Ahhh operators, you gotta luv ‘em. Just as it seems consumer behavior is really benefiting from the introduction of true smartphones and cheap ‘all you can eat’ mobile tariffs, they go and throw a spanner in the works.

O2 have just announced the end of its ‘unlimited’ tariff for smartphone users, this follows Vodafone last month and no doubt Orange will follow suit soon enough. Any new or upgrading customers will be shoved onto the new plans, existing customers keep the same tariff, but hey, you gotta upgrade sometime right?

There are a number of reasons floating around as what caused this change, one of them involves Apple. They’ve basically said to operators (these are my words) “Stop fucking offering ‘unlimited’ tariffs with the iPhone when you write “subject to fair usage’ in small print at the bottom of contracts, you anti-innovation bastards”.

However the O2 Chief Executive Ronan Dunne has stated another reason – they are seeing data traffic doubling every four months, this means their ‘flat fee’ tariffs aren’t making them any money if everyone is canning it more and more. Dunne reveals some interesting results about how this consumption is happening,  apparently 97% of O2 smartphone users actually use less than 500MB per month and a tiny fraction use more than 1GB (0.1%). This means a small percentage of ‘super users’ are ruining it for everyone else by putting strain on the network, resulting in the new capped tariffs.

But wait! By the figures O2 reveal doesn’t that mean that someone who uses less than 500MB today, will in fact be way, way over that number by the end of their 12/18 month contract as usage is doubling every 4 months?

He had this to say:

“But at the same time, we’ll start to change customer perceptions about the value of the data they use; a vital part of ensuring that people share it responsibly and considerately.”

That is exactly the kind of attitude that stunts innovation, do you think we’d be in this great position today where people don’t second guess how much they pay to view a video or use an app if we still had limits and charged per megabyte? All these awesome trends we’re seeing with apps, social networks, location etc would never of happened. I know operators are seeing very little return from the iPhone/Android eco-system, they make no money while developers and Apple make millions, but this is the wrong move. Changing customer perceptions back to the old days? Pssh.

Now back to the original point of this post, The Guardian writer Charles Arthur puts forward a really interesting argument to what the hell these 0.1% of super users could be doing to download gigabytes of data every month. He thinks it’s caused by P2P users who are worried about the new Digital Economy Act and have now switched their illegal downloading to their mobiles to avoid being tracked by the government/ISP and getting ‘three strikes’. Those users are supposedly taking the SIM out of their phones and sticking in a dongle to download their movies, albums and what not. As he says “the tiny number of P2P mobile downloaders are screwing it up for everyone else.”

Couple of things wrong with this argument, Arthur makes the assumption that these users are smart:

“someone who’s using their iPhone SIM as a dongle really isn’t worried about upgrading; they’ve probably got a PAYG SIM stuffed into their iPhone for their phone calls. They’re not stupid.”

If these guys aren’t stupid, why the hell would they using their phones for P2P downloads? Surely they would be using VPN’s, Proxies and dozens of other Digital Economy Act avoidance tricks are much less hassle than having your SIM out of your phone and actually cost a lot less than a dongle. Some methods here revealed by a 5 second Google search.

So now that we’ve established that anyone with a brain wouldn’t use their phone for trying to avoid the Digital Economy Act, what are these users doing? Oh, this is so easy …

PORN.

Come on now, had you forgotten about the old king of the internet before Facebook was around? What do you think happens when phones get bigger screens, faster internet and superior video-watching ability? Yes that’s right, people use them to watch porn from free online streaming sites like Xvideos, Redtube and probably a million more, aaand wouldn’t you know, the two I mentioned have mobile sites too, here and here (warning: porn). In fact just add ‘mobile’ or ‘m’ to any porn site, they’re probably mobile optimised.

I figured I better try and back up my argument with some facts:

An article from 2008

“In the last six months internet searches for iPhone porn have increased nearly fivefold according to Google Trends”

“It’s by far the porn-friendliest phone,” Devan Cypher, representative for San Francisco-based Sin City Entertainment, told Time magazine.

Tech Radar 2009 : Mobile porn slamming networks’ capacity

and those are out-dated! Think about where we are today.

So there you have it…my conclusion is that the 0.1% downloading over 1GB every month are simply….massive wankers.