WiBroken hearts

How could WiBro possibly make it ? KT seems to maintain their 2006 TTM but earlier this week Hanaro decided to drop a techno their partner SKT was already feeling so-so about (focusing on HSDPA, the next "universal" mobile techno...). The MIC may be looking for new WiBro license holders, who can sign a check for it and for the roll out ? That would be a little bit less than a billion bucks for an ailing project even the nation's #2 broadband powerhouse can't afford. Hanaro still needs to recover from the purchase of Thrunet and must face fierce competition : Dacom's Powercomm is coming, and the leader KT keeps pushing harder on convergence (ie their last phone service KT Ann extends the home sphere with sms and more innovative gimmicks such as ringo). Even in Korea, being a leading broadband ISP is not enough anymore.


Finding MIMO ? after MoMu and MoMa

July 2004 : long before the opening of the new MoMa on the West 53rd, the MoMu opens its virtual gates to the world. SK Telecom's online Mobile Museum encompasses 20 years of wireless experience and is in itself a broadband experience : even with huge Hanaro or KT Megapass bandwidth, browsing the site takes some time. The thing is all major architects were drafted for the Leeum, Samsung's Chairman Lee Geon-Hee's Xanadu and a place to see if you love Korean ceramics (ie a unique Buncheong ware collection) and traditional art - as far as modern art is concerned, Leeum's impressive check-list sounds like a turn of the millenium's Frick collection.
Well. R&D people have other worries than art, worries worthy of the age of mobile broadcasting : will "Finding MIMO" (Multiple Input Multiple Output) be the next blockbuster, will this uncertain roadmap "Trow mamma off the train" or will they have to bury "The Mummy" ?

Korea's W-CDMA : all paths lead to roam

According to Yonhap (see news), interoperability trials are under way with NTT DoCoMo : Korea's KTF and SK Telecom can provide W-CDMA roaming in Europe late may 2005, on time for the summer boom.

This quick fix may give W-CDMA some appeal to Korean frequent travellers. Things are not that easy for the third 3G operator : LG Telecom is supposed to provide a cdma2000 1x EV-DV service even Qualcomm can't offer (Big Q's shareholders seem to be discovering the CDMA roadmap limits).

Yet. After satellite DMB, Korean MNOs relying on Japanese operators for a key technology... Not the best way to remain one step ahead for the next gen (ie OFDM centric).


I want my m-TV

The MLB season is on and as usual, the Mets are struggling to appear less ridiculous than the previous year... but at least, all teams look small on mobi-MLB's little screens.
Yet, power can make for size and
Idetic just smacked a dinger over the fence : after Sprint PCS, Cingular / AT&T Wireless and Midwest Wireless, Canada's Rogers Wireless picked their MobiTV solution for Rogers Mobile Television.
Idetic is definitely an ambitious fast mover. We're in April and the season is just starting. More operators will come, and so will new channels. Before clinching the MLB deal last march, MobiTV signed an interesting roster (MSNBC, ABC News Now, NBC Mobile, CNBC, FOX Sports, The Discovery Channel, TLC, Comedy Time, California Music Channel...). Europe is clearly on the 2005 roadmap : new offices in London, good PR at 3GSM, a former Vodafone Global Product Council member in charge of international expansion (Ray DeRenzo).
It took Idetic less than one year to go from buzz to boom. One can wonder how an "independant" can make it where the big guys in broadcasting struggle. First it helps not being a big guy in broadcasting when you deal with big guys in wireless. Second it helps to have a good cast : start with good managers, do the right pick at the august 2004 draft (Menlo Ventures and RedPoint Ventures), hire a few big league advisors to get a comprehensive picture of the game (backgrounds : Nokia, Qualcomm, IBM plus Phone.com / Openwave's Chuck Parrish), and wrap it up with efficient PR (mainstream media brought articles just weeks after the draft). And third it helps to have a good service and a knack for dealmaking.
I expected USA Inc to win back part of their 1G leadership in 3G through broadcasting, but I find it rather refreshing to see whole new players lead the way that smartly. Many will crash but a few Yahoo!es will go all the way.
To be continued.


