KPN and T-Mobile Netherlands have reported success with their initial tests of 4G as a replacement for home broadband, and the Dutch operators say they expect to continue the services. A year after launching a special offer for rural areas, KPN said it has a few thousand customers for the 4G service, while T-Mobile is testing the service with 500 customers and plans a commercial launch in October. KPN first introduced the offer last November, targeting around 100,000 households in rural areas that were unable to receive fast fixed broadband. A KPN spokesman said this figure has since grown to around 130,000. KPN offers a modem with a SIM card slot for the service.
T-Mobile started testing its “4G voor Thuis” service early this year and in August launched a beta service with 500 customers. Based on initial feedback, a number of changes were made to the service, such as allowing port forwarding for remote access to devices such as hard drives or IP cameras and introducing unlimited data volume at night. A T-Mobile spokesman said a number of network optimizations are also planned for the commercial launch. According to a research report, 34 percent of Dutch consumers are interested in mobile internet as a fixed broadband replacement, if the speed is at least the same or higher than their current connection.
Although these experiments in the Netherlands are starting small, in terms of number of customers, we believe that it is very realistic to envision that fixed broadband technology eventually could be more or less completely replaced by mobile high-speed networks. As mobile technology improves by leaps and bounds—not only 4G but 5G as trials increase in many markets—it approaches the speeds and reliability hitherto offered only by fixed internet connections.
While 4G in the home is currently most attractive to those who for geographical reasons cannot get fixed line service, there are several reasons why it can, and most likely will, appeal to other types of customers. For one thing, the seamlessness of having one kind of service at home and away from home simplifies connectivity across multiple devices. For another, it would simplify billing and plan structures. And finally, the lack of need to install and maintain wire lines removes a level of complexity and potential worry for consumers, not to mention for operators.
The Netherlands is a sophisticated, advanced mobile market;if over one third of customers there are interested in substituting mobile for fixed internet, that is an indicator that this is an idea whose time has come—not only in the developing world, where remote, rural locations cannot get fixed line service, but in the developed world, as well.