Friday, March 31, 2006

21st Carnival of the Mobolists

My post on What good might come from EU Roaming law has been included in this weeks Carnival over at MOpocket. You can also see what other bloggers having been writing about this week including Mobile for Change and Mobile Marketing.

Another get round up, and another week closer until I get the opportunity to edit The Carnival at the end of May.

Don't forget that you to can submit to the Carnival, details are over at Mobhappy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What good might come from the EU Roaming fight?

A number of others have posted comment and reported on the European Commissions stance on Roaming tarrifs. As someone who pays his own phone bill I am happy to see a fair market created for roaming. I also hope that rather than hold back innovation as the Networks and the GSMA have claimed that such regulation will do we can see a positive attitude taken by the networks.

Just as Y2K gave CIOs the power to ask Boards to sign off investment budgets perhaps we will see the more enlightenend mobile networks take to opportunity to fix the underlying issue in roaming, namely poor billing systems. If Messers Akhavan, Badrinath and Geitner could show some leadership and convince their Executives to sign off on a total one off replacement of ALL billing systems with a single system perhaps we could see mobile fulfill its potential. With a new billing systems what we will see is a resolution of the wholesale system that at the moment sees calls made to two people holidaying in Spain go all the way back to the home country before connecting just so the payment can be settled.

Now in the early days when few had phones and not many of those travelled with them the current system was created. Now with most having phones, and none of us wanting to be seperated from them we have a system that is in needed of replacement. However because the Networks have a long investment list thanks to the roll out of 3G the ability to replace a billing system is limited. Think of it as someone who has moved into a new house and needs to replace the central heating system, this is something that costs alot to do, causes vast unrest in replacing pipes etc. and in turns oif return on the investment is a very long payback. However if you live in the cold North of Europe does need doing.

If we get a new billing system into every International Network we can expect to see a spurt of innovation as the launch of new products and services would be fast and effective. We could also expect better inter networking services. I remember talking to the VP of Marketing for one large Network who told me that all new product launches had to include the hiring of a speadsheet jockey whoes role it was to reconcile the billing data so that everyone got charged for what the used and suppliers got paid for what they provided. Hence a new billing system should mean that such problems are removed and so we can expect more products faster.

Not only should the boards accept the investment, they also have the perfect scapegoat in Ms Reding. They can say to Investment Analysts "sorry that we have not invested in CAPEX as predicted but the new EU regulation means that we have had to pause and replace our Billing systems."

So we have an easy sell for once on investing in the Billing System rather than buying more faster network equipment that stands un-used because people cannot be charged to do so. Somehow I guess that as this is too logical we will not see this happen. However such an investment works for all other than the billing system vendors who are making ransom demands to maintain and ammend the present legacy systems. Perhaps I should start seeing if I can meet with the three wise men above and sell them some consulting services for the benefit of all in the Mobile ecosystem.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cognitive Radio

Emerging Technologies and their Impact over at Technology Review flags up what sounds like more work on software defined radio except that this time it has a new name - Cognitive Radio. The introduction gives view of a system that selects the best radio from all that is available, this is what was outlined by the Strategy guys at Orange at the time of the 3G bidding wars.

When the auctions were over they went out on a PR blitz tell all that the futures as well as being bright was going to be connected.

The clever bit from the researcher at MIT is that they have added Game Theory into the mix to allow software to analyze the environment and select the best protocol for transmission. However as its a US site they are missing that some European firms have been at the forefront of this development as well as Panasonic whoes European Lab were one of the leaders in the development of the IEEE standards for SDR.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Political Ringtones

The weekend edition of The Times had a comment feature on how the ringtone has become the latest tool for politicians looking to show support.

The article talks about how the trend started in the Phillippines last summer. The trend has developed so that Canadians had their own Mash-up tones. Finally George Bush has suffered from organised protests following his poor performance over the New Orleans non-performance.

The piece ends with a request for possible tones for the PM. This being the case, in light of the current complaints about loans for honours how about Brown Sugar by the Stones, or we could have I predict a riot underpinning the present speaches on the Iraq conflict.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Carnival of the Mobilists

My post on Getting to disappointed quicker got picked up for this weeks Carnival, which sounds like I wrote something worthwhile as Enrique, this weeks host says he had lots of entries to make his choice from.

