FG1 report

The focus group debate summary and analysis provided subsequently reflects the assignment of participants to roles as shown in Table 1. It uses the identifiers listed in the “Terms used” column when referring to single participants and their respective statements. Please note that both Technology makers adopted a second role as well, namely PROJECT-1 represented also REGULATOR-1 (out of a personal background in regulations analysis) and PROJECT-2 represented in addition USER-4 (out of a personal interest into user-driven questions of the respective technology cases).

Stakeholder role Number of participants per role Terms used
Connectivity Providers  3 OPERATOR-1, OPERATOR-2, OPERATOR-3 
Information Providers  1INFORMATION-1
Infrastructure Providers  0 -
Users (end-users and user gateways)  4 USER-1, USER-2, USER-3, USER-4
Policy makers  1REGULATOR-1
Content owners  0 -
Technology Makers  2 PROJECT-1, PROJECT-2

The focus group revealed during a quite early phase of the debate that there are hurdles to overcome mainly between users and connectivity providers in order to make the technologies beneficial to either or both sides. A number of interesting tussles among these stakeholders were identified.

Users were reluctant to adopt the technology as is. This means that users were not per se intrinsically motivated to use the technology. Instead of intrinsic motivation, users asked soon for means of extrinsic motivation – especially for monetary compensation for making available their resources to other users and, partly, to support needs of connectivity providers in a user-centric/opportunistic network.

USER-1 (speaking for the other users as well and summarizing the discussion all users had): “We had a conversation about currency and how trust could be established in a currency, and who issues the currency.”

PROJECT-1 (giving insight into how intrinsic and extrinsic means of motivation are planned to be combined): “What we envision is an automatic way of negotiating the conditions depending on trust. So this means that trust can be either applied as a threshold – this means that I want to operate with people that I trust – or as a discount factor for the cost that I ask the requestor for the service to provide. So if I want let’s say 2 credits for doing something, if I trust you – if you pass a given threshold of trust – then you have to pay rather 1 than 2 credits.”

USER-2 (not fully convinced) asks: “But how are these credits handled. I mean, like with any currency we need either a centralized entity to control them. And what keeps users from duplicating these credits?”

PROJECT-1 provides technical details addressing these questions, before the moderator leads back the discussion to the raised user-centric concerns.

The main argument for monetary compensation was driven by a certain fear expressed other users might perform illegal or simply unwanted actions on their/by help of their resources. Users also expressed that they just want (and they would assume) 100% coverage – while they would not be ex ante willing in supporting a connectivity provider in extending coverage. Hence, users were characterized by lack of trust (in other users and in connectivity providers) as well as by a lack of incentive to allow a connectivity provider to gain certain access to and over user resources.

USER-2 (explaining for what USER-2 would want to be compensated when using the technology): “First of all resources, like battery, and if I am in the role of an access provider – so a user that provides access – then of course illegal things could happen through my access point.”

This aspect of control was exactly an item of concern for connectivity providers, albeit with an issue of control at another end: Connectivity providers would fear giving up control over users in the access business – in particular in ULOOP’s more open case – and by that risk increased inter-provider competition. The point here is that ULOOP technology has the potential to open up access to different access networks (maybe also different access technologies) for users that participate in a user-centric network while not being part of a bilateral provider-customer relationship.

The aspect of stronger control (and not increased inter-provider competition) was stated as a clear plus from a connectivity provider’s perspective for OneFIT’s technology. Opportunistic networks are foreseen to be operator-governed, and so would be the choices for access be operator-governed. On the other hand, users would have even stronger need for extrinsic motivation to adopt the opportunistic network case over their control concerns not allowing users to choose the access network/technology freely.

OPERATOR-1: “As an operator, I want to have customers that are satisfied, and I want to do this in order to increase my profit. I increase my profit if I either increase my revenue or I reduce my costs. So, if providing incentives can help to do either of these two things, then yes, I can provide incentives and I can say that this might be easy. I could give them a discount, for example. There are various forms.”

Connectivity providers expressed willingness to give up some control if this would result in more satisfied customers, and either increased revenue or reduced costs. The debate would, however, not reveal clearly how to successfully map those objectives onto the two technology cases and the tussle with users. In particular, connectivity providers would not see offloading and extended coverage to result always and automatically in a benefit per se.

OPERATOR-1: “Well, for example, 3G operators in some locations have a problem with the large increase with the mobile data traffic. In those locations, I think there’s a clear advantage of offloading traffic even if he has to sacrifice some control over the users. But that’s only in some areas. In general, there’s no single answer to any of these questions. In areas where there’s no congestion, my answer would be the opposite. I wouldn’t like such a solution since it has the disadvantage of loosing the control over the user. This is very significant, and not only for revenue. When you loose control over the user you don’t know what the user does. In general, he’s using something, he’s accessing a service that is not provided by you. So that might have many more implications than simply loosing revenue.”

As for the opinion and interest expressed by the information provider in the focus group, the statement made was simple and straight-forward: An information provider would not care about the underlying access technology or whether reaching end-users is done with the help of a user-centric/opportunistic network at all. Information providers would, hence, not focus on access technology, they would act in a technology-neutral way. At least as long an information provider does not dispose of a special agreement (partnership) with a connectivity provider (cf. Kindle case for Amazon).

INFORMATION-1: “From their side [referring to users], they simply want to access a service that I am offering, right? So in that sense, you don’t really care through whose network data is transferred – unless you are really tied to an operator, which is many cases true.”

The policy maker, on the other hand, expressed quite a strong interest into either technology case looked at for multiple aspects. For instance, it is not fully clear today under current regulation how a user-centric/opportunistic network would have to be characterized (and thus, under which regulation, if at all, it would fall). Does it show key characteristics of a public or a private network? Furthermore, questions of liability (who is held liable for illegal acting and who is assigned to a node?) as well as of appropriate taxation (especially when monetization comes into play as a means of extrinsic motivation) may come up. A technology maker stated here that this might end still in a win-win situation as long as no player would raise an issue from a regulatory point of view. It remains to be seen whether this argument would be sustainable and for how long, however.

In summary, the focus group substantiated clearly ULOOP’s direction of studying cooperation incentive schemes. The tussles identified among different types of users, between users and connectivity providers as well as between competing connectivity providers (not in OneFIT’s case though) have shown that intrinsic motivation alone is not expected to lead to a stable tussle outcome. The need for a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation mechanisms has become apparent. Consequently, future collaboration in the area of user-centric and opportunistic networking will focus on motivation.