Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mobile banking in South Africa

The Economist has a feature on how Mobile's have ment that most South Africans now have bank accounts. In just over a year 500,000 people have signed up for a Bank Account. These people are not the traditional middle class who were enfranchised this is the half of the population who do not have a bank account.

My observation is that with more and more people now using mobiles for banking when are we going to see a useable service on our handsets here in Western Europe? M-Pay has to be about more than just buying content off a portal. When will Orange let me pay for my film tickets rather than send me a voucher to get a second ticket for free?

Carphone told it must change to stay on top!

The Sunday Times Business Section has a detailed article on how Vodafone's cancellation of its contract might be good for the retailer. Having interviewed a number of "senior executives" Paul Durman has done a good job in analyzing the fact that CPW's success has come at the expense of friction with their suppliers, its just a shame that he seems unable to get anyone to go on the record.

I surpass the question is will Charles Dunstone understand that the last 17 years worth of success has been a result of the fact that his customers have been the mobile networks rather than the "punters" who walk into one of his 700+ stores? Or will he be able to find others desperate to take over the Vodafone contracts on his customer database as they become available at the end of the 12 month contract terms?

The article out lines that Virgin Mobile are "keen" on getting their hands on Vodafone's former contract customers. I wonder if the Vodafone customers are keen to experience the "customer" service of NTL?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chiltern Railways trials SMS mobile phone tickets - Retail

Chiltern Railways have started a trial of e-ticketing sent to passengers' mobiles. I hope to be able to try this service over the next few weeks as Chiltern Railways provide the trains that run almost to time when I have to go into London rather than LUs' Met Line.

The only issue seems to be that you pirchase the tick online, but I guess phase two might allow M-Payment. Then again looking how expensive a train ticket is my ARPU figures would go through the roof if Orange were to allow me to pay via my contract.

Watch this space I'll post an update when I have tested the system.

Operators must cut costs!!!!!!

Mark Newman justifies his Thought Leader title over at Informa Group. With a well argued feature on what were the drivers behind the Vodafone CPW split.

He states that the issue in a market in which everyone who wants a phone has one is churn and the high cost of SACs. Over the last few months conversations with other Consultants has shown that the networks are currently running at SACs of €6 billion in the larger markets in Europe BEFORE advertising. Hence the networks current efforts to get as many as possible onto a contract at that contract to last as long as possible.

The new mantra is CLV when it comes to judging the value of a customer. It is no longer about my ARPU or MOU as with margins falling these metrics are not likely to give a network a view on my value.

The issue that I have with the cost reduction strategy currently in play. What will hold back the drive to cut costs is that fact that Vodafone is a twenty plus year old business and as such has a vast legacy system. It is this legacy anchor that is stopping networks moving forward.

What stopped O2 from following the others leaders in the UK towards the adoption of 3G services? It was not the fact that the Executive did not have a desire to jump into broadband wireless services. It's the fact that its billing system is a basket case and as such its has forced the Executives to manage the assets better than rivals!

I am sure that Vodafone has the same issues when it comes to legacy systems holding back the delivery of services that might just cause customers to increase spending.

With Orange and T-Mobile the businesses are only teenagers but as a parent I know too well what that means in terms of growing pains.

So my question to those working in the Networks is this, what are you going to do to remove the issue of legacy systems? In talking to some of the brighter guys, the issue does not seem to be IMS because that will take too long to come to market but rather SDP. The Network at present with the benchmark for SDP seems to be TurkCell who have something that a large number of others can only wish for when it comes to a blackbox that makes all the new and old stuff work.

For the rest out there I guess what the CEO needs to start talking about at investor presentations is the need to resolve the "legacy anchor" with a Y2K type approach that says we have to stop rushing forward to new technology and do some housekeeping if we are to become more than just a dumb pipe because if we keep going on at this rate thats all we will be able to do. Now which of the Networks has a CEO brave enough to tell the truth?

Why MMS is struggling worldwide

i-mode Business Strategy asks why has MMS failed to take off. The post has a few things that ring true with me and my experiences with my K800i and Orange.

The issue is if I sellect a handset that is aimed at heavy photo users what makes the network think I am going to cut them down just to send them to people who cannot open the file and if they do its two small to see.

If you look at what happened in the days when photography was done on film rather than digital. The user took paper copies of the photos and passed them around friends over a coffee. Now how does a mobile network think that MMS replicates such a service?

