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By: MarkJ - 3 March, 2011 (7:20 AM)
o2 uk mobile broadband logoMobile operator O2 UK has said that its future Long Term Evolution ( LTE ) based Mobile Broadband services, which will deliver significantly faster data rates to consumers than exist today (its true real-world performance remains unknown), could make intelligent use of the new platform to deliver only certain services at a faster speed (two tier mobile internet).

Mobile network operators in the UK have never really paid much attention to Net Neutrality (the principal of treating all internet traffic as equal), which isn't surprising given their tight data revenues and Mobile Broadband capacity constraints. Some, such as Three (3) UK, already employ Traffic Management systems. Content filtering and service blocking (VoIP) aren't uncommon either.

However O2 believes that, rather than penalise existing 3G (HSPA) Mobile Broadband customers, it could instead use the new LTE platform as a delivery method for only particular content and or services.

The MD of O2, Ronan Dunne, told ZDNet UK:

"We will never degrade a particular service because of which model is being used. What we will do is use the example of LTE to provide an equivalent of the M6 toll road, [so content providers can] choose that particular channel to put the most media-rich content through. It's using the network efficiently with a view to optimising the experience for the end user."

What's less clear is whether or not O2 will ask customers or content providers to pay a premium for accessing the LTE channel. Operators would prefer content providers to pay, although so far most have been either unwilling or unable to foot the bill. That's hardly a surprise, especially when firms like Skype (VoIP) operate off comparatively slim profit margins.

O2 claims that its model would not seek to degrade the performance of other services, although "prioritisation" by its very essence implies a detriment to those products and services that are not given the same treatment.

In any case LTE, which in the future could push speeds of up to 1Gbps (real-world performance will be many times below that as the capacity is shared), will ultimately require customers to purchase new hardware (USB Modems / Dongles). If all else fails O2 could simply tag a higher price onto such services and let consumers decide what they want.

Separately O2 has also called upon Ofcom not to tinker with the 4G spectrum auctions too much, which they claim could lead to "distorted outcomes" that create new "legal challenges and [delays]". However O2 conceded that mobile operators would probably still have to work together if the rural Digital Divide is ever to be truly closed.
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