MWC 2012: Tablet surcharge for 3G 'widens digital divide'

tablet computers

Tablets with mobile web capabilities cost too much and risk alienating a big slice of the population.

So claims Brian Dunn, chief executive (CEO) of Best Buy, who said customers, along with the wider economy, were suffering as a result.

"There are challenges in helping more people gain access to the mobile internet." the CEO said during his keynote at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"Thirty years ago the digital divide was between those with a computer an those without, five years ago smartphones changed the dynamic between the technology have and have nots."

"But now there is usually a significant upcharge for a device that connects to the mobile internet, with tablets being a good example."

Dunn claimed in the US, the hike in price from a Wi-Fi only tablet to one with 3G averaged out at $130 (82), which he said was "just too expensive for many people."

"I think operators, OEMs and the industry should work together to figure this problem out," he said. "Until we do, these devices will remain out of reach for a significant group of people."

"Any upcharge for mobile internet... further widens this digital divide and [damages] economies by restricting the access to services that can help people, and businesses, get back on track."

Dunn also took a dig at the number of locked devices, only allowing users to access one operator, that were on the market.

"It hasn't created significant issues to date but we don't think it will work going forward," he said.

"More locked devices means more skews we have to carry.... driving prices for the consumer upward instead of downward. But, more importantly, these locked devices stopped consumers getting the best [service] in what they need."

However, as CEO of Best Buy, he wanted to make clear he wasn't making particular digs at particular partners, stressing her was merely calling for greater industry wide collaboration.

"My comments are not about extracting better terms from our partners... rather making a call for better alignment within our industry, for all the companies in the connectivity industry to put consumer needs in the centre."

Dunn concluded: "I firmly believe a world connected by tech holds the promise of better lives and futures... by working together we can deliver on that promise."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.