Next gen net neutrality in doubt as O2 lays 4G framework

One of the big issues of late has been that of net neutrality; the fundamental principle that all internet traffic is equal regardless of the source of that traffic. Current 3G wireless providers such as O2 in the UK have been frustrated at the lack of opportunity to monetize high volume traffic generators such as online video on mobile devices into revenue streams. With this in mind they are looking to the next generation of devices based on LTE (Long Term Evolution).

LTE offers significantly more bandwidth to wireless devices, more akin to that of current fixed line connections. O2 has just started the process of working out business models for the next generation network which it hopes to introduce within the next 2 years. Given that effectively 2 bandwidth spectrums will run in parallel of 3G and LTE on these next gen handsets, this gives O2 the perfect opportunity to look at introducing some sort of improved data traffic management. Like many other wireless providers, it underestimated the explosion that has happened in mobile data since 2007, Apple's iPhone being a particular catalyst for this.

O2 denies, however, that it is seeking to cash in on content providers. In an interview with ZDnet, they were keen to make clear their intentions:

"What we will do is use the example of LTE to provide an equivalent of the M6 toll road, [so content providers can] choose that particular channel to put the most media-rich content through. It's using the network efficiently with a view to optimising the experience for the end user."

The wireless provider also states in its defense that it has signed up to a voluntary code of practice. The code requires it to make clear to the public what traffic shaping or management technologies that it places on its network.

The code so far has been signed by BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Vodafone and 3.

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