Customers using the 3 mobile broadband services from Monday 16th November may start to experience traffic management, although, if the information on The Register is correct it is only P2P applications that will be restricted. How many use P2P on a mobile dongle is unclear, but it seems it is enough to affect the amount of capacity available to be shared with other customers.
The traffic management is meant to only affect those on a congested cell, so we presume this will most likely mean those in the larger cities, airports, train stations and other areas where you find lots of people with mobile broadband congregating.
3 may be the first mobile broadband provider to twitch, but with the rising allowances and falling prices for mobile broadband it was clear that at some point all the mobile broadband providers would have to either adjust their packages, or implement some form of traffic management. Traffic management on landline broadband has been around for almost as long as ADSL has been widely available in the UK. It is implemented in varying ways with some providers being coy about it and others open to the point where it can confuse some customers.
We expect that in time the various cheap bundle deals for mobile broadband will experience higher levels of traffic management, and those willing to pay more will get more capacity during peak times. Mobile broadband has been hailed as something that will over take fixed line broadband, but while it seems likely many consumers will have a mobile broadband dongle, this will invariably be in addition to a fixed line service.
What fixed line broadband and mobile broadband have in common are requirements to get the data traffic from a local aggregation point (cell tower, cabinet or telephone exchange) onto a fibre backbone that links to the Internet. These costs are going to largely be similar for all technologies, however mobile masts may be able to provide an additional solution of using fixed wireless for the local backhaul.
The next few weeks will be interesting as there is a track record of traffic management not performing as expected when broadband providers implement it, for example people using P2P may shift to other ways of getting the files they seek such as usenet newsgroups and file hosting sites. One growing issue for those carrying out traffic management will be a growth in the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) which are invariably used by business users, but there are signs that P2P users are switching to this method to hide their traffic and may be downloading data abroad and then transferring it to their computer across the VPN.