Pipes are so Mobile Web 1.0 … because in a user generated content world, there is no ‘un pipe’


A few weeks ago, I was speaking at the Symbian smartphone show on Mobile Web 2.0.

The presentation following me was from a UK mobile operator.

I was curious to see what Operators would think of User generated content (Web 2.0 / Mobile Web 2.0).

(If you have not read Mobile Web 2.0, this link : Three characteristics of Mobile Web 2.0 , provides a brief outline of what I mean by Mobile Web 2.0 )

Predictably, there was little new in the Mobile operator presentation – other than to acknowledge the threat.

In other words, they (rightly) saw MySpace et al as a threat since the same demographics(youth) will divide their time, money and attention(aka ad exposure) between MySpace and the Mobile phone.

However, the Operator reiterated that ‘media companies could subsidise some of the operator costs and content would be delivered free’.

Frankly, if the likes of Sony and Warner would be interested in subsidising data charges, we would have all had free ‘Lord of the rings’ ringtones by now.

But we don’t!

It’s the old mentality of ‘We don’t want to be a pipe’

The irony is: the dichotomy of a pipe v.s. not a pipe is so Mobile Web 1.0

This led me to think

In a ‘User generated content’ world : what is the problem in being a ‘Pipe’? If you ‘flip’ the idea of a pipe, there is no ‘un pipe’ in a user generated content world.

By that, I mean : In a ‘broadcast content world(conventional media world)’, there is the belief that being merely a ‘pipe’ means that ‘someone else is making all the money’. (I call the ‘other’ money making entity as ‘Un pipe’)

My point is: In a Mobile Web 2.0 (user generated content) world .. there is no ‘Un pipe’

It is just people communicating with each other

The operator, in this case, becomes what they are best at : Enablers of communication rather than playing second fiddle to the Broadcast content industry

So, Why should they worry any more about being a pipe in a Mobile Web 2.0 world??



  1. Ben Miller says:

    The un-pipe may be Google.
    Pipes may worry that more of the value in excess of their cost of production will accrue to Google and less to themselves.
    Consider the possibility that Google becomes the main way that people find content (UGC or otherwise), and prior to any sought-out content being displayed on a mobile handset, Google has control of the screen for a moment.
    Over time Google would know the demand side of the market for pipes:
    - individual handsets which is to say individual customers
    - their current pipe-providing carrier
    - patterns of handset usage over time and related location information
    Google could also collect information about the supply side of the pipe market, possibly even working in concert with a carrier which chose to break with the industry and provide on-the-fly pricing to Google.
    Each time a handset/user accessed some UGC, Google could at its discretion display (via Google search or via AdSense agreed to by the creator of the UGC) an individually tailored special offer from the Google business unit which had the (best?) data concerning both demand for and supply of pipes.
    Google could broker a change in handset and/or carrier and/or subscription plan to the benefit of the handset owner/subscriber.
    Some proportion of individuals may not be averse to being shown messages on the order of “Visit the carrier x retail outlet 500 meters further in the direction you are traveling. Based on your pattern of use (mostly at night and predominantly from an area where your current carrier has fewer base stations), carrier x can offer you a new subscription plan that will be x% cheaper. For the next one hour, you can also upgrade your current model x handset to an x+ model for no additional charge.
    Carriers could act in a concerted way to block Google from accessing demand side information (location data, handset model and other identifier information), and they could block Google from getting a good look at the pipe pricing and supply situation.
    However, I think there may be ways around this (consider the third-party users and suppliers of air-ticket pricing information). Additionally, the cartel-like withholding of the data seems to be inherently unstable.
    Pressure such as this could drive returns to carriers (and handset manufacturers) down. I think this would be a good thing for consumers, but it may suggest there is significant worry associated with being anything other than the lowest cost supplier of piping.

  2. While I do agree about the necessity for the carriers to loosen their grip on the whole pathway, I don’t see it happening very quickly.
    At the Orange developers’ camp last month Pascal Thomas (VP multimedia) stated specifically that Orange will not only be the pipe due to there being insufficient value there.
    I suspect that this attitude will be present within the operator community for some time to come.