Tuesday, December 04, 2007

MomoLondon and Voice

Yesterday I was part of the Panel talking about Voice2.0 at the monthly Momo event in London.

Marcus Taylor demonstrated a product that he is developing for TfL for 2012 that looks interesting, somewhat like some of the demonstrations of the potential for Wildfire.

Simon Crowford then spoke of the developments at Spinvox, I may soon be able to dictate this blog on the basis of what I heard.

I then gave an overview of why Voice is important to mobile.  Latest numbers show that it is not just the emerging markets that mobile holds over half of the total of voice calls made. I spoke about the fact that not a single Network has a Board Member for Voice despite the fact that 85% of revenues come from voice.  Manage to talk about the lack of innovation in Voice and that 70% of calls are made in building which places it at risk from the fixed networks.

Christian Lindholm once again gave an excellent overview of Voice2.0 in which he highlighted the 3 Skype handset as the best phone in the world because it does Presence.  He spoke of the fact that you can see who is available as well as the fact that it is not only a VoIP service and so quality is better than the free services from the likes of Fring.

Questions were interesting but not sure that the early adopters who are members of Momo understand that Voice is the future of what is basically a communication device.  

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday Times looks into mobile banking

Yesterday's Sunday Times had a good analysis about mobile banking. Just a shame that the vision of Orange has not been executed by the New Owners!

The final sections where they talk about Mobile Banking in the UK should be something that is read and understood by the GSMA before they start the push into Remittances. Once again the focus needs to be on micro payments rather than competing with Western Union for those Operators in Europe. My Polish builder returns home every 6-8 weeks on a cheap flight carrying cash, he trusts no one when it comes to his money.

However the ability to replace small value transactions with a simple test message will cut the ques at Starbucks and as the FT's Undercover Economist shows the use of gift cards is not something that everyone approves of. If you want to give a small present why not send it as a top up someones phone credit rather than a crisp new bank note?

The problem is that with five network operators we have too many billing systems to connect if we are to make m-money work. We cannot allow a third party to facilitate cross network payments as they would expect to be paid a commission. Perhaps we need to move towards structural separation and thus billing just becomes a service layer?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New steps in M-Payments

Total Telecom reports that the Italian Post Office's MVNO will have a number of Payment services available in an effort to distinguish itself from it carrier Vodafone.

Thus we finally have a Western European network looking to offer customers replacement of paper money and coins. The Italian Banking environment is still what underdeveloped compared to most with a number of regional banks rather than National banks when it comes to the retail sector and so the Post Office is still a major player when it comes to payments. This makes the target of 2M subscribers look somewhat conservative. Perhaps they need to take a leaf out of Tesco's book and look to grow more aggressively?

I hope that they are successful, and I hope that the GSMA take note and start to back M-Payments for the benefit of the Market rather than a get rich quick scheme as the seem to be with the present remittance based approach. Perhaps if they engaged with consultants that know the payments market rather than Blue Chip accountants they would be more flexible and finally manage to develop Mobile Payments. But that is unlikely and this has all the hallmarks of the dotmobi plan to "get rich quick" rather than aid the market!

Another organisation that could do with some Consulting help is Transport for London who are pushing ahead with a trial of NFC based handsets from Nokia on the O2 network. Whilst I support the movement of my Oyster Card onto my handset I do not think that the use of the UK network with the worst billing system will be an effective proof of concept. The Independent today writes about the trial; something the Guardian did on Monday. This is the second trial that I know of, a very small test took place in the summer with some 200 people using handsets I hope that this one will be bigger. I would also have hopes that they tested on the other networks to see how the billing systems function there both Pre and Post-Paid.

UPDATE: The press release has now been sent out and what 500 lucky O2 customers can now expect is the use of a Nokia handset for the next six months whilst they trial  the system.  Thus we have no great leap forward, rather we can expect another small step.  

I wonder if the move will force the  other networks to open up mobile payments or if we can 
expect to have 
to wait before we  have open access. The good news is that it's not expected to work on an iPhone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Future of Mobile

Ian Hay from Orange has written the best review of last weeks Future of Mobile event.

Looks like Tony has got some new jokes. Others gave some interesting points, still not sure about the focus on data.

Perhaps Fog and I need to sit down with Ian and talk more about the Power of Voice in mobile.

The event itself looks like something I should try and attend when they next run it. Did want to go, if only to finally catch up with a few that I have not been able to since the Summer.

The Carnival hits 100

Abhishek Tiwari hosts the hundredth Carnival of the Mobilist.

I have been an occasional submitter of posts and hosted the carnival twice myself. The Guys at Mobhappy had a wonderful idea and others have taken it forward. Over the past two years I have made a number of new friends and read some great counterpoints on all things wireless.

Here is to the next 100

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Economist says that 2008 might be the year for m-payments

I picked up the 2008 edition of the Economist's magazine The World in... and one of the features in the business sector was Buying and celling by Tom Standage which looked at how NFC will start to gain traction.

One of the data points that gained my attention was a graphic that shows that only in the US the population has more access to cash machines than mobile phone.

I still think that mobile payments face a challenge in the UK and US where we are too reliant on credit cards rather than bank cards. For M-Payments to work they have to be a replacement of paper and coin based payment rather than an alternative to electronic fund transfers. If mobile networks start to try and compete with Banks then the Banks are going to ask that they are regulated in the same manner. However if the networks can replace micropayments of a value of less than say $20 then we can look to a rosy future.

I think that the introduction of M-Payments will also reap benefits for customer retention, the Networks will seek to establish a stronger relationship with its customers which will see them move from PAYG to Contract. Once the mobile phone has more functionality than just talk and text consumers will be less price sensitive. The functionality will not in my view be the Internet it has to be something more than just a window.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Looks like I was not the only one that passed on the iPhone

Reading the reports on the launch of the iPhone over the last 24 hours and it does not look like good news for Apple.

In the Telegraph O2 says that they had a great weekend and sold more phones than Carphone Warehouse. The interesting snippet was the spokeman saying that once you get people in the shop they can sell them something.

Over at Dialaphone they have a number of photos of empty CPW shops showing just how the UK wanted an iPhone after a week of wall to wall coverage.

Spoke to a few who might have been iPhone customers and they said that they have gone for the iTouch because it was a smart iPod without a poor phone.

Now I expect to see a new iPhone after Christmas that will improve on the launch handset. Will Steve say sorry to the mugs that bought one before the relaunch with another iTunes voucher? I am not too sure we are a long way from his main market.

What might the new handset have? It needs a better camera, faster radio and a full Bluetooth radio. It also needs a different business model for Europe, I am not the only one saying that the price is too high. Apple needs to realise that the consumer will not pay over £100/€150 for a handset and if they are to "tax" the networks for its iPhone customers it needs to drop the entry price.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The iPhone is coming

This week O2 stepped up the marketing push for the iPhone. The FT ran a story that they expected to sell 200,000 handsets before Christmas. Peter Erskine was on the BBC radio spreading the word prior to launch on Friday.

Now in the run up to Christmas the UK will buy some 3Million handsets and so 200,000 does not look that great. The concern that I have is whilst the Apple store is always busy I just do not see the consumer demand once you have managed to use the phone. I think that a large number of those handsets sold by Carphone Warehouse could be returned by disappointed customers looking to get something that works.

Whilst I agree that O2 is a Consumer Network I do not think that many on the network are happy to pay over £45 per month. I can only see that the iPhone will not drive the business forward, rather it will expose the limited capability of the O2 network. I also do not think that the O2 and Apple brands are aligned. O2 claims that a third of all text messages are sent on its network, the latest figures show that over 1 billion were sent in the UK. As I and others have said the iPhone does not do text very well this is another reason why I say that it will not be the happy event that some are saying.