I guess that MMS might start to take off if what you are sharring is video. In this week when the kids are on half term holidays from school I am getting short films from them sent via wifi shot with my Nokia N93. This is a time shift service that allows me to be in two places at once. The success of YouTube has shown that others also see the point of sharing video. Who knows as the mobile networks get more people with 3G handsets they might just manage to relaunch MMS as they have managed to turn round the poor perception of mobile data services over the last few years.

However I think that none of these services will take off until you see data bundles sold as part of the main contract. E-Mail also needs to be rolled out in a similar manner to that which we see from Vodafone in Spain using Visto as the tool that gets the users to experience the data services.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Now you can go shopping with your mobile phone

The Guardian technology section has this story on how soon I will be able to replace my Oyster card with a new mobile phone.

The writter does not ask if the solution will work across all the Mobile Networks or will I have to hope that Orange as the only "London" based operator wins the contract?

Last year I met with a Chinese firm that had technology that was being used in China it hoped would be of interest to TfL and the operators. So it might after some 18 months now being set up for a trial.

Some of the handset guys are starting to talk about NFC in something more than roadmap terms, which means that they see a market for this. Google says that one of the lead projects for its mobile service is the integration of checkout solutions in an attempt to make shopping easier on your phone.

Just wonder if the network get how/why payments are important. The failure to launch SIMPAY, the small size of the M-Payments market compared to e-commerce both make me think that it will be the operators that are the major block on this. For the last two years I have worked with a number of people in the payments industry who were/are looking for mobile adoption. Most of them have become less interested in the area in terms of developed economies thanks to the Mobile Networks not wishing to enter the payments market.

I guess we will have to see what happens when the mobile replaces the credit card in terms of micro payments. at worse it might just speed up the que at Starbucks if the retail banks are happy to allow such services.

Goobile tells us about ASK's new service

Over the last few weeks I have stood at mobile events and listend to Google's view on the Mobile Search market. Whilst some of what Google was happy to reveal in "lifting its skirt" has meant I want to ask for more detail, which they are not prepared to do.

In catching up on blogs today I saw Walter Adamson's post on what ASK is doing to make mobile serch work. What looks like something that works well on a small screen and provides fast results gets my vote. Only question is that it's at present an American solution, how soon before it causes problems for Google and Nokia in the mobile search world in Europe?

I guess what ASK are experiencing is the fact that the brand does not necessarily lead consumers to think that they are innovators in the search space and so only look at the site after bigger brands have failed. This is all well and good in the fixed space, but when you are mobile your ability to refine and test serch requests is very short, especially when its raining and you are standing in the street!

Another VoIP hype story

TheIndependent has a small article on fring's mobile VoIP service. I guess Nic Fildes like myself was at the Symbian Smartphone show at the start of the week and thought that this was the best PR spin he had all week.

Having worked for a few mobile VoIP start-ups I have to say that what stops most is that the Mobile Networks are finding way to offer ever increasing bundels which mean that you no longer need to find a way to cut costs. The tell tale sign that this is another technology solution that the market does not need is the opening paragraph that says it works on 3G handset. Take a look at the way such phones are sold and I would say it is almost impossible to use all of the minutes you had to buy in order to get the handset for free, so why do you wish to make free calls?

The last paragraph says that the company is considering generating revenues from advertising; this is just such a winner! So because I am a cheapskate and want to save money on my phone bill, I need to buy the latest handset and then accept spam to fund my free calls. Guess I should get over to the companies VCs because it looks like they might just need someone capable of adding sense to the due dilligence process.

The Beeb and its digital future

DAB a dud? asked the magazine programme You and Yours today on Radio 4 at lunchtime. Following on from The Guardians Media feature on Monday the BBC, one of the biggest Evangelists for Digital Radio, asked have we been short changed.

You can listen again to the debate about how we have been trying to live with a technology based on MP2 standards and need to move towads the AAC+ standard if we are to get the digital quality we could have. For me the interesting factiods are the stalled development of DAB across Europe.

The Driving back from my meeting I again was listening to the Radio, this time Simon Mayo on Radio Five and his guest was Paul Abbot the writer of some of the biggest successes on British TV over the past five years. The take away was that before the Broadcasters start looking at technology they need to invest in the talent. The Networks in the UK are not investing in training writers and before they do talk of Mobile TV would be a waste of time.

I wonder if anyone from the Management of BBC Broadcast or ITV will download the interview and take note using the Listen Again service. I would suggest that it could be worth the 30 minutes before they start talking about how Mobile will be an important element of Broadcast TV.