Sunday, February 23, 2014

GSMA World 2014 in Barcelona, time to end the show?

The global get together that is GSMA World rolls into Barcelona this week and I am left with the feeling that as with Telecoms World before it no longer fits a purpose. At the hight of the Dot.Com bubble Telecoms World was THE trade show for the fixed telecoms world, $1M+ was spent by firms on the production of stands; it was such a success that the ITU build a new space for the next show, unfortunately that new space had tumble weed rolling through it and the ITU has become a zombie.

In past years GSMA World was an important conference that happened to have an exhibition attached.  It was something that you had to attend if you wanted to achieve or be recognised in the Mobile Industry. Over the course of a week it was possible to meet all the important players in the industry and get a real feel for what was going to happen for the coming year. That is no longer the case.

At this years conference the GSMA has decided that the Keynote speakers should be Facebook and IBM rather than the CEOs of Vodafone, Ericsson or Huawei.  In the past we have listened to the future as outlined by charismatic leaders and disruptors such as Richard Branson and Hans Snook who were upstaged by the likes of Douglas Adams. This year the line up is such that many very senior executives whilst in town will not be at the show; rather they will stay close to the Arts Hotel to network and lobby.

As for the exhibition, well the security will rival that of the airport and it is of a size to rival CeBIT next month in Hanover.  It is unlikely that we are going to see anything of mind blowing innovation or design because now they are revealed elsewhere at times more suited to consumer demand and/or the news cycle.

The cost and the scale of GSMA World Congress does mean that a number of those on the edge of the mobile ecosystem will not be in attendance. I have a number of conference calls after the show finishes with people who will not be in attendance but what to confirm that in missing Barcelona they have not missed out. If they are right even fewer decision makers will attend in 2015 and the were are faced with a downward spiral rather than an upward curve.

The media reporting on World Congress are unlikely to report that the Emperor stands before them unclothed as they enjoy a comfortable time with plenty of chances to party on a PR firms credit card. So whilst the SWAG on offer has declined the good times roll providing that you work for the right media.  A number of Industry Analysts are not attending as they have not been able to find sponsors willing to pick up the tab and so will be stuck at home.

The GSMA missed the fact that Mobile's focus had shifted from Europe to West Cost America with the rise of 3G. As 4G starts to become mainstream in the developed world and 3G is deployed on a Global basis it needs to become relevant again.  The Executives leading the day to day operations have to understand that they are working for a trade association that is about the Mobile Networks, Equipment Manufactures and those that support them, it is not about the software companies that are marketing to consumers whilst making little or no investment in the infrastructure.

I would be happy to see Facebook and WhatsAp CEO's booed and hackled at their keynotes rather than applauded as this would demonstrate that the GSMA was still relevant and represented it's members.    

Monday, December 16, 2013

Will the real BT stand up?

Over the weekend I read three stories about BT which paint a confused view of just what it's future might be. On Saturday the Guardian reported that thanks to BT TV complaints have shoot up. The Yesterday's Sunday Times had two stories in the Business Section about the return of BT Mobile and a feature on NEW CEO Gavin Patterson's £2bn bet on sports TV.

If you read on paper you get the view that BT's retail strategy is in need of a major review. The customers are unhappy with the failings of not just it's TV product but also it's Broadband product. The only provider that gets more complaints for it's Broadband is EE.

Read the Sunday Times and all is good for BT it's about to get back in the Mobile Phone business after leaving in 2001 and BT TV has seen 3M on Virgin and Sky take the service. Then a full page feature on new CEO Gavin Paterson and his £2bn bet on sports TV is a bold gamble that aims to grow the business after a period of cost cutting. He will use a Quad Play offer to drive up incomes having bought some 4G spectrum and struct an MVNO deal with EE.

The problem is that Simon Duke in the Sunday Times does not seem to understand that BT has had MVNO agreements with O2 and Vodafone ever since it sold of it's mobile arm after over paying for 3G spectrum in 2000. He also does not seem to understand that since 2008 BT has failed to invest the money need to provide the long term upgrade in super-fast fibre to the curb rather than cabinet just as it failed to match European spending in ADSL deployment ten years previously.