Watching TV last night and I saw my first iPhone advert and I have to say that I was not overly impressed. This was an advert that showed some of how the handset works.

Just hope that the Google Phone is something that breaks the game open when the covers come off this week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Step back and ask who asked for this service

Yesterday we saw 3 carry on with its disruptive approach to the mobile market with the launch of the Skypephone. Others have written how this is just the thing needed to break the walled garden and the arrival of free phone calls.

Last night the Gadget Show on Channel 5 here in the UK had a comparison of the iPhone against the Nokia N95. Time and again the two presenters showed how the American designed phone lacked the power Europeans demand in its camera, texting and connection speeds. However everyone want to look at the Apple phone because it was attractive.

Both these features meant that I was grumpy by the time I went to sleep as once again they demonstrated just what is wrong with Mobile at the moment. We are too focused on the latest technology than making sure what we have works.

What we need to look at is just who is going to buy a new service, and when they do are they going to be happy with the quality and price.

Taking the use of Skype, if I use it it is not because it is free it is because I know that I get to talk with someone rather than voicemail. Email no longer works with many of my contacts as they have a vast backlog of unread messages that means that too often the response comes too late. I use texts to set up a call with a few people because they are not on Skype. With Skype I check availability and then call on my mobile or landline because my monthly fee has a large call allowance which most months I do not fully use.

The free calls that 3 are promoting are on net Skype to Skype calls. This means that they in fact a closed community, if you want to call an real number then you are charge for it. Thus waht you have is a service that 3 hope will stimulate more calls terminating on its network in the same way that they were paying those onPAYG to receive calls. I do not think that the service is mass market and I do not think that its disruptive. I can see a few early adopters carrying a second or third handset to play with the service.

If rumours are to be believed this month Google will finally lift its skirts and show us what it has got in the way of a mobile phone service. Once again a few will say that they have seen the light and that the Internet has once again showed the dumb operators that open is best. What they might need to look at is the architecture models currently running in the networks that seeCAPEX cycles triggered when capacity hits 70% this is far lower than in the fixed world. This fact means that we have owners of the assets looking to manage traffic far more than those in the fixed world.

I know that this post is not well argued but then I am angry that once again hype has trumped logic. Use the comment box to ask a question or point out why I am wrong and I will respond in a more structured manner.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Evolution at work

Yesterday I went to a railway arch in South London to here now Orange see the future of work.

It was interesting to see that mobile data is on the up turn. Last year the event was compared by an Orange Business SVP and this year we had a BBC journalist.

After five years the guys at Orange Business Services are getting good at staging such events that aim to show businesses now to use technology to manage the work force. This year we were not force feed that the solution requires Orange Broadband for home workers.

Robert Ainger presented the latest findings from Orange Future Enterprise on emerging work culture. I now know that I might be a Replicant or I could be working in a Mutual World whilst last year I was living in a data cloud with selective integration. It would have been good it the facilitators were better educated when talking about the future of work.

Over the last few weeks I have been listening to presentations about how IBM and Shell have been working on the future of work. We were also treated to some figures from Microsoft on how mobile and remote working is developing and how they themselves live using just such solutions. The next few weeks I am going to spend time looking more into the generational as well as the geographic differences of technology adoption. Can see myself investing time with a few of those that have made me think over the last few months about how things are coming together.

Why the photo, well I think it shows Orange addressing 52% of the population with something more than a Pink handset. The sad thing was that over the two hours it was working I did not see one person indulge. Perhaps those that were manning the stands enjoyed it once we all left.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A road map for the future

Over the last few weeks I have been consulting more and more about what Mobile might look like in 2012.

An interesting element is that the mobile networks are remember that first and foremost they are telephone companies and thus voice needs to be at the core of what they do. I hope that Voice2.0 will see the network look at what they can do before, during and after a call. I hope that in the near term what we will see is the introduction of better call quality alongside something that gives presence information before I make a call.

I am less positive on what happens with mobile data with a fixation on taking what happens on the fixed web and making it viewable on a small screen. If you think people making phone calls whilst driving is bad, just sit behind a driver send a text message to see that motion and mobility is dangerous. However the ability to use voice to navigate a website is exciting, it is one of the things I love about my Opera browser. Imaging if the Mobile Network could let me find driving directions (using handsfree) on the basis that I am charged on a premium rate call for the few times that I am lost in a new town without a satnav. Orange once had a service called Wildfire that provided a voice driven PA, then they were bought by the French and it was closed. What it did have when it was running was a loyal user base who spent over twice what the ARPU numbers were.

Whilst I am happy to read a few RSS feeds from my favourite websites, very few of the headlines result in me loading the page in full. This blog was written on a laptop waiting to fly home after a business trip, it would not be done if I were using just a phone, that is done with twitter should I want to.

At present Mobile Data is still about SMS. The major money spiller is not one-to-one texts which are predominately part of a bundle, it is rather premium SMS services linked to TV promotions. In the UK this is something that we are going to see decline thanks to the current stream of fraud and scandal. So with fewer and fewer people texting to lose the writing on the wall is that the users are not demanding data services in big enough volumes.

I do not think that Orange will be the only network that changes the guard at the top of the business. With new management teams to be bedded in, we are not going to see large amounts of innovation. My fellow Consultants are looking a windfalls as new mandidates are given to undertake benchmarking projects. The only hope if you are a consumer is that 3 and T-Mobile continue to be disruptive. I do not expect the iPhone to be a major impact in the UK because they are not that great for those that send text messages.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Futures Bright?

The FT reports that Bernard Ghillebaert has been shown the door at Orange UK and that his replacement will be English and not a current FT employee.

Over the last few months I have become ever more frustrated at how far Orange had fallen from its heights. My day-to-day dealings with them have become a case book on how not to manage customers.

However a change of management will not change the business I am afraid that the move towards being more than a very good mobile phone company means that it has shifted to point that it cannot go backwards. I have never believed that convergence and multiple service offers work in telecoms. If you are Tesco's then you can cross sell to your customer base cheap what ever because they are in the market for cheap. However if you are offering an ever declining service what makes you think that someone will take more alternative services from you?
Would I accept the opportunity to once again consult to Orange?

I do not think that I would as the business is now an administration and stuck with meeting the demands of a distribution platform. Looking at the UK, Orange needs to say that the current infrastructure does not allow it to follow what happens in France and so something else is needed. I would advise them to look at the voice element of the business and at what can be done before, during and after a call takes place. Better voice quality will mean increased revenues, we are after all paying $1.3Trillion to use mobiles as a telephone and very little to watch TV, surf or shop!


The Independent had a short feature on Tom Alexander the man that Orange have turned to for leadership. Now a number of people that I have talked to this week have all said why? Tom you see does not need the money he was rich before NTL bought Virgin Mobile. He is also not very good at working in big companies, as anyone who knew him from is time at BT will tell you.

I have to say that the fact that the man he replaces has not been fired also speaks volumes. Just hope that the arrival of a new Chairman at FT will make things interesting.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Western Union's new mobile service

Yesterday the GSM Association and Western Union announced that they had struck a deal to bring the Money Transfer Service to mobile.

An agreement to use the GSMA platform does not mean that the service will be available on all if any of the 35 operators networks that are taking part in the scheme.

This is something that I see as a backward step in Mobile Commerce. The introduction of Western Union has to be a backward step. With G Cash in the Far East it is a service that works because it's cheaper to use than Western Union. The same is true in South Africa. Thus in an effort to get traction for a product the GSMA have allowed the fox into the chicken house.

