Award Winning Blog

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Can You Hear Me Now?

            Yet again, a significant wireless network outage has caught users unaware.  See; There’s an inverse relationship between one’s growing reliance on wireless networks and their reduced reliability compared to less elegant wireline technologies the carriers want to abandon.

            Our near exclusive reliance on wireless cellphone service increases the risk of both carrier responsible outages and a subscriber self-induced service disruptions.  These outcomes are an inconvenient truth: centrally managed, software driven networks regularly fail.  When they do so, emergency 911 service also fails.  On the consumer side, cellphone batteries typically need daily recharging.  If the electrical grid has an outage, cellphone batteries cannot get recharged.  Even standalone battery charging units also need recharging as they lose power over time.

            Once upon a time, telephone companies of the world championed “toll grade” sound quality, redundant, “self-healing” networks, and high quality of service.  They generated their own power with 99.9999+ percent reliability.  On the other hand, they did have financial incentives to “gold plate” networks, because doing so supported higher rates, more revenues, and larger profit margins.  Now, the incentives work the other way. Scrimping on maintenance enhances profits and market concentration makes it possible to avoid any major subscriber churn to another carrier perceived as offering more reliable service. 

            Today, some inconvenienced AT&T Wireless subscribers may get ticked off, but they have no recourse at the FCC, the court of public opinion, and the marketplace.  The FCC has no perceived upside in imposing quality of service minimum standards, outage reporting, refunds for service disruptions, truth in billing disclosures, etc. Such consumer protections would make the wireless carriers howl about overreach given how robustly competitive and self-regulating the wireless market operates.  The court of public opinion already loathes the wireless carriers, but having a oligopoly of three national carriers means they do not suffer when outages occur, providing poor customer care, and engaging in “consciously parallel” conduct such as collusion and price fixing.

            Does anyone truly believe a market share of 95% shared by three carriers forces sleepless afternoons competing and innovating?  That “free” video streaming service you get with a wireless subscription and the not free “on us” carrier handset has less value when you cannot use them.

            Carriers to customers: “Get a grip and deal with it. We will restore service as soon as we can.”



No comments: