What Do We Need in the New Mobile World?

Imagine a world where you were charged for every e-mail, voice call, every instant message, every Web page. Or a world where you had a set limit for these things, and each item counted against this limit. This is what happens with your mobile phone. You’re charged in one way or another for every action, be it a call, an instant message or Web browsing. Now imagine how much more you would use your mobile if you just paid a monthly fee and everything you did was free, like most fixed-line Internet services. Would you use it more? Or differently?

I know I would. The move from event-based billing to access billing is a core challenge for mobile operators right now.

The problem for operators is if they don’t charge us for usage, how will they make money? The answer lies in the economics of the Web (and, perhaps inevitably, Google). If operators are not to become the pipes they’ve feared for as long as I’ve worked with them, they’re going to have to find value elsewhere.

Google has shown us where that value lies: information. Because Google provides us with the information we (very kindly) tell it we want, we use its services more and more. And I’ve never had a bill from Google, so I love them. This is the key to the new mobile world.

The Web does not charge for the event, but for the relationship between Google and us in a search query. I ask a question and it charges companies to inform me. It’s a brilliant model, really: monetise the relationship, not the transaction. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and many others are getting better every day. But Google is still the king. Mobile network operators have to do the same thing, and change their billing infrastructure to measure these new relationships. Think about the information that Google doesn’t have in the mobile world. That’s where the money is in 2015.