20050901

Brand new KPN - Brand new USA - Same old standards

KPN-Telfort are not the sexiest player around but they do have interesting cards to play. Of course, these days, the buzz is about Telfort's HSDPA trials with HUAWEI for an expected H2 2006 TTM. But the buzz should rather be on the Chinese manufacturer gaining shares in the European handset market soon : their Huawei U636 UMTS/GPRS/GSM won't help the mainland get mainstream that early but it could be the begining of something*.
KPN are the ideal partner for a big brand wanting to build a solid base in Europe. This medium-size incumbent is gaining - if not momentum - confidence. Enough to consider taking a bite of O2 in Germany after wolfing down Telfort in the Netherlands. Enough to launch VoIP and In-car TV at home. Enough to try such unfamiliar M-VNOs as Ay-Tildiz (for Turkish communities) or MTV (for the youth - not the main brand but local channels : TMF in the NL, VIVA in Germany). Enough to have KPN Mobile, Telfort, E-Plus and Base bring cash flow. Yet the group lacks scale, thus the discussions with Deutsche Telekom regarding O2 Germany. And neither O2 nor KPN have brands, whether DoCoMo likes it or not**. Anyway, KPN's board is screaming "f..k me I'm getting famous".

The other side of the Atlantic, I found interesting Verizon Wireless' cut in unlimited 3G EV-DO charges for existing PC card subs : $59.99 per month***, that's a little bit less than 50 euros but certainly not an offensive move. If Verizon aimed at bigger market shares or even substitution, they wouldn't focus on their high value customers. Even if they're moving closer to Cingular Wireless (47M subs vs 49), they are clearly fearing churn and a fiercer competition. As a matter of fact, voice and data are being discounted (the Google Talk - Yahoo ! Dialpad - MSN Teleo war certainly won't help) and concentration is speeding up : number 3 Sprint finished swallowing Nextel and starts pushing EV-DO, Alltel just became number 5 after absorbing Western Wireless, and number 4 T-Mobile is almost up for sale (Vodafone would love to split from CDMA Verizon but they already have to get out of their KK quagmire, plus T-Mobile US may need $10 bn for network improvement and 3G licenses - Cablecos are also cited as potential predators). The market will definitely be fun watching as auctions are nearing. Remember the time when US operators would invest massively in Europe ?

Now US players are more interested in US players. History will tell whether the 600 million bucks Qualcomm will lay for Flarion and their FLASH OFDM (Fast Low-latency Access - Seamless Hand-off Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex - Now You May Breathe) techno helped ever the microsoftian Doc Jacobs rule 4G or, to the contrary, postpone to 5G the rise of a truly universal mobile standard****.


* Bad news for Nokia, still struggling with a 17% market share in 3G.
** As expected, i-mode proved a low end and limited brand : 12% of E-Plus' customer base (1.158 M i-moders in Germany mid-2005), 11% of KPN Mobile's (725 K i-moders in the Netherlands), a symbolic 1% of BASE's (25 K i-moders in Belgium). Often praised as a successful NTT DoCoMo sales representative, Bouygues Telecom launched the service on November the 15th, 2002 but converted only 16% of their base end July 2005 (1,230,000 i-moders in France).
*** newcomers remaining at $79 and V-Cast - VW's unlimited handset access - at $15, the same price as Verizon DSL's 768K offer with a one year contract.
**** (gee, I gotta stop foot-noting my damn blogs) GSM+ is winning the propaganda war : to confront CDG's end H1 figures (128 cdma2000 operators +22 committed to deploy next year), the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association) announced 96 operational GSM/EDGE networks in 60 countries out of a total of 153 networks committed to EDGE in 85 countries.



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