Carriers Demand More Data, Consumers Get Less Privacy

[qi:048] As consumers use more data on their mobile phones, carriers want to know more about what consumers are doing with that data access. While the revenue from wireless data plans is rising to about a fifth or a fourth of carrier’s wireless sales overall, a survey released today, and conducted on behalf of Nokia Siemens Networks, indicates that carriers have bigger plans for data. Taking a page from web firms such as Google (s GOOG) or Facebook, they want to know — in detail — how their subscribers are using wireless broadband, in order to make more money.
The survey, developed by Loudhouse Research, a UK-based company, included interviews with 100 senior executives at mobile operators and mobile Internet portals. More than half of the respondents — 53 percent — said existing customer data infrastructure doesn’t enable analysis of customer behavior, and 46 percent complained that data is not being analyzed quickly enough.
If carriers are going to move beyond their fear of becoming dumb pipes, they’re going to have to have a better idea of what their subscribers do with their data plans. As more people surf the Internet from a carrier’s wireless network, the carrier’s desire for information may run up against consumers’ desire for privacy — a debate highlighted this summer when ISPs tried to serve ads based upon users’ surfing habits. Nokia Siemens Networks research forecasts that the amount of data transmitted over mobile networks will increase 800 percent, to 13.5 million terabytes, over the next four years.
This makes the idea of network managment tools for wireless networks more relevant, which is good for companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Procera Networks or Continuous Computing, which are pushing equipment or software that see deep into wireless network traffic. As carriers follow Google, which keeps and mines all sorts of data, consumers need to be on their guard.