Saturday, May 10, 2014

So where are we going in Mobile?

I look at the mobile ecosystem in Europe and fear that rather than making progress it is regressing, people are not innovating rather they are controlling costs in order to offer some kind of financial return for the shareholders.

Back in 2008 the former Strategy Director of Orange and I were telling everyone that if the Mobile Networks were to have a future as well as building out networks they needed to invest in improving Voice services or they would end up hollowing out the core business. Well I guess they were not listening.  My own family fear making telephone calls on the basis that they are too expensive regardless of the fact that I have told them that the tariff they are on means that they have unlimited to calls to fixed and mobile numbers in the UK. Asked to say how much a call costs they appear like a Government Politician asked the price of a pint of milk and a loaf of bread.

Meeting with others involved in Futurology and they have moved on from evangelising Apps to now push the rise of Wearables/Internet of Things/Big Data.  I am reminded of the Early Days of Imagineering at Orange  where they worked with Charles Church and Microsoft to build a House of the Future in Commuter Belt Hertfordshire.  People were asked to come and live in the house and then observed in an effort to understand what was possible and what was not.  The biggest issue I have with the Automation of the House is just how do we propose to install the technology into the millions of houses that we have already built because at 150-200K new homes a year it's going to take a very long time before the market is of significant scale without such.  I look outside my window at home and less than one in fifty houses where I live have a solar panel despite financial incentives. I know that I am due another round of renovations as it has been nearly ten years since I replaced the bathrooms and lighting. But I don't think that many others would say right now is the time to invest in enabling my house to be run by the Internet.

If I were to make the investment in enabling my house to be part of the next wave of technology what guarantee do I have that I have invested in the VHS solution rather than Betamax?  Worse still will my investment be that of MiniDisk proportions and in a few short months the novelty of the new has faded and I no longer wish to use Nest to control my heating system or who ever supplies my lighting system.  Worse still now will my connect fridge work if I persist in shopping at the Farmers Market rather than Whole Food Market? My artisan Butcher, Baker, Brewer and Cheese maker will not sully their products with smart tags and life is too short for me to inventory everything that comes into the house.

The fate of Nike's Fuel Band is something we can expect to see with Google's Glass and an number of current trendy fitness bands. Am I going to have another shoe box of tech junk that will only be fit for my own personal technology museum because they were once mass market and are now obsolete?

Perhaps now is the moment for the Mobile Networks to take greater control of there assets and whilst installing 4G technologies also adapt the API's that are used by Internet Firms to enable Apps and Internet of Things?  In doing so they can once again price the value of connectivity this time using terms such as Quality of Service, Security and Enhanced Bandwidth to get extra payment above that of basic utility prices.

We are at the very early stages of 4G in Europe, it will be another 2-3 years before the service is deployed to cover the majority of the Landmass in most countries and then the speeds available will slowly be increased and new services/businesses will come to the fore.  I do not expect that the companies that will dominate 4G are know yet just as Apple, Android and Apps were not on the tip of everyones tongue in 2003.        

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