Satellite of love

Tele2 eventually goes mobile in France on a bitter slice of Orange : the future is bright but the rates "retail minus"... even if they just recently broke Wind in Italy, France Telecom obviously don't give a fart about pleasing this once heavyweight telco.
Excuse my French but the closest thing to a media empire Kinnevik hold in France are a couple of local Metro editions and some radio or 3G TV broadcasts for their Luxembourg commuters (ie
Tango.TV)... Nothing to be compared to NRJ, M6, TF1, TPS or Canal+, to name a few players that matter for France's MNOs.
Back in 2001, Bouygues Telecom used to be the laggard among the three but now that SFR & Vodafone Live! are acting as leaders in mobile multimedia, Orange tend to stick to #3 with a common minorange minority front : first on EDGE and now on DVB-H, where #3 brings Bouygues' #1 in free TV (TF1) and #2 in pay TV (TPS). To match this impressive crowd for their own DVB-H trials, SFR will partner with 3 born-again leaders : Canal+, Towercast and Nokia. And to make it spicier, Vivendi may even replay the Telecom Developpement episode with 9 Telecom, once again snatching away from Bouygues a promised bride.
The fun is just about to begin.


"Protect Dokdo !" but save your soul

KT's mobile arm turns into Korea's mobile army : KTF co-developped with North Korean people a wireless game called "Protect Dokdo!" where the players are supposed "to stop the invasion of Dokdo by Japanese pirates".
After surfing on the 2002 FIFA World Cup wave with a smart moto "Korea Team Fighting", KTF openly contributes to the anti-Japan fad growing within the whole region. The fact is Japan has been committing hara-kiri for years in a suicidal surge of revisionism, denying its past and blocking its own future, rewriting history books, forging archaeological proofs, and among other unnecessary provocations claiming the Korean islet of Dokdo.
In order "to help Koreans feel national pride" and "to raise interest in the issue of Korean sovereignty for the island of Dokdo", KT Freetel offered the download of the game for free for over a week. And to make it even more martial, a "Fly the Korean Flag" service marked Korea's Independance Movement Day. The operator is even considering new "public contents to inspire patriotism and pride in Korean culture and history in the teen and twenty-somethings, the heaviest users of KTF wireless service magicN".
Don't get me wrong : I do support Korea's national team, I'm pleased to hear about a collaboration between Hanguk and Choson and I'm very much in favor of an end to deliberate revisionism from the other side of the former "Sea of Korea"... but this Short-sighted Messenging Service is totally insane and irresponsible. Far beyond bad taste, committing oneself to propaganda is just wrong. There are more clever and positive ways of bringing people together and answering to Japan's dumbest dieharders.
KTF would better stick to soccer and accept both an offside and a yellow card. Stephane MOT


Over the air

Easy does it again : a few weeks after the UK and T-Mobile (where they expect between 250 and 500,000 subs end of year 1, reaching the 1M mark within 2-3 years), easyMobile will land on Telfort's network in the Netherlands thanks to Stelios' Danish partner TDC. Opening new routes gets simpler by the day for M-VNO airlines. When will the big companies go for their own discount carriers ? Austria's One just said YESSS! : an orgasmic brand for a rather non sexy service which could crash the same way as KLM's buzz. The sky isn't fully crowded yet but CWH's new M-VNO (SIM-Only) starts cleaning it with very aggressive international rates (Mobile World cards charge 7p per minute for Europe, 5p for the US, even if the national rates remain as Fresh as 15p).
The war is on and many will fall but one player just found the perfect niche : 100,000 loyal subs and a lovely £2.9bn contract with the Home Office... TETRA is eventually making it in the UK. O2's Airwave O2 service will protect and serve The Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and thus the policemen and women of the whole United Kingdom.
And while O2 expose their bobbies, Tele2's Tango expose boobies over the air in Luxemburg : they've been broadcasting free TV over 3G for almost a month now, following the launch of radio over 3G (Sunshine Radio Luxembourg). Tango TV (TTV) is available through the T.TVMobile wap portal (wap.ttv.lu) and of course hosts an erotic channel.
Over the air again, different vibes, different game : the same day Samsung Electronics introduced their 3D game phones with vibration capability (SPH-G1000 & SCH-G100),
3 UK launched over the air real-time multiplayer gaming services. The games are sold between £3 and 7.50 but can also be rent 25p per day or 50p for up to 3 days. Three hope it will be as successful as their football services. This could actually become Chelski and Hutch's year : Hutchison's 3G squad (3 + HTIL) reached 8M subs end of T1, adding 1.7M within the last 3 months.


