Why ICANN should reject .MOBI
- To: stld-rfp-mobi@xxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Why ICANN should reject .MOBI
- From: "pierceswanson " <pierceswanson@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 04 May 2004 17:53:49 +0800
While on the surface .MOBI has all the requirements of a potentially acceptable
application for a sTLD, it is a disguised attempt by Nokia, Microsoft and the mobile
operators to create a lock on the telecom sector and the mobile Internet, which ICANN
In the competitive telecommunications and mobile Internet environment, addressing
architectures, whether digit or letter based, have a key strategic value for telecom
service operators: they create a lock on the customer by tying him through his address
to their services. Because changing an address is cumbersome, time consuming and even
expensive for the customer, it is a powerful mean to stifle competition.
The coming new order of a letter based addressing architecture, sitting on top of the
old digit based one, is a major threat to the telecom industry: it breaks the last lock
between the customer and the service operator and therefore will unleash unprecedented
competition between telecom operators. With a letter based structure, customers could
easily change their underlying digit based number, as and when needed. Furthermore, as
alternative operators benefit from the much lower IP cost base, this new addressing
architecture could provide them with the long expected opening to compete heads on
with, and threaten the very existence of the PSTN based traditional operators.
2- On the face of it, the .MOBI application seems to be a very politically correct
attempt to please ICANN
It is backed by an array of established companies led by founding members Nokia,
Microsoft, and Vodafone. It has also the backing of successful companies like Orange,
TIM and T Mobile, Samsung, Sun, and Hewlett Packard.
However, it is important to note that many key mobile handset manufacturers as well as
major operators have decided to not to join this consortium. More importantly, the UMTS
Forum, which sets out the specifications for the G3 mobile service, has refused to back
the .mobi application as proposed.
All in all, this consortium seems to represent a low risk approach to a controversial
issue: the granting of a telecom related sTLD. However, in practice, this approach
entails high risks for the Internet community as detailed below.
3- In fact, this consortium is a typical window dressing exercise to cover up the
systemic weaknesses of the MobiJV application
What is the purpose of .mobi? The starting point of MobiJV's application focuses on the
difficulty for users of small screen devices, such as mobile handsets and PDAs, to
display web sites available today under .COM, a currently slow and cumbersome process.
MobiJV's response to this issue is to request an sTLD, a sort of "sub.COM", to
specifically address under .MOBI web sites which have been reformatted by .COM website
operators to small screen specifications, and which can be easily downloaded on mobile
phones and PDAs. This is unfortunately a temporary need as mobile bandwidth is being
extended very quickly. More importantly, this 'tailored' need can be already served by
the use of adroit server-based compression technology, such as the one promoted by POGO
in the UK. It currently works even under the slow GSM, as it allows download of .COM
websites without reformatting at already reasonable speeds and without loss of key
information. Why should ICANN grant a new sTLD to r
espond to a temporary need which can already be served? This is clearly not a
constructive extension of the use of DNS.
Additionally, the MobiJV application raises severe anti-trust issues. It is backed by 2
companies who control the main operating systems for high end mobile handsets: Nokia
with Symbian and Microsoft with Windows Mobile. By refusing to make publicly available
the source code of the application enabling .MOBI on mobile handsets, MobiJV will
likely restrict its access to its members, thus controlling and overcharging the access
to mobile services by content providers and ultimately consumers. Needless to say, both
the US Justice Department and the E.U. anti-trust authorities should quickly
investigate this issue.
Finally, the Nokia application is dangerous for the Internet as it is trying to break
its very essence, i.e.: its universal access and open architecture. MobiJV is on course
to recreating on the Internet the heavily fragmented addressing structure which
currently exists within the PSTN world by proposing to implement an addressing
architecture that: (i) is restricted to mobile services, (ii) excludes other forms of
network access, such as landline, cable, WiFi, satellite, etc? and (iii) uses
sub-addresses run by mobile operators. It therefore runs contrary to the very essence
of the Internet, which is to provide universal and transparent access. It also
recreates the very architecture which has allowed old telecom operators to stifle
competition, and run afoul of customers interest.
4- More troubling is the fact that .MOBI represents an ill-conceived but concerted
plan by the large mobile operators, led by Nokia, to take over the telecom and mobile
Internet industry at the expense of the end users.
This cannot be understood without having in mind two revolutions which have started to
impact the telecom industry:
(1) Existing handset manufacturers are confronted with evolving business constraints.
Indeed, differences between manufacturers are being eroded by the cross-fertilization
and interweaving of technologies: PDA's merge with mobile phones, WiFi-only mobile
phones are being produced and G2 mobile phones become Wifi and Bluetooth enabled.
Furthermore, mobile and WiFi software and circuitry are being run on increasingly
smaller chips produced by other better positioned manufacturers such as Intel.
(2) Existing telecom service operators are also on the verge of a major upheaval. Two
separate networks are currently competing for telecom services, the 'old' PSTN and the
'new' Internet, with the main access to the Internet, the so called 'last mile', still
depending for most customers on the overcharged DSL-improved PSTN link. This situation
is changing quickly as a number of technologies providing extended bandwidth, the
so-called 'pipes', have started to compete on the Internet last mile: cable, satellite,
mobile, Radio, Wifi, electric networks and even TV digital broadcasting. This has three
major consequences: (i) it is driving pipe prices down, including mobile access prices,
(ii) it is allowing the low-cost Internet network to progressively become the sole
conduit for voice, data and video traffic, thus marginalizing overpriced PSTN. For
example, the PSTN core phone service is currently being driven out of business by Voice
over IP, whose bandwidth requirements and t
herefore cost is negligible, and (iii) it is blurring the differences between
distributors of digital content, breaking up their respective competitive advantage,
driving down their margins, while improving drastically the bargaining position of
content producers: music, games, films, and services.
In such a context, it is not difficult to understand why Nokia has been moving from
handsets to software, and is now moving from software to mobile services through the
hopeful control of .MOBI. The .MOBI will act as springboard to control the telecom
industry and the mobile Internet by creating a lock over third party content providers,
thus creating a huge competitive advantage over all other network access providers.
The constituent members supporting .MOBI are entirely mobile driven and only represent
a segment of the telecom industry. MobiJV's governance is self-serving and more
importantly, it lacks representation of the end consumer, .MOBI's ultimate community,
who has the most to loose by this proposal. Control over this new addressing structure
is too important to place in the hands of Nokia, Microsoft and Vodafone, who will
likely stifle competition.
It is the essence of the ICANN mandate to protect the Internet community from such
predators. As such, the .MOBI application should be rejected.
Get your free email from www.bolt.com!
Powered by Outblaze