Wanted : a stronger Asian CDMA alliance

In a rather Vodafonish / DoCoMish move, SK Telecom recently secured $1bn worth of China Unicom bonds - the equivalent of 6.6% in shares (if converted next year)*. The vehicle of this partnership, China Unicom Limited (CUHK), owns 100% of China Unicom Corporation Limited (CUCL), a mainland operator strong of 130 M subscribers of which 35 M are CDMA.
SKT seems to claim the leadership in CDMA-3G-and-beyond across the world, their US M-VNO Helio being another key part of this vast jigsaw puzzle. Korea's leading cellco didn't get the 10% it wanted but had to do something : it can't support the evolutions of an ailing CDMA community on its own, China pushes TD-SCDMA and Japan's NTT DoCoMo drafted its rival KTF in an impressive regional W-CDMA alliance.
SKT are also launching WiBro these days in Seoul, a few weeks after KTF** and also with Samsung. The Korean manufacturer is said to eye the Indian market for this "han-made" techno but doesn't bet everything on the same horse : a dual mode WiMAX-GSM handset will be up for grabs next year.

* that was the only event during SEK 2006 (Security and Content Exhibition Korea - www.sek.co.kr).
** see "Commercial HSDPA live in Korea" (20060517)


Belle Labs and niche marketing

Nature remains the best innovator.
In Florida, Belle, a 3 year-old and well trained bitch, saved her 34 year-old diabetic master thanks to two disrupting technologies : licking (her master's arm to check the level of sugar in his blood) and toothing (punching "9" on her master's handset to call emergencies - not with the paw but with a not-even-blue tooth).
Try doing this to your girlfriend if she faints on the beach this summer : the baywatch squad will knock you rabid you flat in a second - besides, your insurance doesn't cover handset bites.
We thought we knew everything about canine mobile connectivity*, but now we've got to get ready for SMS spamming from Lassie herself...
niche marketing indeed.
Bunny tip of the day : don't you dare activate Playboy Mobile in the UK unless you can outrun greyhounds.

* in Japan, you can communicate with your dog and know where it is without leaving your office - hell, there are even dog-human translators out there !


Virgin SugarMama and the mother of all mergers

After Fujistu and BenQ, Nokia inherits part of the Siemens DNA... Will a fourth wedding mean the funerals of Siemens ?
To tell you the truth, no one cares : Siemens has never been the sexiest of all brands, nor mobile networks the most glamorous part of the business. The only question could be "WHEN will Ericsson tie the knot with another Asian partner ?"

Meanwhile, Virgin Mobile USA brings the old airtime-vs-ad concept to another level : teens are lured by a generous Sugar Mama (sugar daddies being not that PC) who offers airtime to those who give her some attention. It's an opt-in thing where innovation lies in the multimedia flavor of the candies :

  • "ADTIME: Watch short online video spots and give your feedback.
  • TEXTIME: Answer questions via text message.
  • QTIME: Fill out brief surveys about brands, products, and services."

Besides and unlike session-by-session formulas where people have to undergo ads right before calling, Sugar Mama smarly leverages on its customer's "spare time".

The day is full of time outs when watching ads can be something else than a chore. That should be stimulating for admen as well.

Unlike at the network level, you may not have to tie tighter knots to lock your customers and partners.


World Cup Train - coverage and cover up

TU Media, SK Telecom's satellite mobile TV operator, will launch World Cup Trains for the Korea-Togo game : on June the 13th, a KTX bullet train will leave Busan at 9:30 and another Seoul at 9:50. All passengers will follow the game on big screen S-DMB devices.
This "event" is about coverage but also about covering up another event : TU Media's competitors just announced the coverage of Seoul's subway lines (1 to 4) with their own T-DMB techno. It's terrestrial, it's free, and you don't have to go all the way from Seoul to Busan to enjoy the games.
T-DMB operators started much later than SKT but since they don't need to control the devices, they can leverage on a much bigger community for terminals. The mobile TV function logically became an extension of PMPs (such Portable Multimedia Players as ReignCom's iRiver Pocket TV) as well as other screens (ie digital cameras : Samsung's Miniket Photo).


Watcha sure, but who's gonna paya

Under the "Watcha - TV goes mobile" motto (but with a SGH-P900), debitel started their T-DMB service on time for the World Cup*. Fernsehen macht Spass but also money : €9.95 per month... I'd rather invest in a digital TV USB key or player (both are selling fine in Korea and advertising started in Europe).
In a quite sober press release, Samsung reminded their readers they also provided DVB-H handsets for the Italian market - it's not us vs them, after all. This small operation with a minor VNO is just a PR thing... we don't want to fight with European majors - nor leave them in the hands of Nokia.
If European big league MNOs are definitely interested in mobile TV, right now they're doing a lot of noise at the top of their voices. Actually, voice reached its top and time has come to slash roaming rates. The anti-Vodafone alliance reacted to Vodafone-and-3's announcements but once more, a not so impressive way : T-Mobile, Orange, Wind, Telecom Italia, Telenor and TeliaSonera proposed common goals for October (retail max €0.45 / mn) and next year (max €0.36 / mn), but Telefonica-O2 declined in order to salvage their golden goose beyond the 2006 summer season.

* Watcha :
www.watcha.de and www.debitel.de/tv.

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