Lazaridis: unlimited wireless data will devastate innovation

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It seems like Mike Lazaridis just couldn’t stop saying interesting things at the Globalcomm trade show in Chicago yesterday. The RIM CEO warned attendees that carriers need to be very careful how they roll out wireless Internet services, saying that allowing people unlimited wireless data use will have a devastating effect on wireless innovation.

“No matter how you slice it, bandwidth is not free,” he said. “If we don’t set up economic incentives now, research and innovation for new networks won’t happen for the future. We want companies to be encouraged to make efficient use of the network, so we don’t cross over and use up all the capacity of the networks.”

Wireless operators have spent billions of dollars over the past several years upgrading to 3G networks so they can handle more voice calls and advanced data services like mobile Internet, mobile TV and email in an attempt to drive revenue. Carriers have already begun offering new applications with unlimited data plans. Howver, Lazaridis warned that as wireless data usage becomes more pervasive, these unlimited plans could have a devastating effect on the industry, since even the most basic data applications eat up more bandwidth than voice calls.

“How do you handle pricing of these services?” he said. “The voice network was built for efficiency, and as a result, it’s been properly priced and has predictable business models. We need to encourage conservation of spectrum and encourage users to use the network more efficiently for data, too.”

“You have to let the industry grow by allowing the carriers to make money. The message here isn’t that we shouldn’t do new things, but that we need to have incentives for efficient usage. When you have a fibre running into your home, it is its own little universe with dedicated bandwidth, but wireless spectrum is something that we all have to share.”