The whole platform in general is something that I see as likely to fail as others GSMA projects have because this is not something that is driven by Operator demand. This like .mobi is something that the GSMA sees as a way to raise income for itself. They have not been able to demonstrate that the consumer or the networks want any form of mobile remittance or mobile commerce product.

In working with the Operators on M-Payment solutions the first thing that they look at is the risk of being seen as a bank. If you start to undertake remittance based payments then you are competing with the Banks on a transaction that has a good profit margin, thus they will ask that you are regulated in the same way as they are. This is something that no mobile operator can accept because of liquidity requirements. However if you were to build a platform that replaced low value transactions and thus reduce the banks cost base then you can work in partnership providing that you have something that is available across all of the mobiles in a particular country. Getting everyone to join a micro payments based service is however very difficult, so far every attempt in the UK has ended in failure.

Now if the GSMA was a trade association rather than a commercial organisation it might be able to do something in the world of payments. This action show that they are about income for themselves even if it does evil.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Latest toys

Since returning from my holiday I have replaced my handset with a new Sony Ericsson P1i and have a Jawbone as my headset.

The process has not been an easy one in terms of moving settings over from my old handset and setting up connectivity for data services from Orange. It has made me think that what's needed is some form of Vault which I can use to replicate what I have on one phone over to another. I did try to use a number of third party solutions but they did not cover all the basis. Orange were of little help because the handset is not yet available on their network and so they have no settings for it.

This got me thinking that the SIM free route for handset guys will require a huge investment in technical support which at present they don't have in place. If I pay someone over £200 pounds for a handset when my network give it for free they better have more than basic technical support available at the end of a 0870 number.

Over the last three weeks I have started to use it more and more as my only device. It does not take long to effectively use the Qwerty based keypad. The only draw back is when calling an IVR based Customer Services number that ask for two letters from you password and you have to quickly remember how to translate back to a numeric key pad. The keylock at times is a little to quick and for a handset this new I would have hoped for HSDPA data. Otherwise with a few mobile apps added to the standard set its very good. Having spoken ata number of events in the last two weeks the card scanner is excellent.

With Jawbone I have to date been very happy with the headset, its light, does not get in the way of my glasses and the audio quality is first rate. Battery life is great. The downside is that the dust cover keeps falling off and its only a question of time before I lose it.

Wonder if I will keep this handset until Christmas or am I going to be tempted by something more shinny?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thoughts from Carriers World

Last week I spent a day listening and talking to the wholesale telecoms world. A few interesting points came out of the conversations.

  1. The Carriers are only just now tarting to understand and plan for the demands of Mobile Networks. Looking at the backhaul network for one major mobile network who are running HSDPA they are using 2M lines, so I guess that explains why the service is slow even thought very few of your customers have signed up for it! It also places a massive question market over any data services because of the potential for a bottleneck that stops everything working.
  2. Customers still want voice, and lots of it! The rise of Voice thanks to VoIP offerings has been something that the Carriers have not been forecasting. One presentation by Lycatel showed that rather than cannibalise revenues the introduction of MVNO services in mainland Europe has seen revenue growth on the calling card side of the business.

A few of those present went on to talk about development in voice services, such as the Cisco Conferencing Suites that use enhanced voice solutions to improve the call quality. Having had some experience of the early video conferencing solutions move to the desktop I have to say that all is well until the CEO decides to try the service whilst skiing and cannot understand why the difference between his experience on ADSL and the fibre solution at the office.

The wake up call for me was that even after 20 plus years of having a mobile arm the wholesale demands are not fully understood by the Carriers. Just how can you to run data services as a mobile firm if your standards are different from the provider of Backbone connectivity? Even the understanding of IP standards does not seem to be the same? Security provides interesting headaches because on a carrier network they don't have SIMS that carry the ID management and so require protection across the whole network. Does this mean that my next generation handset will be getting bigger rather than smaller?

More Truephone "good news"

Truephone has demoed its software running on an iPhone just as Apple lock down handsets that have been hacked.

Will we see Truephone take Apple to court when they get locked out? They say that they have every right to run on the Apple platform using the browser and wifi to make calls.

Guess they have not read that one of the key elements in any iPhone deal is that Mr Jobs not only gets the tribe to pay top dollar for his equipment he also gets a share of the revenues. Hope that the Truephone guys can make the app work on a Touch because they wont get it to work on an iPhone for long.

Wonder if they can demo it on the T-Mobile network next month when it goes live in Germany?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

We don't need no TV on our Phone

Today's Guardian reports that we are not a nation of Television addicts when it comes to watching on your mobile.

Now I have long said that Mobile TV is this years MMS, Gaming ...... in that this is an application that the user has not asked for but rather the Marketing Department thinks we will pay for. When you look at the Far East mobile TV works because the population density is such that choice is limited when you live in a tiny apartment and the nature of work means that watching TV when you are having lunch works. The content you have to remember is not broadcast but side loaded on the whole.

Now the Networks are not interested in side loaded content because it does away with the network and stops the user from using the phone to send texts etc.

Perhaps a few more reports that show Mobile TV is a dead donkey and the networks will drop the idea and focus on improving the voice quality. I have to report that too many calls have been dropped or of poor quality on my 3G handset this wonderful English summer. At the height of the flood watch I had to revert back to my land line because I needed to make a call and could not relied on Orange to maintain the call.

We don't need no y

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Independent asks are we being ripped off by the mobile companies?

Today's Independent has a two page spread in the hardcopy version of the Paper that talks about the UK mobile industry being the best functioning cartel in Britain.

Among the various data points that it uses to back up just how the consumer is ripped off are the gems:-

  • £1.8Bn worth of mobile calls and texts included in monthly contracts go unused each year.
  • It's 10 times cheaper for Vodafone to connect a call to China Mobile than to connect the same call to the 3 network in the UK.
  • You pay 12 times more to send a text than NASA does to get data from the Hubble space telescope
  • Mobiles with Wi-Fi are a big headache for the networks as users can call for free.

I guess that the technology editor at the Independent is not as good as the old one. Because when you start to read the ten points what you see are a number of plugs for the likes of Vyke; Opera Mini,Uswitch, Rebtel, Fring, Skype, and Truephone. The other issues are that Termination Rates need to be taken into consideration when you start talking about on net and off net calls. When you talk about the cost of a text message please remember that a significant number are bundled into those that are post paid. O2 are ending the i-mode service and so the data price is a mute point.

The reason that I felt the need to blog after a month of not doing so is that what was not talked about is that we are making more calls from our mobiles than ever before. The reason that more and more are going mobile only is that the networks are including too many minutes for the average user to consume, they are working on the principle that a significant number of calls end in telephone tag. As such any money the lose by giving the customer buckets of minutes is more than recovered by people terminating calls on their network. With the reduction of termination rates forced by OFCOM we could see bundles srink, another unintended consequence like the EU cap on roaming rates.

As someone who makes a good living from the mobile industry I do have a vested interest. However I also think that in the last 15 years a significant number of people have benefited from the mobile boom. For example, last year I was talking to a building who said "getting a mobile made a real difference to my life not only did it increase the amount of work I could do it also meant that my wife got a job because I no longer had her staying home just to take messages. I would say that my money tripled because people could call me direct regardless of where I am."

I guess you only feel that your mobile is a rip off if it is not helping make life better, if you are making more money because you have a mobile then its a cost worth paying. As forcartel I think the terms is best left to the Airlines on the basis of the fines handed down today to BA.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IPhone, just around the corner.....

...but is happiness?

