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How carriers will make money (from you) on 4G

(CNN) -- How do U.S. wireless carriers expect their investments in new 4G high-speed networks to pay off? This shift is about more than simply providing mobile data -- and it could even bring some long-overdue improvements to the humble telephone call.

At the Open Mobile Summit conference last week in San Francisco, a panel of carrier executives and wireless industry experts discussed the revenue-generating opportunities of offering 4G service.

This is a big concern for carriers, since their costly move to 3G networks a few years ago appears to have financially benefited other players in the mobile industry (such as Apple) more than the carriers themselves.

There are some obvious ways that carriers plan to make money from their 4G networks. First, these networks will allow wireless carriers to sell more data -- a key part of their business model as most U.S. carriers move away from offering unlimited data plans.

Also, current FCC net neutrality rules allow wireless carriers to selectively "fast track" delivery of online content and services. Most likely content and service providers, rather than consumers, would end up paying for such paid prioritization.

Still, despite heavy marketing, 4G phones and services haven't been easy to sell to the average mobile consumer. As Scott Devitt, a consumer Internet analyst with Morgan Stanley, noted: "For most consumers, the value of 4G is not really clear at this point -- except for watching mobile video."

Consequently U.S. carriers are starting to look hard at less-obvious ways to demonstrate the value of 4G to consumers. More...

11-11-2011 07:44