Wal-Mart : a Korean Wave after la Movida ?

Wal-Mart hired IW Group, Inc, a PR firm specialized in Asian American minorities, to launch their first ever Asian language ad campaign in the US, starting with low income minorities (first 3 languages : Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, "everyday van lo price" and all that). But one could expect Korean or Japanese Americans to be targeted soon, IW Group's headquarters being located in L.A., the CEO and COO answering to the names of Imada and Song, and Wal-Mart holding a few stores in both Korea and Japan. Anyway this isn't just about respecting cultural diversity, and as Song puts it : "Asian Americans in general are fiercely brand-loyal, have the highest median household income in the country, and have a combined purchasing power in excess of $360 billion".
As expected , Wal-Mart should consider a Movida-like M-VNO for this yellow gold target and the said "brand" will be an issue (unless they opt for a P&G-like strategy). First the US and then overseas.
When I think about it... Europe used to mean one techno (GSM) but dozens of languages while the US meant one language but dozens of technos. It seems to me the King of Retail is following the same path as China : the next wave of cultural & economical expansion will not be blind monolithic imperialism but will leverage on each country's wide range of cultures.


Radio killed the video stars

More meshed potatoes ahead ? MusicFM are selling about 20,000 live streams from their website everyday thanks to 4FO's Potatosystem.

The format is neither "Red Apple" nor "Yukon Gold" but MP3 whose inventors, Fraunhofer IDMT (Fraunhofer-Institute for Digital Media Technology), initiated 4FO (4FriendsOnly.com Internet Technologies AG) back in 2000 with the help of the local university (Technische Universit├Ąt Ilmenau). The payment system (Paybest) and DRM system (Game Feature Platform or GFP, also implemented on the Softgames portal) are home made solutions too. The business model gives the bulk of the money to the artist and co-founder Tim Renner, a former Universal Music top exec, makes sure no music major is needed. Most songs are performed by German alternative bands, only a few big names accepting this up-to-now-not-so-secure system. Yet it seems to be catching, thanks to a smart viral marketing tool : buyers can become reselling platforms and get a 20% discount on the song. Besides, MusicFM knotted a partnership with T-Online's Musicload portal.

Presented at CeBIT 2005 on a Nokia 6630, PotatoSystem Mobile Music Messenger enables "mobile music chat" and users to pre-listen the songs of other PotatoSystem users while sending SMS. Talking about viral marketing... But such synergies between radio and mobile wouldn't be a first : years ago France Telecom Mobiles (now Orange France) and a few partners launched a system where you could order from your mobile the song you were hearing on the radio as it was broadcasted. You heard a familiar tune but couldn't remember the artist or the title ? No sweat : you just needed to give the station's name and could purchase the CD instantly. At that time, people envisioned the handset as the ultimate remote control. At that time, people were focusing on the GSM - W-CDMA path and DAB or DVB were as good as DOA. At that time, Virgin Radio was preparing for radio over UMTS on the Isle of Man.
Whatever the techno, narrowcast fanatics should remember open minded people will always enjoy some kind of broadcasting. Even automatic shuffles on an iPod owner's collection of songs won't replace the editorial line of a good DJ.


Zero paper zero tolerance

21 tons of paper could be spared if half a percent of SK Telecom's 19 M customers switched to their e-mail / wireless internet only billing service. The operator would save quite a few wons too... enough to give 100 wons to Green Korea United for each customer joining the crusade in this win-win-win-win utopia.
Even so, SKT should be careful before mass mailing bills : the MIC set at 30 million wons (about $30k) the maximum fine for mobile spammers, following the recommandations of the Korea Information Security Agency (KISA) and its Korea Spam Response Center arm.


Quadruple play : all bases loaded

Road Runner has been running a M-VNO-like trial for about two monthes in Kansas City, MO. The heart of the US seems to be beating fine, even if the commoditization of quadruple play bypass surgery can take some time. "Beep-beep" took a Sprint to outpace the competition, but Time Warner Cable expects the Vile E. CableCoyotes (Comcast, Cox & Co) to follow suit soon.
Content isn't the key issue : the ability to deliver will count (ie Time Warner Investments keeps a few coins in GoldPocket), and voice will remain the killer app... If not the killee app.

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