When you start to understand that last week OFCOM reported that the UK has the lowest consumer prices for Mobile services in Europe you start to ask it's not just Duke that fails to understand the realities of a very competitive telecoms market but BT also.  For too long the Company thinks that one of its prime roles is to defend itself against the regulator rather than invest in it's Network so that it survives long term.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

You lost the love....

Hey Mobile Network Operator just what is going on. We have been together for some years now and whilst my love of mobile has grown stronger you have lost the love for me you once had. When we first started you were happy and helpful, giving and gracious. Nothing was too much for you, my calls were picked up by a human quickly and presents were given. Today it takes an age to get through the machine before a grumpy despondent surly conversation leaves me thinking why did I call because you don't love me any more.

I pay my bill on time, I accept you declining coverage when it comes to a phone call and the fact that when ever possible you hand me off to a wifi network. I know that the present of a new shinny device once a year was too much to ask and can now wait two years or go out and buy a replacement device myself.

Yet you now seem to think that the transaction should be something that is best undertaken at lowest cost despite the fact that I still manage to spend £100+ when others around are giving you far less each month. I know that at this time my leaving to join another makes no sense as you are working to an Industry Standard but it cannot be sustained soon I could become a nomad and operate with just wifi and tablet. I am not someone who is looking for the lowest transaction cost but rather the service that my loyalty and spend justify when seen against the average. Keeping me is about more than a calculation of margin over Subscriber Acquisition Cost it is about your Brand Values meaning something.

Looking at Twitter and chatting with mates it seems that I am not the only one that feels that you have lost the love for the consumer. It is not that our standards are raised rather that yours have dropped. Soon I will be embarrassed to say that I work in the Mobile Industry and can no longer recommend my supplier to those looking to change as at this time the reasons to change are difficult to see.

Please roll back the changes, stop trying to be a faceless heartless corporate and show some empathy not just for me but for each of the contract customers once more. You might just be rewarded yourself with growing revenues and fewer contract cancelations.         

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's not about the technology....

A friend on Twitter pointed me at this article on how Blackberry could have avoided becoming a footnote in business study classes looking at the Kodak Moment.

I am surprised that someone who works for an Advertising Agency fails to point to the obvious factors in Apples success.  When none of the others were directly advertising to the consumer on TV, Apple were.  When few were advertising handsets in the Press Apple did. Others at that time had stopped advertising above the line because they were selling products via Partners those partners were the Mobile Operators who used the coop funds to pay for in store and brochures which lets face it looks old and out of date compared to Apple.

NOTHING on a iPhone was new to the mobile industry what was fresh was the promotion and development of the aspirational quality of the handset.  It has been helped by the "exclusivity" model used by Apple to "limit" mass market appeal. This fashion label allowed Apple for a time to lead the Smartphone market but was quickly overtaken in terms of volume by Samsung who used it's Far East cooperation ethos to appeal to those that where anti-Apple to grab the market.

The big question is will my Grandchildren read that Apple was just another Levis Strauss in that it helped establish a sector, almost died, had a return to fashion and then a slow but inevitable decline?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An act of stupidity by a desperate Prime Minister

I picked up my morning paper and almost tore it in two reading the latest stupid PR stunt from David Cameron. When Ed Miliband made his Conference Speech this September we were told that price controls could not work and were wrong. Yet with his back to the wall Dave has decided that all utility companies need to be told that his government will not accept price rises in the run up to the 2015 election.

This is an act akin to King Canute except the Prime Minister does not understand that he cannot turn back the tide of price increases.

An analysis of the players in the market will show that many are subsidiaries of  overseas businesses rather than British and thus have little loyalty to local politicians. They are in the majority investing in significant infrastructure programs that mean that rather than pay taxes they have losses to cover.