The Financial Times has been running a number of articles in the run up to the launch of the iPhone. Yesterday John Gapper wrote about how the iPhone might force the Mobile Networks might just have to fix the network as owners of demand data rates closer to DSL. Side loading of content shows that Apple do not trust the networks at present, I have to agree the last few weeks of rain has once again demonstrated that the Orange 3G network is far from built here in London.
Today Kevin Allison's analysis is about the risk Apple has taken in entering the Mobile phone sector. The Industry Insiders who have commented have all taken the opportunity to have a dig at the fact that technically the iPhone is not up to the technical standards of 3G handsets in terms of form and the only benefit is that it has a full operating system.
Whilst I agree that in terms of Form the iPhone is not a natural evolution of mobile phones the issue is that 3G may have passed. You only have to look at the fact that many consumers are just not interested, if they were then Motorola would not have managed to ship 100M V3 handsets over the last three years.
Whilst I await the launch of test devices in Europe I am prepared to hold fire on the iPhone, but I expect that the PR machine at Apple to continue to drive interest. Talking with others it seems that the strategy for Europe will differ rumour has it that Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone and T-Mobile will be the launch partners rather than an exclusive deal with a single network.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Some interesting data points

Technology Guardian has an opinion piece by Victor Keegan that highlights some interesting data about the Mobile Internet. He outlines that the reason that the mobile web is more important than the fixed one is that it comes with its own built in payment mechanism. It is this fact that means that the Crazy Frog made more money than all of iTunes in 2006.

The problem is that the cost of transit is a key element of the $31Bn revenues and just like the net did not take off until broadband and unlimited the lack of unlimited net access is holding back development. Whilst I agree that this may be true, I also contend just how many Mobile Users ask for a data package; if you get to see the internal numbers for some of the networks the fact that they have added millions of new accounts in the last year is not reflected in how many of those have taken a data account to go with it. I still contend that most people want a phone just to send texts and make calls. If it was a price issue then those in the mobile networks could fix it by opening the mobile web, know that unlikely the fixed operators they would still make money thanks to their control of the payments platform.

Today's Economist has a feature about the rise of the ebook on your mobile in Japan, the print edition shows a row of women reading the screens of their mobile phones. The market has sprung up over the last five years to the point that it is now worth $82m a year and is still growing fast. Whilst the use of Mobile Data in the Far East is important I have learnt that the fact that using your mobile to make a call on in public is not something that is seen as polite, a large number of the public commute for over three hours a day and that the housing situation means that denisity levels are close to a battery farm all mean that shaping a business on what happens in Japen or Korea is a very high risk.

Keith has what I consider to be the best comment on the populist nature of the EU war on Roaming Rip Offs. I guess as a Business User on a Contract the fact that most of my calls last over 2 minutes and that I travel alot mean that the EU think that I am using a service such as Awayphone!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rememberance of things past

So following my lunch this week I set about trying to find the 2001 Keynote by Douglas Adams. I start off by using Google to seek out the GSMNewsReel video I remember watching on my return from Cannes six years ago - and get no joy. However I do get the opportunity to read a number of posts that talk about what the Mobile world will look like once we go 3G; also I get to see that Douglas Adams not only invented Babblefish but he could also have claimed to be a key driver in the development of User Generated Content and Wiki's thanks to H2G2.

The I use Ask and it does better than Google in that it locates a transcript of Douglas Adams address and a review from the GSMNewsReel of all those that spoke in 2001. Still no joy finding the video, have asked if a contact at the GSMA can find the footage in their archieve and send me a copy, if get lucky I will post it up so that you can all see what he is said at the time.

Looking back at the past I got a number of snipets which with hindsight can be seen with a different light. Branson spoke before Adams at Cannes and he "put forward a convincing argument in favour of MVNOs, explaining that they can enhance revenue streams, they're cheap to establish and that they offer solid risk diversification. In the never-ending search for the winning data strategy, an extra operator on your satisfactory discovery, he said. He called forth examples from the motor industry and the music industry where the virtual model has proven success. His words of advice in this area were clear. Shareholder buy-in from the host, decent distribution, a general rather than niche approach to the market and access to the meaningful content are all pivotal elements of success, he said."

I wonder if Virgin Media are following the same Strategy today as part of the Quad Play we see today, heck I wonder if they have a strategy that allows them to compete with Tesco Mobile. As an MVNO we see in Tesco an excellent example of Consumer choice, some 1.8M subscribers have opted to get their mobile with their milk. Not for them some fast moving world of Mobile Data, just basic voice and text thanks along side a value handset - all of which ties in with what Douglas Adams told those in Cannes back in 2001.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting thought on Mobile

Today I had lunch with Christian Lindholm and Dan Applequist, the sun came back to town and so I decided to let the conversation flow rather than just clockwatch after having a meeting cancelled.
Christian has been working for Yahoo but before that he was the lead for the S60 at Nokia and is very much a UI guy. Dan is one of the founders of MobileMonday in London and thanks to his day job at Vodafone has a role on a numberof standards boards for Mobile Internet. I have over the past year had a number of chats in interesting places but this is the first time that we have spoken.
The two guys are a lot more technical than myself, and as such approach a situation from different levels. Both have a higher public profile thanks to the fact that they speak at a number of events and thus probably have a wider group of associates. They both see the Mobile Interne as something that is starting to take off and is important to the Mobile sector. Now that Christia is paying his own bills he has become interested in new tools that allow him to speak with his friends worldwide without being ripped off by his network.
Whilst we agreed that the Network and the Handset makers are important we also said that niether as yet own the customer. This fact offers a wide number an opportunity to succeed in the Mobile space. In putting the world to rights we thought that the key areas are PIM replication and the use of the SIM toolkit to allow improved security and payment of content.
One of the points that came out was the fact that services such as Cognima and Wildfire would today have a high take up, but the fact that they were killed by the networks sometime ago means that a relaunch would be difficult. The other issue is that any data service has to overcome the fact that SMS is such a cashcow for the networks anything that stops users send texts has a very high hurdle to clear.
The interesting point for me as I made my way home tonight is that a lot of what we are trying to do today on Mobile we have been trying for a very long time. The development is still a way off and the guys who might be the ones to achieve are goals are those who at first we did not trust rather than the network and the handset guys.
I still think that the mobile is a phone first and that voice needs to be at the centre of what we all do. Perhaps next time we need to light the bar-b-que and spend the time talking in detail now that we have started these thoughts, I guess I will find out if Christian and Dan follow up on today!
I am off to see if I can find Douglas Adams keynote at GSM World before Christian.

Monday, May 21, 2007

74th Carnival of the Mobilists

Martin was the editor and hoast of this weeks Carnival and he has included my post on Widgets. Go and have a look at what some of the best bloggers are saying about mobile this week, I am still reading what others thought were interesting. Am planning to post a responce on a few other blogs once I have slept on first impressions.
Image from Madeira Web of Carnival Weekend thanks to Google Image search :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is it Widgets that are going to save Mobile Data?

Last night's Mobile Monday was focused on Widgets as part of a larger programme in London. Sitting and listening to the presentations, it was like a Digital People event in 2001 at times the difference being that the hype came from established companies.

Now the fact that Widgets are something that allows users to open windows to the web on non -web pages amongst other things is a tool that might just drive Mobile Data. However I have a problem in that whenever I look at an analysis of YouTube it shows that most of the visitors are passive rather than content generators, therefore Widgets need to be extremely simple to use and personalise if they are to go mass market.

If Widgets are to be something that is used more than the FM radio on a Phone they they need to replace the idle screen rather than be drilled down for on the handset. If they stay somewhere in the menu too many people will find it very difficult to frequently use. So in placing the Widget on the idle screen you have an issue with power management. I do not want something that will see my battery fade faster than if I was stuck on the tube for a morning!