As well as my post a lot of the regulars have also been picked up of which I have already read and also comented on where I felt that I could move on the debate. Others I had missed and will spend sometime catching up on over the weekend.

Russell sent me an email this week say that it will be my turn to host the carnival in the middle of May so it looks like many others are joining the group and helping to spread the mobility virus.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Getting to disappointed faster

Had my regular catch up with the Former CTO of one of Britains largest Mobile Networks. Over our Pizza and Salad we set about putting the world to rights.

One of my observations was to do with why are operators launching HSDPA when they cannot get customers to use 3G services? His reply was that they have been upsold by the Manufacturers on the basis that if you build it they will come. However after five minutes to mapping out what delights we could expect to see he agreed that it was a question of build it and you will have a white elephant.

What I pointed out was that if we take mobile TV as a business case you see that the whole thing is an example of Marketing leading innovation. Here in the UK we are asked to pay £10 per month for access to Mobile TV on a 3G handset. For our money we can access a number of services that I already access via my £28 per month subscription to SKY the only difference was that I now have to watch in on a two inch screen rather than my 42 inch Plasma screen. I am already upset that I pay an additional TV tax for a lience to receive TV and so the demand for me to watch is limited and most likely it will be on a Pay Per View basis rather than monthly sub. My friend agreed that even Mobile Porn was limited at present as he had been unable to find anything suitable for personal use or to show to mates for a laugh in the pub, and this thus demonstarted that we were not yet ready for Mobile TV. When I went on to say that a recent meeting with the Chief Creative Officer of Endermol, the company who produce the highly successful Big Brother, told me that whilst mobile has given a highly effective interactive element to his programs they are some way away from looking at content because they have too many other challenges at present namely HDTV and falling add revenues.

Thus we agreed that whilst it was possible to narrowcast TV to mobiles it was unlikely that it would take off.

This made as invert the question to what technology is needed to make mobile a better experience?

The quick answer was that we need to look at improving the present network coverage in building. The solution is Pico cells we agreed the problem is distribution. Perhaps the Mobile networks can take a lead from the fixed guys and adopt a strategy similar to WiFi Hotspots. So if I offer to improve the 3G coverage in my area with a Pico cell for Orange they can offer me a cut of the revenue from others using my cell. This was seen as an interesting conundrum but it falls down because of problems with the billing system being able to record the traffic over my system and insure that I receive the agreed fee.

The next issue was the improvement of voice quality so that we can connect with services automatically. We spoke of a number of technologies that are looking at solving this problem and in a effort to discover more we have agreed to visit the FT labs as others have said that they are leading the development of voice services.

Then we looked at what could be done improve the Management and Strategy of the networks, this was when the lunch decended in dispair when we tried to judge just which CEO was the most effective at distroying value.

Thus with the bill paid and other meetings to attend we left the Pizza House and went on to our next meetings upset that the industry we have spent a long time working in is in need of so much development if we are to reach what was mapped out when we were happily bidding for 3G licences.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bonfire of the Vanities

Like a politician caught in a sex scandel, Vodafone must dread Sunday newspapers at the moment. Today the "broadsheets" all have placed Vodafone on the front page of their Business sections.

The Observer has a piece on the plot to oust boss of Vodafone and "Big beasts fight it out for soul of Vodafone". Over the two storries we have an insight into how Arun Sarin, the Vodafone CEO, is fighting to establish himself following his appointment and how he has been unable to impress the city.

The Independent tells us that Penny Hughes will leave the board after eight years as a Non Executive Director. She is pictured as another victim of the power struggle between Arun and out going Chairman Lord MacLaurin. As a footnote they tell us that the board are also looking at the sale of its American opperation to partner Verizon, but new CFO Andy Halford is sceptical.

The Telegraph pitches the story differently saying that Lord MacLaurin has been forced to back Arun by releasing a statement backing the embattled chief. They go on to say that the statement is likely to be seen by the City as a triumph for Sarin in his bid to stamp his authority on the board.

