Back in 79 A.D. a lot of people were up to their normal daily routines when the volcano known as Vesuvius blew. We know this because in the towns below some of the less fortunate were entombed in ash in the midst of eating a meal, doing business, or walking the dog. Before the eruption, there were signs that something bad was looming. Pliny The Younger wrote what he saw first hand from the safety of a ship in the Bay of Naples and recounted that some chose to leave the city just in case. As a side note, Pliny the Elder died at the seaside in the ensuing eruption.
Since the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I have been sitting in my own Bay of Naples waiting for a sort of eruption. At the meeting, mobile carriers hinted that a collision course between the end of unlimited data plans and the rapid build-out of corporate consumer mobile media apps might require an industry change. Some hinted that corporate mobile apps providers may need to pick up the tab for the data transferred to consumers while those consumers are using that corporate app.
The data-app situation is akin to toll-free 800 service form the 1970s, where the company being called picked up the tab for the call. Toll free service was extremely successful in the days prior to the Internet and email. In any event, a model such as this for mobile data could offset consumer reluctance to use a corporate app for fear of overrunning their monthly data plan allotment of kilobytes. To put it in perspective, imagine if you started paying per byte for your fixed-line and Wi-Fi Internet connectivity. How would it change your online behavior? You would have to consider whether streaming Netflix at the end of the month would result in a surcharge if you were over your monthly allotment of viewable bytes.
I headed to the dock to catch a ship after I heard the initial rumblings. After the Mobile World Congress, I expected dialog from media companies building bandwidth-intensive apps, consumer groups, and industry bloggers. But, for the most part, life went on as normal in Pompeii. It seems to me that the smoke is still building, and the day of the pyroclastic melting-hot gas flow is not far off. I think the sooner carriers and B2C corporate app providers begin talking about this, the better. Specifically, streaming media companies need to be on the vanguard of conversations with the large mobile carriers.
As things stand, we are waiting for the big show. Some are still wandering around the streets of Pompeii tending to their normal daily lives. But others are making their ways to the ships. They are talking about what it all means, how the world will change, and, importantly, how to adapt. Either way the sparks will be flying and it’s time to get down to the business of talking about how this will affect us all moving forward.