Mbps LTE in the U.S. market as well.
To be sure, many will argue mobile and fixed Internet access offers are not directly comparable, given the huge difference in usage buckets (5 Gbps might be typical for a high-end mobile user, where 150 Gbps is standard for fixed network customers).
That difference in usage buckets (two orders of magnitude) might also represent a similar gap in effective price-per-gigabyte actually consumed.
On the other hand, on the metric of access speed, it already is possible to argue that T-Mobile US service in Dallas, for example, might be faster--at 150 Mbps--than what consumers generally have access to on either telco or cable TV networks.
T-Mobile US has said that it will bring LTE that fast to 90 percent of the top 25 markets by the end of 2015, which means that 23 of the 25 most populous cities in the country will have it.
That means T-Mobile US would be offering 150 Mbps in 23 of the biggest U.S. metropolitan areas.
So add LTE speeds to the business pressures convincing telcos and cable companies they now must boost access speeds. It isn’t just Google Fiber.