The next problem I have with Widgets is that at times they fail because the Network is broken. Last night I decided to try Widgets on the two phones that I carry. The first is a Sony Ericsson P990i on Orange all the way home I could not get a data connection that was usable, this is not uncommon with the 3G network I usually find myself having to downshift to GPRS to check my email. How why would Orange want to upgrade its data network just so I can use them as a transit service? So far they have not shown any will to do so; in fact they are making it harder for customers to personalise handsets and services, the last two handsets they have sent me have been locked to an Orange profile which means a number of functions have been removed to force the user to use Orange alternatives.

My other handset is a Windows Mobile device with HSDPA on the T-Mobile network. Here the issue is far simpler the midlet manager just does not seem to be able to run the widgets that i downloaded. Maybe it will be better when I have upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.0 but I am not too sure.

Too many of the presentations last night used the same quotes on the future of Widgets. At present I fear that Widgets could end in the same group as Video Calling, MMS, Mobile TV and Mobile Gaming the great white hope for alternative services! Widgets need to be something that are easy to find and install, preferably they should be on the handset when you get it. That means they need to be supported by the Networks. Thus I fear that Widgets might be still born.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Lost Opportunity...

..was able to catch up with a few friends this week and all of them spoke about Orange. The common theme being that five years ago they felt that the Network was capable of driving forward when it came to 3G and how they have dropped the ball.
On a simple level, the question for the French is would they rather have an excellent network or a pile of cash?
However it is not as simple as that. With more Intelligent Design they could have given users a mobile network that would have delivered the vision presented at the time of the 3G auctions. We looked at just what was possible, and soon became disappointed about just how Orange seem to have lost any focus. On a very simple level, when you visit the Orange website, just how hard is it to buy a phone?
Talking about the market outside of the UK and what you see is that Music is something that works in Europe and further, in Spain and Italy over 20% of digital Music is downloaded onto a mobile.
How that we have a system that means that Data services are able what was the reason for closing Wildfire? This was a service that was used by high spending Contract customers that allowed them to have an extended PIM service. Mobile Web 2.0 is about mash-ups and widgets, perhaps when I attend MoMo London next week I might see something that replaces Wildfire, will it be able to run on my Orange Sony Ericsson handset, I do not think so!
Someone from Orange told me that they were doing well in Prepaid with 18% of new customers being SIM only. My reply, what is there to be proud of the fact that most of your new customers feel that taking a contract over 18 months is not worth a free handset!
With a change of the guard at Orange would we be able to sit down in a few years and say that with a man who is focused on Customer Service they have once again got there MOJO back? The only way that we will know if things are changing is that the number of Advisors declines and products are killed off to allow them to focus on the basics.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another missed opportunity for m-payment

Today's Guardian has a feature on new contactless payment cards for micropayments. The service is due to start in London this Autumn and the roll out nationally. The service is aimed at those looking to make payments of less than £10 and will need a pin number to validate on a random basis.

So once again we have the mobile networks missing out, if SIMPAY was still in operation then we might have seen this service miss out the Contactless Cards and move straight to mobile. This is something that I would have used for my Daughters when they start secondary school in September. We are about to open two bank accounts for them that will have SOLO cards that allow them to make micropayments. If Orange had woken up to the opportunities for M-Payment then they would have got a larger share of my Daughters pocket money.

I guess that the fact that the former head of M-Payment at Orange has left to joining Microsoft demonstrates the lack of commitment to the product!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Others in MoMo pointing fingers at Mobile Commerce

Thanks to Ged, I picked up on the MoMo Global post about Jupiter's report on too many initiatives in mobile payments are slowing development - will have to send this to GSMA and see if they agree that!

Yesterday the Sunday Times had a feature on how GSMA and Mastercard were going to bring credit cards to the phone by this time next year! As I said last week I don't think so. Catching up at the London MoMo event this month with some who have been working on mobile payments for the last few years they said that the depressing thing is that the US are driving a number of trials that failed in Europe FIVE years ago.

I believe that payment services are key to the mobile industries long term growth. In South Africa they launch of M-Cash on the MTN network has seen a shift socially with an underclass now able to access banking services as well as payment of welfare services. In Europe I see M-Payment as something that could move the customer base from prepaid to postpaid services. Such a transition would be allow the networks to control costs, in the UK £4Billion is sent each year by networks on SAC. It could also mean that if we are to progress down the NFC route are handset can become much more than phone. What about using the handset as a key for example, such a development could see me gain access to my house, start my car and enter offices.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nokia and others try another M-Wallet push

Reuters reports that Nokia, Mastercard and GSMA have released a few more details on the trial that they plan for October!

The technology used is yet to be outlined in detail; as well as Nokia, Samsung and LG have signed up along with a number of tier two networks. No sign that this is something that as yet has the backing of those who failed with SIMPAY.

This looks like fluff to me! The mobile commerce trails that have become products are based on the replacement of paper money rather than the expansion of electronic cards. When I travel to mainland Europe the locals are still big users of Paper Money it is only here in the UK and in the US where you find people trying to pay for a coffee with a card!

Whilst I agree that some form of mobile payment system will evolve I think that it will be as a form of replacement to paper and coins and not an adjunct to cards. I would like to be able to ring fence a funds that I give my twins when they start traveling to school on their own so that it can only be used for transit systems, school food purchases and say WH Smiths as well as airtime on their phones. I do not want to discover that they have had the phone taken off them by someone on the bus who has then used the credit to buy Vodka and Fags!

Thus what I see as mass adoption of M-Payments will be for micro payments i.e. those of less than £10 and the fees for these need to be lower than the current charges made by Mastercard and Visa. Not sure if this is news, could just be a slow day for Reuters!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Telebusillis calls it like it is

Kieth has turned his analytical brain to the fallacy of mobile VoIP with the excellent post on now Truphone might be good a PR but they are not great at forming a business plan. As with my post yesterday about how the Dragon got it wrong Truphone does not compare like with like.

SKYPE no longer say that they are a VoIP play they say that they are a Messaging platform. Vonage have discovered that their business plan is flawed. Look at the number of me to services for VoIP that have closed the shop when it comes to consumer VoIP. Truphone should no better because of their history with Gosiptel.

The likes of Orange do not see VoIP as a threat, they look at the service and say at present it is not fit for purpose. They also like the fact that just such a service allows them to demonstrate where the value sits in the current customer proposition.

Before anyone moves toward a new service based on VoIP we first need to get the user based off prepaid and onto post paid. This is something that I just don't see happening too soon as it would result in the Networks having to reduce the current subscriber numbers to reflect the real numbers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dragon Flames the MNOs....

The Comment section of today's Financial Times carries a story by Doug Richards once of Dragons Den on the BBC in which he set about explaining that we will soon see the likes of Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile consigned to the History Books. Mr Richards explains that thanks to being overcharged we will soon dump these international networks and start using free VoIP.

Now rather than deconstruct Mr Richards opinion I have decided to take an approach similar to that used by the Dragons on the TV programme.

  1. Mr Richards lets first look at the fact that the majority of the users on Mobile Networks in the UK are not price sensitive, if they were then they would have dumped Prepaid for one of the contract tariffs that give away so much value.
  2. How technology savvy will my mother have to be to use such a service; having been a tester on the BT Bluephone project using a mobile that roams from hotspot to hotspot at present takes a fair degree of technical skills to maintain a database of profiles and switch to the right one?
  3. As most users buy a handset on the basis of its features, how do you propose to overcome the issues of battery life when running WiFi?
  4. How often have you dropped a call using SKYPE and do you think that it would be acceptable when you add the complexity of movement?

