Friday, February 22, 2008

Hyper Curve in action

Gartner have a report to sell on how shops need to develop a M-commerce channel. Have they not seen that people want to get out of Pricechecking as no money can be made from such a service?

Expectations need to be adjusted. Whilst we are looking at the adoption of mobile services any that say that mobile data will be big in shops first needs to ask about in building coverage. Most shopping centres are very challenging when it comes to signal strength. The adoption of Radio Network Sharing might mean that coverage improves but I am not sure. The latest news from Arquiva is not bright, after all most of us are after Mobile free areas rather than better coverage.

It will be better if we can start to adopt payment services on Mobile and thus change the market rather than try and fit the fixed world into a phone.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Final Thoughts on Barcelona

OK my time spent walking from Hall to Hall to have meetings and look at the latest trends is over. If I had taken all the papers pushed at me then I think that the excess baggage charge could be more than the price of my seat on the flight home. In a digital age this seems wrong, some have been smart enough to have added the handouts to the free memory sticks that they hand out this would also allow for links to web pages and the use of video and audio. I guess once those who are part of the Mobile ecosystem start to think in this way then we can speak about mobile being media companies until then they will have to stick at being technologists.

I think that the GSMA may have reached a tipping point in that the World congress is too big for Barcelona. In the early days in France you had a dynamic feel and deals were done in small cafe and one boats. Now you have a massive exhibition with a small conference supported by global suppliers running briefings, but too many people told me that in the next few weeks they were taking customers to Dubai to close a deal. Eventually the big guys are going to move the World Congress to Dubai so that they can talk with the Emerging Markets Customers. Whilst we saw a lot of Chinese attendees to the event I did not see many Indians or Africans and as Orascom's CEO told everyone if you do not address the Emerging Markets then you are not going to be about for long.

My themes from this years show were Coverage, Services and Future. The GSM world has been such a success because it is a vibrant ecosystem.

When I started working in Cellular Communications some 20 plus years ago we spoke about Talking to a person rather than a place. Today we are saying that mobile is about communicating with potentially everything simply and wirelessly. However great that sounds I have to ask if everyone has the same objective? To demonstrate the point today I received a new wireless printer by Lexmark and they have placed a USB cable in the box so that I can connected it with my computer to get things started, this is something they do not do with the wired printers, as I know to my cost and it is not a great inditement of wireless technology!

At the Limo launch event I attended we were treated to a talk by Dr Marty Cooper who explained who mobile was evolving and thanks to Open Standards such as Linux the cost of devices was falling to a level where all could expect to enjoy the benefits of Wireless Broadband and a device that you held in the hand would offer mass communication. Perhaps Dr Cooper needs to travel a little wider? Sony Ericsson handsets for India have to have AM radio so that the owners can listen to cricket because the FM network does not cover a wide enough region. Just how 4G will reach users that are yet to experience 1G is beyond me. I also do not think that the medical technology that he spoke of will have the scale to make it mass market. Some of the issues that we face in the mass market can be seen with the Social Business models. People do not want charity they just want a fair chance. Thus they are unlikely to accept something that we market as a poor man's phones as they aspire to be better. One of the Executives I spoke to told me of the difficulties he is having in India. In talking to a large FMCG company about a handset that would do all the business tasks they needed he discovered that the cost became an issue as it was the same a three months wages. "However in Bombay I see young guys riding a bike and using an E90 as they want to seem a success as our phone is cheaper than a car and gives the same status!" he said he frustration.

When it comes to the network on which we use mobiles we are seeing some interesting developments with LTE some seven years out from what will be commercial launch. OFDM gives the best bang for buck in terms of bandwidth, the metropolitan wifi networks show that mesh networks using wifi are not going to work and so broadband wireless will be either WiMAX or LTE. Looking at the size of demand the legacy element makes LTE the standard for those that already own mobile assets. The support for LTE by Networks across the globe means that now we can start to ask ITU to move forward with setting the standards and building trails.

