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Steve Jobs Planned on Taking Phone Companies Down
November 16, 2011 12:31 PM
ANOTHER DREAM LOST
Over the last two decades, we've witnessed the record industry's glacial response to the online music boom. Up until only a few years ago, they kicked like mules over the idea of changing their obsolete mode of revenue. But as CD sales rapidly declined and piracy rose even faster, the labels figured they'd rather remain in the game instead of die out completely. It took far too long, but the record industry evolved, and consumers now have an abundance of ways to sample and purchase music online.
Unfortunately, in 2011, the same can't be said about mobile carriers.
With data caps, bandwidth throttling, tethering charges, and exorbitant texting fees, our nationwide carriers have more power over their users than ever before. Like the record industry before it, telecoms are scrambling to compensate over users' rejection of actual phone calls and are wielding draconian control over how their customers use data networks. In turn, users who seek out cheaper alternatives are treated as the enemy. They are the
oil companies of the online world
. Consumers are being pushed too far and are more than ready for someone to deliver a cheaper option to the monthly bills from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.
Sadly, Steve Jobs only had a brief flirtation with the idea of being that person.
John Stanton, chairman at venture capital firm Trilogy Partners and a legend in the wireless industry,
related an anecdote
about Steve Jobs at the Law Seminars International event in Seattle.
"He wanted to replace carriers."
Yes, according to Stanton, Jobs considered creating his own wireless network with an unlicensed spectrum in the mid-'00s. "He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum. That was part of his vision," Stanton said.
Jobs eventually gave up on this idea around 2007 -- right about the time the iPhone debuted on AT&T.
While Jobs' iPhone didn't utilize its own network separate from a carrier, Stanton noted a "dramatic shift in power" that nevertheless occurred with the flagship smartphone's proliferation.
It's true that mobile email, chat, and video apps like Skype and FaceTime have given users numerous alternatives to the revenue streams that carriers currently depend on. But as long as a Wi-Fi signal can't be found, we're still at the mercy of the provider and their capped data plans.
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by Sean Udall.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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