Vendor To Sell 3G Router Despite Cellco Cut-offs

D-Link launches a router for 3G service in Europe. U.S. cellular carriers have threatened to cut off subscribers who use such devices.

May 16, 2006

3 Min Read
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D-Link said Tuesday that it would like cellular carriers in Europe to offer its 3G router even as cellular carriers in the U.S. are threatening to cut off service to those who use such devices.

D-Link said it will launch its 3G Mobile Router in Europe this week at a trade show in London. The company first announced the device, which can distribute 3G access throughout a home or small office, last August, but has yet to ship it in the U.S.

The announcement comes on the heels of the disclosure last week that U.S. cellular operators, particularly Sprint and Verizon Wireless, are threatening to cut off 3G service to customers who overuse the service. A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless specifically cited the use of 3G routers as one reason some customers were being cut off.

"Broadband access is a product designed for the individual," a Verizon Wireless spokesperson said in an interview. "It's designed for individual access to the applications needed to accomplish their business goals, not group sharing."

The spokesperson said that the company has issued warnings to 100 subscribers to its EV-DO BroadbandAccess service, which provides cellular data service with typical speeds of about 500 Kbps. In many cases, the company believes those users have overused the service by using routers to share 3G access, the spokesperson said.A consultant to the wireless industry said that Verizon's concerns are legitimate but that it is going about it the wrong way.

"There's one case I know about, not Verizon, where the top five percent of users (of a 3G service) are using half the resource," Derek Kerton, principal of Kerton Group, said in an interview. "In the rest of the world, though, the service providers are very clear about what's fair and what's not. But in the U.S., the operators let the marketing departments call the service 'unlimited' and then, in the small print, they tell you what you can or can't do."

Verizon's user agreement indeed calls the service "unlimited," but specifies which types of activities are permissible. Specifically, the agreement says that the service can be used for Internet browsing, e-mail and intranet access. However, the user agreement specifically says the service cannot be used for uploading, downloading or streaming movies, music, or games, voice-over-IP, peer-to-peer file sharing or, "as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections."

The agreement also states that, "we (Verizon Wireless) reserve right to limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny or terminate service, without notice, to anyone we believe is using ... BroadbandAccess in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts our network or service levels."

Kerton said that was the wrong way to control use of 3G bandwidth.

"I'm a consultant and I'll take my team on-site," he said. "I'd love to have 3G and connect the whole team while we're on-site. Then, when we return, we wouldn't use it very much, so we should be a very good deal for a cellular operator. But, in the U.S., we'd run afoul of the user agreement."Why should the operators care about what you do or don't do. They should only care about the load on the network," Kerton said. "I'm buying data transport. They should tell me what I'm paying for and, if I go over that amount, they should tell me how much more I'm paying."

Kerton said that's the approach that most European operators take, which could explain why D-Link is targeting its 3G router for sale there. D-Link said in a statement Tuesday that cellular operators should embrace the equipment.

"Providing shared wireless broadband access has gone one step further," Balvinder Singh Phull, D-Link's marketing communications manager for the U.K. and Ireland, said in a statement. "This new 3G router has extensive features that will be attractive to the mobile user and for carriers looking to add value to develop further revenue streams."

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