Fishing for a competitive market

I was once an avid angler. My feelings are now more aligned with those of syndicated columnist Dave Barry, who once opined that fishing is boring, unless you actually catch something. Then, it becomes disgusting.

But given my history, a news wire story out of South Korea was bound to catch my eye. SK Telecom is now offering an add-on for its cell phones that attaches to a fishing line. Ultrasonic pulses determine the density of fish in the region and transmit a signal back to the cell phone display, along with data like water temperature. The whole kit costs about $100, and the caboodle – sorry, software – about $5 to download.

There’s a whole ecosystem of cell phone-enabling devices in Korea. “South Korean operators have previously demonstrated phones that are said to drive away mosquitos, measure blood-sugar levels, improve brain functions and cure hangovers,” notes IDG News Service Tokyo correspondent Martyn Williams. “They are a product of the country’s highly competitive cellular market, where three major carriers and three handset makers are locked in a battle for market share.”

So that’s where these things come from – a competitive market.

There’s been a lot of positioning lately over the relative competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market. With an auction of advanced wireless spectrum on the horizon, and the suggestion being floated that Industry Canada reserve some of that spectrum for a new entrant to the market, the stakes are considerable for the incumbents and for potential new players.

Are three national wireless carriers enough for a competitive market? The incumbents would say yes. South Korea, with only three carriers, manages to be a fiercely competitive wireless market, and the nation has a population larger than Canada’s. Potential new entrants would disagree. Australia, similar in population and proportion of remote territory, has five.

The number of carriers doesn’t matter. The number that matters is on your cell phone bill, and it’s too high. The FCC says we’re paying on average 11 cents a minute, compared to the U.S. average of seven cents (all figures US). Prices for a usable data plan are borderline outrageous.

So what would convince me the Canadian wireless market is competitive?

An average cost per minute closer to the U.S.’s seven cents.

All-you-can-eat data plans for less than $50 a month. They’re available in the U.S. for considerably less (though the definition of “unlimited” can often be misleading).

No long distance charges on received calls. Hey, how about no long distance charges at all? Or long distance charges more in line with wireline rates?

And a fish finder for my handset.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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