Now that all four leading U.S. mobile service providers now offer some form of unlimited usage plan, consumer behavior and service provider behavior become crucial. Will consumer usage increase, and by how much, where and when? Will service providers keep the unlimited offers prominent in their marketing efforts?
If mobile network usage profiles change, how will that affect quality of experience on the various networks? And what will mobile service providers have to do to maintain quality in the face of increased network demand? How much can they do, near term?
In other words, will network congestion suddenly become a much-bigger issue?
Though the rankings will change after the final results of the 600-MHz auction are concluded, mobile spectrum holdings might start to matter in the U.S. market, as all of the four biggest mobile service providers offer unlimited usage. Since that tends to increase consumer consumption, mobile operators, consumers and investors will be watching not only revenue and profit trends, but potential new stress on networks, in terms of quality.
Before the additional 600-MHz spectrum to be added, U.S. mobile service providers had about 650 MHz of licensed capacity.
Eventually, those figures will be vastly eclipsed by all the new spectrum to be made available, plus spectrum sharing and offload. Millimeter wave spectrum will eventually have a big role. In the near term, only offload is going to help in the near term, and even that help could be limited if consumers start relying on the mobile network more heavily in the wake of the unlimited plans.