UK mobile broadband operators unable to identify pirates

UK Mobile Broadband services might not be the fastest or most reliable method of getting an Internet connection but they could become safe havens for illegal file sharing pirates due to a problem with identification. But plans to warn and eventually disconnect "suspected" abusers from their ISPs will still apply to mobile operators.

The problem stems from the fact that IP addresses, an unreliable method of identification even at the best of times, are assigned to mobile operators and not individual users. By comparison fixed land-line broadband ISPs assign an IP address (a bit like having a phone number) to each individual customer whenever you go online.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) suggests that the development of such a database could cost the industry around £7m per operator or £35m in total. That is no small amount of money for an already cash-strapped industry. The cost of this would apparently be shared with Rights Holders but details have yet to be mapped out.

There is also a second factor; the growing dominance of Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) Mobile Broadband deals. Many of these come with big juicy allowances and can be picked up as part of a kit without needing to give out a lot of personal details. This makes them ideal Christmas presents for other people but also means the real user is effectively unidentifiable.

In addition, many mobile operators are expected to follow Three (3) , which recently began imposing traffic management upon P2P File Sharing services; the main source of illegal downloading. This is likely to make Mobile Broadband less attractive for illegal use. Mobile Broadband is already fairly unattractive for heavy downloading due to the slow real world speeds.

However, despite P2P eating a lot of mobile bandwidth, it's believed that actual illegal mobile activity is very low. We wonder how MacLeod can claim be so sure of that because operators do not have effective technology to measure this. Still, if true, it would mean that mobile operators could be excluded from any tougher technical measures as they would not go over the government's threshold.

On top of all this operators do not currently have the ability to suspend a Mobile Broadband service without also disconnecting the voice and text communications too. Oh and let's not even get started on those new connection sharing applications.

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