Look it is a nice idea but look inside the average persons wallet and you will see that they have more than one payment card. You do not need more than one credit card but you take as many as you are offered you do not dump the bank because it has ripped you off with its charges you keep using it. True some are starting to fight back and ask that the overcharging stop and the money that was taken be returned to them but very few are doing so. The retail banking industry is a lot older than the mobile phone business and it has taken a lot longer for the customers to start to complain, I can see Vodafone and Orange being around for a good few years. I for one would happily pay a fee for customer service and no adverts.

The nightmare that you paint could see my daughter having to watch an advert for McDonalds and Starbucks before having enough credit to phone NHS Direct for Obesity advice ;-).

I have heard enough and I am out!

Monday, April 09, 2007

3rd Party Marketing starts to get kicked in to touch.

Catching up on the Sunday Papers and I see that someone at the Sunday Times also hates the bombardment of "Update Calls" on their Mobile.

The Good News is that it seems that the Mobile Networks have woken up to the fact that such actions upset the Customers and have started to take action! The story explains that the big three networks have started to attack those agencies that have set up call centres that are aimed at getting customers to upgrade/churn.

I guess this is one good point, would also have been excellent to see that having done so the Networks then put out a Press Releas to the effect that Company X just got canned by us because they are scumbags and not only do we not want anything to do with them we are taking them to court for missrepresentation. That way I would not have so many friends and family complaining that they have been stung by such cowboys.

It seems that Orange have got a grip over the past few weeks as I have not had as many calls as I was getting at the start of the year. I just wish that they did some form of outbound marketing that said that it was a scam in the first place and we would not have seen the thing mushroom to the extent that at one stage I was getting over twenty calls a day offering me a new handset when I upgraded.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Did Orange just hit the panic button?

Today's Observer has a short articles on how the new two year contract is not a good deal.  They say that at the end of the term the consumer has a redundant handset!

Welcome to the Corporate World!

I am sure that by the end of the Summer all of the other networks will be pushing the same two year deals over the present eighteen month deals.  In such a move the Consumer will be educated as to the real costs of telecoms, if we are still to get £500 handset then we will have to used to paying £35 for a few more months than we are at present  or commit to a bigger monthly fee.  Along with the SIM only deals that will allow consumers to see where the costs sit at present for the Networks I think that by the end of this year we will see a change in the perceptions of the mobile consumer.

We are just going to have to get used to paying for our handset in some form! 

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Others re picking up on the Voice thing!

Catching up after a busy few days and I find that Om has been having a rant about poor voice quality in mobile!

Loved the opening:

"In 2006, voice brought in about $110 billion, and that is such a large amount of money that the U.S. wireless providers should cringe at the fact that they have to use advertising tag lines such as “fewest dropped calls” or ask people to come and try their service for 30 days or switch back for free.

No self-respecting descendant of Ma Bell should be able to sleep at night till they fix the voice network. After all Europeans have managed to lick the dropped call problem, by putting decent enough quality in place. Even the Chinese and Indian carriers with their microscopic ARPU manage to complete calls pretty much everywhere."

Just hope that the guys at the top of the mobile networks are reading the same blogs as I am.

I think that we will see a change in behaviour over the coming months. Talking with contacts in the Network, Handset and Distribution businesses it does see that they have realised that the present business model is broken and it is time for a new one. Hopefully this will result in an increase in work for all at the Wireless Foundry!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another demonstration why Convergence does not work

Last night the main BBC Consumer TV show, Watchdog, published the results of its viewers poll into Broadband. I know that it was not conducted in the most scientific manner, it was self selecting etc. etc. just glad that it was not a telephone poll and then we would know that it was fixed!

The Broadband provider that came bottom of the poll was Orange. The show had a number of Vox Pop interviews that demonstrated just how bad Orange's service had been. Once the viewers had been shown we then had Eric Abensur VP Orange Broadband given his opportunity to reply. The silver tonged Frenchman said that Orange was disappointed that it had not managed to achieve the Customer Service levels that its reputation in Mobile was built on and that he hoped that next time the survey was conducted he was no longer in the bottom place.

It was just a shame that his masters in France Telecom were not able to see the show. Perhaps then they might understand why such a large number of former Orange consumers are now moving networks after many years. What has to be remembered is that for most of Orange's customers it is still a Mobile Phone Company and the move into Broadband was as welcomed as a call from an STD clinic.

A number of those that I talk to tell me that they are no longer Orange customers because the company no longer empathises with them rather than the price is wrong. Remember that Orange is a Brand purchase rather than price choice for most. Thus trying to marry a trusted brand with something that was free a low rent (Freeserve) was never going to be easy. The result has been that the whole perception is now that of the low rent offering however it is at the high brand price. So now consumers have the perception that they are no longer valued and that they are overcharged for poor service.

Just yesterday I spoke to another unhappy customer who complained that Orange had failed him and when his contract was up he was off because he had had enough. The reason for his dissatisfaction was that he had been pressured into taking a Samsung handset and after just a day of use he had concluded that it was unsuitable, however as he had upgraded in the shop rather than over the air he did not have the right to return the handset and was thus stuck with it for the coming 12 months. Not a wise move because the individual travels a lot in his job and so is spending £500+ each month and so when he does go Orange will need to find more than one subscriber to replace the lost income.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More on M-Payments

Having just finished off my latest assignment I have at last had an opportunity to catch up on developments in M-Payments post 3GSM in Barcelona.

Last week in an article in Business Week, Nokia's R&D Lab were talking about how they are developing payment solutions following a field trip to Africa. Not too sure I like the fact that Nokia have decided to patent something that was happening naturally in Africa, but thats business.

Yesterday I missed a roundtable by CSFI on Mobile payments that could have been interesting. Would have been nice if one of the speakers had told me and then I could have joined in. Guess I will have to add Digital Money to my Blogroll so I can keep better informed.

Looks like Belgium could be the first Western European network to roll out a commercial M-Payment service with Banksys. Whilst in France on a Skiing holiday with the kids last month, the evening news carried an item on continued trials for M-Payments which showed the reporter using her phone to pay for coffee and bread in different shops. So it looks like the traditional cash based countries will be the first to adopt rather than us here in the UK who are leveraged when it comes to credit.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Is this a phone or a mini pc?

OK so Monday is Upgrade Day for my second handset which is on the T-Mobile network.

I have decided that rather than stick with my preference for Sony Ericsson handsets I will experiement with a Windows Mobile device, it has been sometime since I have Powered up my Clie and even longer since I stopped using my iPAQ.

I went into my local T-Mobile store with two of the girls in tow this week and whilst asking about another HTC device they played with the demo handsets. Today when I go online T-Mobile have added the above Ameo device. This has the benfit of me not having to carry around my Vaio laptop everytime I am out as it will allow me to run all my email accounts I can also sync the device with my Vista based laptop which is more than I can do at present with my SE P990i!

As is it my back up device it will not be used for that much voice traffic, just the three to four hours a day that Orange do not seem to be able to give me coverage when I am Home and not asleep and the trees that are between my home and the base station are in leaf and wet!

So do I swallow my pride and and go for this connected data device, having said that it is all about voice? Perhaps I should just stick with what I have for a few more weeks and wait for a Windows Mobile 6 device. Alternatively I could wait for the SE K810i but as this is T-Mobile it may be some time!

Photo from Trusted Reviews website

VoIP killing mobile market

Oracle has a reveiled the results of a servey of Industry Executives that says VoIP will kill the mobile industry in the next six years.

"The results from the global communications community clearly demonstrate how important it is for both fixed-line and wireless operators to act immediately," said Bhaskar Gorti, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Communications Global Business Unit. "With the rapid decline in voice revenues and the reality of an ever changing competitive set, customer service providers must accelerate their development of new revenue opportunities."

