O, for a PSP phone and some cheap data

If you hang around mobile rumour sites then you may have heard the latest Chinese whisper doing the rounds -- Sony is making a PSP mobile phone all of its own.

If you hang around mobile rumour sites then you may have heard the latest Chinese whisper doing the rounds -- Sony is making a PSP mobile phone all of its own.

Alas, the device is about as real as an honest government or a rich journalist, according to Sony, but if you assume for a minute that it was going to happen, then you're knee deep in interesting possibilities.

Sony recently upgraded the firmware in the PSP to allow it to act as a remote control over the PS3: when the handheld is connected to the Internet, a user can stream MP3s and suchlike from the PS3 onto the PSP.

Sony is also talking about turning the PS3 into a PVR in the future -- which would open up the possibility of using the PSP to control it. If you're out on the razzle and you want to record The Chaser, use the PSP to instruct the PS3 to record it, then later on, stream it back to your PS3 when you fancy some square-eyed entertainment.

However, such a scenario would only work when the PSP is hooked up to the Internet, which would involve finding a hotspot when you're out on the razzle -- not so likely, right?

But if Sony were to make a PSP phone, or for that matter, were to put a 3G SIM into the PSP and the PS3, users could access and control both devices ubiquitously, turning the PSP into a slightly more diversified version of the Slingbox.

After all, the 3G SIMs can now be found in other wireless devices, most notably laptop cards, embedded in laptops themselves and in 3G modems. But 3G connectivity is now creeping further -- Samsung released an HSDPA-enabled camera this year -- so a 3G-enabled PSP is not exactly a stretch in consumer electronics terms.

With a 3G enabled PSP, as with Slingbox's mobile set-up, you could easily entertain yourself by accessing your home TV on the device, or stream some games, or any manner of content, from your PlayStation. What need then for the likes of BigPond mobile TV, or any similar mobile content offering?

Why pay a monthly subscription for your telly or any other mobile content when you can just dial in to your PlayStation or your Slingbox?

As mobile networks' bandwidth grows -- Telstra is talking 40Mbps and more before too long -- using them for the kind of heavy content traffic a 3G enabled PSP needs becomes a real possibility.

But there's one dirty great barrier in the way: data charges. Even at the cheaper end of the market, mobile data is prohibitively expensive and watching an hour or two of telly programming will plunge a user into gross data bill hell.

With a souped up network, operators are faced with a hard decision: keep taxing a small proportion of users for the mobility premium or drop prices (and equally ARPU) and get a greater proportion using mobile networks where once they may have used fixed.

The right answer seems obvious to me but whether the mobile networks will be so willing to gamble on their 3G data profits remains to be seen.


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