In our recent report on 3G infrastructure, we analysed published actual contract values that demonstrated that claims that large European 3G networks would cost 5bn Euros or more each were very unlikely to be correct, at least in the next three years. We hypothesised that European operators would install a basic network which covered most of the national population, but that low needs for data transmission would mean that this network would suffice for the conceivable future. We showed that limited networks, costing no more than a few hundred million Euros, would be able to carry the fixed line voice traffic of most of the population.
In other words, in an effort to stop subscriber numbers falling, the networks have created an incentive for a user to send just one 10p SMS or make one 5p call during each six-month period. If this is the price of retaining a number, it can reasonably be expected that most inactive subscribers will fall into line; one never knows when that second phone given to you by Aunty Mabel last Christmas might come in useful. The single action of sending one SMS would enable the operator to move a subscriber back onto the 'active' list.