Telecoms operators in both the fixed and mobile markets need to change the way they do business as a culture of “global immersion” takes hold, Stephen Carter, chief strategy and marketing officer at Alcatel-Lucent and former U.K. communications minister, said on Wednesday.

Defining “global immersion” as a world of always-on, always-connected high-speed broadband, Carter noted that operators will have to extract more from their spectrum and their fixed networks to be able to satisfy customer requirements.

“Our sector is facing the big squeeze,” Carter told attendees at Broadband World Forum in Paris.

Operators are already struggling to cope with the mobile data usage generated by the growing number of smartphones in service, and the situation can only get more challenging. “All mobile handsets in urban centres will be Internet-enabled” in five years, Carter said.

New technology can double or treble spectral efficiency, helping to ease spectrum deficiencies, “but will this be enough?” he asked.

Similarly, on the fixed side, solutions such as vectoring and phantom DSL – key themes of this year's BBWF event – will enable operators to extend the life of copper networks and get higher speeds from their DSL services. “But it will critically require a change in the revenue and operating cost model,” Carter said.

Flat fees and unlimited access are “clearly commercially unsustainable” and are beginning to change, Carter added. The all-you-can-eat model only works for restaurants because “for most of us there's a limit to what we can eat,” he said. But mobile phones don't get full in the same way.

“[Operators need] new ways to package and extract value from networks,” he said.