What the Prime Minister should be doing via the offices of the Department of Culture Media and Sport and Ofcom is making sure that telecoms networks are able to deploy high speed broadband to the majority of the population in the majority of places. It is with such a network that the economy will grow and income rise at such a level that people do not feel price rises.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Questions Raised

Over the last few months my work projects have seen some recurring observations develop into points of interest.  I am not sure where the answers are, I am not even sure that people are making the same observations let alone crafting solutions. I thought that I would hang a few of the observations out and see if people want to respond.

So if I am using multiple devices, why can't I share "history" across them? I don't want just the synchronise my end points rather I want to map the footsteps that I travelled in getting from A to B.  Thus this is not a synchronisation problem rather it is about replication. Who can I trust to store and retrieve these journeys?

If it is about the software are we getting to a point when the hardware doesn't need to be replaced so frequently? With hardware now priced a $600+ for a premium device why can't I get it built to order and so specify what I want? If that happens then the Mobile Networks need to change their business model as they are no longer financing the device rather they are facilitating connectivity!

If you look back at the history of 3G technology you discover what we saw at launch phase quickly changed as customers declined to take the product served up by the Mobile Networks.  It was only once 3G had become established that Apple entered the market and disrupted the whole industry. The current generation was launch two years ago in two years time it should be established enough for someone to enter the market and disrupt it once again. The speed and quality of the data connection should make for a number of interesting possibilities, the loss of trust in established players and the advertising based funding model for the Internet means that for someone a massive opportunity awaits.    

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

So will we be wearing our next mobile phone?

The excitement over the summer has been about wearables when it comes to mobile technology.  Will our next device be in the form of smartglasses or smartwatches or even a smartsuit?

To be honest having got into some of the futurology that saw mobile phones becoming just a piece of jewellery in the form of a single earring I have a bad track record. I thought that we would be living in smart houses that sensed everything that went on and the handset would become the ultimate remote controller. I saw the mobile network morphing into a service provider that would be trusted to hold and manage all your personal data.  To be honest these were forecasts back in 20th century and Google and Facebook had not become the cornerstones of many lives and we did not thing the NSA would read all our data.  The Mobile Network was going to become everyones personal assistant and we would all have exemplary concierge levels of service.

What I do think that is that we will not live with a single connected device rather we will have a number of devices which will have a personal network connection to a modem that offers highspeed broadband and voice services. Some people who are happy with "popular" music can live with Spotify and YouTube whilst others will want a music device that plays back their musical collection. The same can be said for e-reader, camera, media consumption screen. Some are happy to map their run using an app on a phone whilst others have a more detailed record tanks to a Garmin Watch, in future the Watch will connect to the web via your personal modem.

As Augmented Reality develops we might expect the specialist glasses to become contact lenses or a protection device as seen with fighter pilots head up displays.

As healthcare gets involved we could start to see a number of devices that are warn to sense vital signs and mobility.  We can expect to these developed for the Defence and Old Aged markets before they become mainstream.  We might also be able to see tags used to enable smart seats, beds or toilets in connecting them to a mobile device and using proximity it will allow differentiation of different people within a building. These devices are likely to be manufactured thanks to 3D printing development rather than Samsung/Apple/Google design labs and Chinese factories.

The big issue will be that the deployment of smart buildings and thus smart cities is going to be the ability to get political buy in and consumer uptake.  Very many of the senior executives I meet alongside senior politicians and very rich individuals do not carry a phone and have no wish to do so. Thus in areas of New York, Switzerland, London, Paris and Berlin now can to build the infrastructure needed to mesh new services together?  

I think that we will see a number of prototypes come to market when it comes to wearables most of which will fail because we would be embarrassed to wear them and be seen as some form of cyborg. If the wearables could be made to look like "normal" products then fear that you are being "stalked" would force social pressure to stop use. Would you want someone with a wearable to share the changing facilities with you at your gym?

My advice to Mobile Networks invest in building the fastest best quality network, develop tools to manage ID, offer storage and form federations to innovate service fail to that and expect to fall.