No whilst I love the odd survey for PR coverage, I would like to ask just how many of the respondents that Oracle spoke to worked for Mobile Networks. I have to say that its my view that the VoIP market will still be less than 5% of the total mobile voice market. The use of bundles which menas that most consumers now have a bucket of minutes too big to use.

The other problem is that another Survey says that most of us churn networks says that half of us move networks to get a better handset. So I guess the idea that we move on the basis of price whilst it has some currency but is not totally true.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

To hell in a handset

Today's technology section of the Guardian, has a feature on how the Mobile phone has seen too many other devices converged into it. Stuart Jeffries writes that very soon he will be made to look a fool in front of his daughter thanks to all the functionality in his phone.

I enjoyed the rant about how convergence is not what we want it is what we get. I am sure it will be a line I use in the not to distant future!

I also enjoyed the end that outlines just what the benefits and disadvantages of convergence is. I have to say that I am becoming every frustrated by the fact that people now feel that timekeeping is optional on the basis that as they have a mobile when they are late you can find out just how long you are going to be left waiting and if you don't like it then you can cancel.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Someone else that thinks Orange has lost its MoJo

Heading home on the tube today and I manage to read the G2 supplement to the Guardian. Charlie Brooker has decided that his new handset from Orange is just too much for him. His Samsung E900 is just too much. He finds the change in menus confusing, the features irritating and the making of phone call annoying. He tells us that he has the phone because he was sold the free handset from the now famous Orange Upgrade Centre that said that he got not just a free handset but also free texts at weekends for life!

My gripe is that as my daughters did well in the schools admission lottery I have two let them both have a mobile phone. In an effort to get some control over the whole process I opted for two pay as you go handsets from Orange. The girls are to get £10 per month credit billed to my contract with Orange. I went for purchase via my phone and so have had to deal with Orange Direct. The level of service that you get as a prepaid customer is somewhat different from that of someone who is an Orange Premier customer. I was told that the handset would be shipped Friday and would be with me on Monday. If it was a handset upgrade then we would have had the phones Saturday. So this lunchtime I called to see where are my handsets to be asked what made me expect that I would get them today it usually takes two to five working days. I asked if I had know that the service would be this slow then I would have gone into an Orange store and picked them up. Could I still do so I asked, yes but they could not refund the cost of the handsets until they were returned to the distribution centre. It was thus easier for me to just tell the girls that they have waited a year for me to get them a phone and another day was not going to kill them.

What makes me think that when I get the two phones the process of registering them and setting up Magic Numbers is going to be easy. The frustration level is rising to the point that I can feel the need to vent via email to a member of the Executive team so that he gets one of his employees to expedite.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Follow Up from 3GSM

I am at present stuck up a mountain with the family watching them ski and thinking about last week in Barcelona.

The Voice thing is getting to me! All of the noise has been on te whole about mobile data solutions, these require the networks to focus on something they are not very good at, educating users.

Whilst here I am looking at people using the phone as just that; a few are sending texts none are surfing or watching TV! All of them are paying a lot of money to make phone calls and the providers are happy.

So why don't the networks focus on the fact that 80% of the income is from the simple function of Voice?

Rather than develop HSDPA why cannot they give me the Stereo functionality my handset has to play MP3s? Or how about they develop noise surpression techniques so that whilst on the call the quality is lifted, just as they have for the workers in call centres?

I am going to go an sit in the sun and think a little longer and then make a few calls and see if I might just be able to convince a few people that rather than Convergence they need to diverge or people will just substitute the mobile for the fixed line and so we face financial suiside. This is something I cannot afford at the Girls have told me they love skiing and for the next ten years I am going to be the one having to pay for them to keep doing it!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Please remember that it is first and foremost a phone

Catching up on my RSS feed and Andreas latest post strikes loud with me after my week in Barcelona.

On Tuesday I took part in a roundtable discussion on Fixed Mobile Conversion. The point I was hoping to make in my presentation was that it is not the network on which you make the call that is converging, it is the place in which you make it that is. Most of us use our mobile phones along a defined route, at home, on the way to work, at work, in our local pub/club etc. over 90% of the calls we make are in a place that we know rather than somewhere new. So whilst most people call the mobile first it is not because they do not know where we are.

That being so how can an Operator maximise there take on the defined spend on Mobile? I argue that it is the quality of the voice call rather than the content of a call that limits its duration. How many times do we still say "I will have to call you back because the line is bad"?

Before we get caried away with Data on our phone here are a few facts that should mean that the focus is on Voice:

1/ Mobile voice

- worth over $1 trillion globally today

- volume equal (roughly) to fixed voice

- by 2015, mobile voice will likely be 2x greater than fixed voice

- 8-9 trillion mobile voice minutes per annum (2015)

- VoIP a small percentage (10-15%) of total volume, and probably less than 5% of total value

- massive growth potential - but not focused on by operators

- not a single EVP for Voice anywhere in European industry

- value being lost due to lack of strategic focus and minimal investment

- also value erosion through over-use of bundles

- termination cuts have had an impact (operators could be more proactive and take the surprise out of term rate cuts)

- LRIAC termination rate is a known quantity - and all operators can plan tariffs around it

- Elasticity exists - but operators own actions damping its potential

- tele.ring strategy versus T-Mobile Austria

2/ Mobile data

- at least 95% of mobile data revenues come from SMS

- interestingly, global SMS business is worth 3x the total, global music industry (including CD sales, DVDs, licensing, publishing, etc)

- yet operators think music downloads will transform their businesses!

- getting the basics right is still a valid objective - email, instant messaging, photo messaging, internet access/browsing, presence, location-sensitive search)

- not a single operator has managed to address these areas successfully yet (though cite Vodafone Spain with Real Mail as example of progress)

- Instead, most are focused on contrived nonsense - mobile TV being the best example

- simple, sequential service development

- use all of the real-estate on the device - 10 number keys equal ten shortcuts to ten simple data services

- the devices themselves remain a problem to data uptake - they are phones, with incidental data capabilities

- screen size stretches the resolving capacity of the human eye to its limits!

- new experience, and devices required

- what parts of the internet need to be available on mobile? - not all of it - and not in its current form

- intelligence, context-sensitivity, location-sensitivity, voice-driven etc .... very different look and feel, and functionalilty

3/ Convergence

- is, when it boils down to it, something of a myth

- convergence is a term dreamt up by consultants

- it is lazy short hand for collection of trends

- customers have exactly zero interest in convergence as a concept

- it is therefore a distraction

- it is just one of a number of potential means by which companies can choose to address customers

- it may be right for some customers in some circumstances - but that doesn't make it into the magic bullet that many in the industry believe it to be

- divergence has had a far more impressive track record thus far, in terms of value creation (iTunes, iPod etc are divergent; digital TV's many standards are divergent; digital radio standards are divergent etc)

- convergence has become a dangerous obsession for many players

- FT, DT, BT etc all have a "Convergence Strategy"

- Triple and quad plays are the most common manifestations

- Forrester reckons that on average, a European triple play customer will represent a cumulative loss of €3000-€4000 by 2010

- Their latest work calls triple play "financial suicide"

- IPTV is certainly a weak, immature technology competing against very efficient, well established technologies and highly effective and slick media companies

- Today, there are only 285 million broadband connections ON THE PLANET

- Of them, only 20 million or so are capable of 2mbps or faster ... and this is the total addressable market for IPTV

- In many respects, convergence therefore is another disaster waiting to happen

- strategic herding and lack of imagination threatens the long term prospects of a number of players

I am working on more detailed analysis of the above points and might publish it here on my blog as well as somewhere else. If you have any questions leave a comment and I will attempt to reply!

