Re: Now where do we go for a cheap contract?
"Short of them resorting to actual blackmail over coverage its hard to see whats going to prop their profits up."
Too right. But in the light of this threat, you can see why these companies oppose net neutrality (hoping to get paid by upstream content providers as well as their own downstream customers), and why they keep on dancing round their corporate handbags on NFC and mobile payments, hoping to get a cut from the payment processors (ie to get another upstream payment for what is effectively use of system that the downstream customer has already paid for). Obviously on mobile payments they need to have proprietary systems to justify extra charges, and that's why they want to offer crummy carrier-specific solutions, and are hostile to industry standard approaches, where the MNO only gets paid the data rate for a handful of bytes.
The sad thing is that the network operator strategies are all so 1999, still offering mobiles as an unsatisfactory adjunct to fixed line solutions from third parties, and always hoping to find the next big thing without effort or investment. Hoping, Mr Micawber style, as though the initial revenue boom of texting is the sort of reward they might hope to be gifted in future is not a good strategy.
If they'd invest in a lot more capacity they could offer a credible domestic wireless broadband solution that would supplant the wired telecoms and cable companies, opening up a vast new market, instead of hoping that mobile data will suddenly come to the rescue as people decide to watch cat videos on a tiny handset every waking second of the day. But creating a domestic broadband proposition for a lot of multi-occupant households (rather than a few mobile-only singleton hipsters) involves more masts, and meatier backhaul, new propositions - investment, hard work, and commercial risk. Why do that when you're a fat cat incumbent?