This year they move the content providers to their own hall which shows that more people are trying to get media onto mobiles. But before you expect to watch video and network in real life with those that you have shaken hands with on Facebook/Bebo/MySpace et al you have to realise that the GSMA stuck them in a Hall that was away from the main group of halls. If content was import it would have been given Hall 2 or 1 the handset guys are still the main bankers for the event as demonstrated by the amount of people in Hall 8. I am still not an advocate for mobile data because I always find the experience somewhat similar to watching HD TV on a black and white screen, i.e. a disappointment. For mobile data to work what you need to do is significantly improve the handset screens and the coverage of the mobile networks data networks. Until that happens then the key data activities on a handset will be text based communication be that SMS/E-Mail/IM dependent on the market. None of these usages should happen when you are moving at a speed, especially if you are supposed to be in control of an car.

The introduction of RFiD to handsets means that a number of new banking services could be launched in developed markets. Germany looks like it will be an interesting place to be at the end of the year with a number of trials following on from the Vodafone and the German Train service.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day Two @ MWC

Second day walking the halls, catching up with friends and being introduced to new ones.

Managed to gain more knowledge as to what the next generation of mobile might look like and what it may be used for. The battle for 4G has already started as people in committee rooms discus just what is possible and how it may be deployed. The new standard for wireless looks like it will be something that is used more in laptops than in phones to start with. This will be a battle between the mobile players and Intel as to what is used in laptops alongside WiFi. I still have to ask if the dash to a business model that becomes based on Data is something that the Networks will do? But the evidence that in 2009 Vodafone will have a commercial network that is faster than the fibre at a cost to build a lot less than the £50/metre that fibre will cost means that if the in-building coverage can be resolved then 4G might just have a business case.

Have managed to continue my discovery of just what might play out in Mobile Banking by talking to a number of players and the issue seems to be a lack of trust between the Banks and Networks. Stored Value services provided by trusted third parties offer solutions for the Pre-paid sector but this not exactly high value transactions! Perhaps as Banks release message based services that are two way rather than alerts then we can look at some of faster deployments of payment programs. Edgar Dunn have written a report for the GSMA that explains that the development of M-Banking is a headline strategic play for Mobile Networks. Are these the same networks that said that the do not need third parties as they hold the billing relationships? Whilst the developers continue to be small players rather than significant organisations such as HP, IBM and Accenture who work in both the Mobile and Banking space then the M-Wallet risks looking SubPrime for some time to come.

Rounded off the day with a relaxed dinner with a small bunch brought together by Simon Rockman. Good to catch up with a few old friends and make some new ones. One more day of meetings and then a late night flight back to the UK to digest and edit all the information gained into something that might be useful and see me gainfully employed for the coming months.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ist day at MWC

After a long day on my feet looking at all things new in the mobile space I now have the time to think about what this years show is about.

In Hall 8 we have the handset manufacturers showing what they might have to take on Apple. I saw the Nokia Press Briefing and saw that they are hoping that the new N78 and N96 will be the big winners in the Computer in your hand fight with Apple. The dark horse may just be the Nokia 6220 Classic which could become the icon handset that every housewife and student has because it will most likely be Free on an 18 month contract for £20 per month. Over at the Sony Ericsson stand the excitement is for the Xperia X1 which the Product Manager had a tight hold of as he was giving demonstrations of just what could be expected come Q3 of this year. My current handset will not be replaced instead I can have the G900 which has a very interesting menu system and was very light to use and has some nice features when it comes to using the camera phone. Nothing on show from the other handset manufacturers that got much attension on my quick spin around the hall. The only other note for those reading this is make tracks for the Symbian stand as they have have imported a barrista from London to make the best coffees in the show and they are free (Thanks Christian for the tip, it was worth the trip and wait).

The big trend was for mobile payment, with a number of NFC devices that were either hardware or SIM based alongside the SMS based remitance services. Did not see much sign of the GSMA backed services from Visa and Mastercard but then I still have a number of halls to still cover.

The big push is in Ubiqutous coverage with yet more talk of Femtocells amd Picocells. Not much sign of the launch of HSUPA although I have managed to enjoy free connectivity thanks to an E220 USB Modem. My device was easy to install and will have to see if I can get the executive office to organise an Orange SIM that works in the UK when I return later this week. The next two days will see a number of meetings to catch up with old friends and learn more about how 3G will evolve into 4G.