A Busy week in Barcelona

Back from the 3GSM event and still trying to process most of what I saw and heard.

This year's black is once again Content, this time MobileTV. At least that is what it's all about if you are to believe a number of CMO within the Network Operators!

The Equipment manufacturers are looking at how they can get the network into Buildings and across wider areas with the use of Femtocells and WiMAX!

As for the Handset makers it's a size issue, with lots of slimline models on which you can play music, take pictures and surf. These machines will be capable of using the resource light LINUX or resource heavy Windows Mobile 6.

What might be possible in the next few months in Dynamic Pricing as technology allows the Network to finally know the customer. Deep Packet Inspection can be run on a network and analysise just what someone is doing on a handset, then it can offer personalised deals in an effort to get them to change behaviour. This is something that a few ISPs are doing with Broadband customers and the software companies are now saying that they can do it with mobile phones.

The Elephant in the room is bundles. With Voice providing 80% of a Networks income what logic is there in testing Price Elasticity and the Mobility Premium? None of those that I talked to were speaking of services that improved the quality of voice as a product. For example, why is my phone stereo when it plays MP3 and Mono when I am making a call, its the same speaker system!

With my head buzzing from all the conversations over the last four days I am still trying to figure out why Vodafone thinks that India is the growth market that will allow it to still be the Worlds number one/two network when some of its advisors told them that it was a high risk. Will try and post something before I go off for a weeks holiday with the kids.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Windows 6 could this be what we are looking for?

Jason Langridge has done a great preview of Microsoft's upgrade of Windows Mobile. He has looked at the 1000+ upgrades to Windows Mobile 5 and as a a Senior Manager within the UK he has been using it for the last year.

Have Microsoft finally managed to develop an OS that gives mobile users something more than voice and texts? Rather than the X series from 3 this might be a platform the gives form to the hopes of the Mobile Web 2.0 fanboys.

On the screenshots it looks like the PIM functions are exceptional and the other office and surfing elements might mean that finally a single device is all that is needed. I guess the proof will be that they have removed the reset button seen on the iPAQ.

Guess the Microsoft briefing might be worth seeing next week in Barcelona.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I saw your sign in the window and I want one please!

Yasterday I decided that I had better test the current offering from 3 as it had a been sometime since I had last done so and a number of people have asked me for an opinion when we meet next week.

As luck would have it, I was close to the shop on Kensigton High Street and seeing a working handset on offer at £19.95 including £10 airtime on pay as you go I thought how can I go wrong.

On requesting such a deal for myself I was told that they don't have any of the £19.95 handsets in stock. No problems what other handsets can I have on Pay As You Go?

None, we have not been selling phones on Pay As You Go since November in this store I am told. I could trythe store on Oxford Street they might have a handset or I can try Superdrug across the road.

So I try Superdrug. On entering the store I find the stand with a number of handsets and accessories but no one to serve me. I ask someone stacking shelves if they can help. She says yes, what do I want. A 3 handset on Pay As You Go please. Sorry mate, we don't do Pay As You Go its contract only, I don't think your credit that bad that you can't have one. Look I only need a phone for a short time and so I don't want a contract. Well we can't help you then.

So I stop off at Oxford Street on my way home and guess what, same story all over again. No mate we only do contract handsets and SIMs.

Now I wonder, are the management trying to massage subscriber numbers? Is it that the actions of T-Mobile have disrupted them so much that the Pay As You Go market has no future for the guys at 3 and they are working on a new business model based on contract customers staying for 2 years plus? Or is it that they just no longer have a clue and the Boss back in China no long wishs to keep losing money faster than a injured footballer in a casino?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sony Ericsson is growing fast

iSuppli released its latest report on the handset market this week. The big news is that Nokia is still the worlds biggest handset maker, and Sony Ericsson its most successful when you look at the growth numbers.

"Sony Ericsson is targeting its entire product line at the mid-to-high range of the market and just recently has started entering the emerging low-cost handset market,” said Tina Teng, wireless communications analyst at iSuppli. “This has contributed to the company’s accelerated growth in 2006. Plus, Sony Ericsson’s products appeal to every regional market globally, because its camera- and music-enabled phones hit the sweet spot in terms of desirable handset features.”"

Now the interesting thing for me is that iSuppli looks at the electronic components supply chain to get its intelligence. The data they provide that does interest me is the reference points on how much individual handsets cost in terms of bill of materials. But how do they work out that a handset manufacturer is developing a stockpile for a new product rather than building its current models? I for one will await the updated numbers from M:Metrics to see what the gap is between the two reports before making too many claims about the fall of Motorola and Samsung for example.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who you going to talk to?

Yesterday having attended the funeral of one of my extended family I was asked by a number of those in attendance to help with their mobile phones as I was someone who "knows about these things."

The interesting discovery for me was that very few had done the research that Ged did when he decided to leave Orange. Most of these "happy soles" are using Pay As You Go because they think it offers the best value for money because those that they know have usually been unable to use ALL of the minutes and texts on there tariff and so they see them as wasting money rather than saving on call costs. I just wonder if the Networks are hearing the same message but are happy to ignore it whilst they battle it out for the best churn numbers in this mature market.

In talking yesterday it became obvious that those in the room had started to not trust what they were told by the retailers after my outburst last year when One of them called to tell me that she had upgraded to Flext because that was what the man in the shop said was the best contract on offer. After I had gone through just what she does do with her phone she returned the handset and cancelled the contract. I wonder what those in the room would have made of Keith's excellent analysis of CPW's numbers? I am sure that he would have been interested in the way that the consumer is starting to wise up when it comes to buying mobile. I for one think that what I am hearing from Vodafone at present is the right idea I am just not confident that they can execute the strategy with the current team.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My 2p worth on the iPhone

Rather than post this at the time of Steve Jobs announcement that Apple had joined the handset market I decided to wait and see what others had to say before adding to the noise.

What I know about the new phone has been gathered from the Internet and Press rather than me actually seeing the device at MacWorld. Carlo and Russell have done a good job looking at the launch of the phone and others comments. Ajit over at Open Gardens has done his usuall meta analysis of the situation. Ged at Renaissance Chambara says that like all Apple fan boys his thinks that the new phone is sexy it is not for him.

I think that what Jobs has done is disruptive but I do not think that Nokia and Sony Ericsson needs to worry too much about this first release. My hope is that the launch of the iPhone will effect the way that Mobile Networks deal with User Interfaces. I think that as a closed system rather than a smartphone what Apple have done is launch a niche handset for the US market. As such I do not think that the iPhone will get a market share much larger than either the Blackberry or WindowsMobile.

Working with Mobile Networks as I do I have to say that they have issues supporting all the formats and operating systems that they do at present adding another will increase the complexity by another factor. Just look at the number of people who have complained about the lack of support for Treo handsets and ask why would Apple be any different?

I think that in a months time we will see a number of new handsets that will make the iPhone look very dated and this will mean that the iPhone becomes something akin to the Mottorola Razr i.e. the Fashion Victims handset where form out does function. This being the point I fear that I might just be buying two when the launch so that my twins can fit in at their new school.

It looks like the the Independent has the same view as me. Hamish McRae says that Apple's entry into the phone industry will not change the market, its innovation might! The more I chat with others the more my opinion crystalises. I do not think that we can expect to see Apple replace Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung at the top of the tree after all we are talking about ONE handset. The fact that are in the market might however finally force Motorola to do something about its appalling user interface. Apple could force Sony Ericsson and Nokia to take their A Game to the networks and insist that customisation of the interface is no more than the placing of short cuts onto a phone. A word of caution for Apple has to be that the list of those who no longer make handsets is very long and if they are not careful they will join it.