Then a look at the Sunday Times tells us that Lord MacLaurin has just come back from a ten day break and is not happy with what he has missed. Did he not take his phone with him so that others could call and inform him of just how bad things have got. He is "incandescent" that others in the company are briefing against him and his reputation has been damaged. They also say that he has meeting with five of the biggest investors tomorrow all of whom will be asking for the CEO's head.

This is better entertainment that any soap operas. We have seen over the past few weeks more and more turn on Vodafone. Is the business itself in crisis or is it the share price that has been in difficulty at a time when the business needs investment?

Friday, March 10, 2006

When the Guru shows that he is as deep as a puddle

Haymarket publish a number of weekly Marketing magazines, the biggest is Marketing which comes out every Wednesday. Mark Ritson writes every week on Branding and this week he puts Vodafone under the microscope (very good as it has been under a lot of pressure). The error is in the second paragraph were he writes " Fortunately for its chief marketing officer, Peter Bamford, Vodafone has so many problems that he and his campaigns are unlikely to come under the spotlight."

Later on Wednesday we are told that Mr Bamford is leaving his post having lost out in the internal warfare currently under way with the Vodafone board.

The intereting play will now be who are interviewed and offered the role of Chief Marketing Officer at Vodafone. I guess that Mr Ritson will not be one of those asked for possible names.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Del, for your mobile phone.

I have been keeping a watching brief on Mobile search and the Search Engine Journal tells us of a mashup that combines bookmarks with Google's mobile search tool. This allows your bookmarks to be mobilised, i.e. rendered for your phone browser. Whilst this is an interesting solution I have to ask why not just download Opera Mini and let it do the work, I have to say that since November when I first got a copy I have been surfing more on my phone.

I know that Web 2.0 is all about tags rather than search, but I think it will need more focus on the context under which we are look before we can say that we have found the killer app that is Mobile Search.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What's going on at Vodafone?

The Sunday Papers today have decided to turn on Vodafone. The business section of the Sunday Times (largest quality paper in Britain) reports that Sir Chris Gent has fallen out with the man he appointed to succeed him.

The Sunday Telegraph tells us that Vodafone plan a record £5Billion dividend payment in an effort to keep the CEO in his job, could this be greenmail from the hedge funds? They also write in the comment section that the problem was that they forgot the shareholder. Well I beg to differ, the problem with Vodafone was that they forgot that the business is based on infrastructure and allowed Marketing Executives to take control at a period when they were entering increased complexity thanks to UMTS. In allowing Marketing to run the business they have raised expectations whilst reducing the ability to execute. Some of the ideas developed by Consultants have been very good based around Vodafone Simple and Handsets in general have been good, but Live have not been the success that it should be.

The Observer focuses on te fact that Vodafone is shrinking its footprint in a effort to keep the City happy the Company might be broken up. They interview a number of analysts about the prospects who say that times are hard but if Vodafone can execute then they might just turn in around.

Can Vodafone achieve what they outlined at the hight of the market when it became the biggest company in Britain? Looking from the outside in I have to say that the problem is that too many excellent managers have left the business. The big question has to be can the incoming Chairman get the business back on track? The generation that has just ended with Lord MacLaurin stepping down as Chairman has seen a business that was very young put in place formal processes. Now that the business can be managed by professionals the challenge is will the executive team blink? If they are talking about paying an extraordinary dividend thyen I would have to say they have done so.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sony Ericsson does it again

I thought that we had seen all the excitement we could manage at 3GSM last month with a raft of new handsets on show. Yet in advance of CeBIT this year Sony Ericsson have shown a number of new handsets that have got a number of people excited.

Looking at the Microsite for CeBIT the device that gets my interest is a new Car Speakerphone the HCB-100 which uses Bluetooth and is detachable. This means that not only will I be able to use the device in my Partners Car but I will also be able to use it in the Au Pair's car and the Holiday Hire Car (my car has a factory fitted car kit) I can also take it out and us ot in the office. They spec also says that I can have upto five handsets paired with it, another great feature for someone with multiple SIMs!

They have also updated by current handset, but I am going for the new W950i & M600 handsets when its upgrade time having used them in Spain. (Hey perhaps I need to talk with Nick Denton of Gawker and see if I might just be able to get him to push SE into sponsoring this blog and they I would not have to wait so long for my toys.)

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