20060228

DoCoMo 4G The Wizard of Hz - Orange Landline Landmines - BT's FRED for free - Swisscom's 5in1 for 99

Bubbles start popping again. Vodafone concede their assets were overevaluated, Florentino Perez concedes the wealthiest club on earth may not the healthiest, and BT concede their disruptive "broadband dialtone" concept won't be free.
Following an interview in "Mail on Sunday", some believed BT would invest big sums in their 21st Century Network (21CN), plus £12M just for VoIP, just to offer broadband to anyone who wants to plug in. Make that "unlimited" instead of "free". Cardiff will go live by the end of the year and the rest of the 21CN (some 30 countries) in 2008, one year ahead of schedule. The aim of the game is for people to meet with FRED (BT's Fantastically Really Easy to use Device concept). Just like in your mid-90s slides, FRED sells convergence, optimized consumer experience, or seamless multidevice environments.
The difference is FRED does sell : BT Movio (to Virgin Mobile), BT Fusion handsets (BT Broadband at home, your MNO on the go - 13,000 units sold to date), BT Equinox (fixed-line SMS), internet radio (PC based and soon an enhanced TV based version with teleshopping, televoting and telewhatevering thanks to a new red button)... FRED will even launch - this spring - the already cult Bluephone (see "
Bluephone : a 2,005 pound gorilla or a GNOME ?" 20050316).

Another former PTT keeps talking convergence and furthermore, acting accordingly. Swisscom's HSDPA coverage will reach 20% of the population mid-2006 and about 40% by the end of the year. That's the equivalent of Switzerland's main cities : it will cover more surface on the industry's newspapers than on the local maps but far enough for the operator's new devices to make sense. Less glamour than FRED, but truly "ready to use" : there is a Swisscom Unlimited PC Card 5in1 (GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA and WLAN) with a CHFR 99 / month plan, but also an Unlimited Laptops solution developped with Fujitsu Siemens and Acer (embedded SIM, one touch connection, various plans including a CHFR 5 / hour concept, TTM June 2006).

Orange are a former PTT too, through France Telecom's DNA. As expected, they now claim to be "an integrated communications provider" and intend to become "the total communications provider". Orange Landline for Business means fixed line service for SMEs with one stop shopping and billing, simplified supply chain and service support models, convergent packages and bundles, discounted rates between Orange fixed and Orange mobile number ranges or to 'Business Circle' numbers (top 10 landline contacts), Orange Business customer service with a Landline Performance Promise...
But Orange Landline for Business also means Orange Landmine for Partners : the F/MNO controls the whole chain and intends to lock the customer's entry points as fully as it does in France.


How about the mother of all PTTs ? NTT DoCoMo have been talking 4G even before releasing 3G. We knew from the start they meant business because of their capacity problems : even HSDPA / HSUPA cannot solve them and DoC is bound to lead once more in commercial TTM. From time to time, the Alchemist skillfully displays a few glimpses of his witchcraft : "by increasing the number of MIMO transmission antennas from four to six and by using 64-QAM (NB : Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), data volume per transmission was increased from four bits to six bits. As a result, DoCoMo achieved a maximum speed of 2.5Gbps, which is faster than the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)'s proposed standard". The Wizard of Hz also pushed frequency spectrum efficiency to 25 bps per Hertz, the limit as defined by WINNER (the EU's Wireless world INitiative NEw Radio). In other words : I've been working on 4G on my own according to the rules and the guidelines of standardization bodies, but I've already beaten their expectations. So you'd better follow me if you want to go further and quicklier.
Technology's always been the MNO's main hobby, but they have some 50 million consumers to please and a few technologies to sell before they get obsolete (i-mode, V-Live, i-motion, FOMA...). So the DoCoMo - Nippon Television Network Corporation JV (each partner injecting 5 bn Yens) will start on April 3 under the D.N. dream partners LLP name. What's in a name... the Master Of DYI finally understanding what kind of partnerships he really needs to succeed ?



20060220

MySpace Mobile On Helio with Hero and Kickflip

This isn't the latest George Lucas flick but a series of announcements made last week by Helio LLC (SK - Earthlink's Haryuwood M-VNO aimed at the younger generation)*.
We knew SK Telecom planned a rather ambitious fun-based strategy to succeed in this year's highly competitive draft (Virgin & co). They seem to be delivering the goods : a key partnership with MySpace, and two exciting 3G EV-DO handsets :
. the Hero by Pantech & Curitel : processing power optimized for music & video plus stereo speakers (MelOn anyone ?), a 2 megapixel cam with digital zoom & flash (straight from your mobile to your MySpace blog), a superb luminescent screen and even a removable memory...
. the Kickflip by VK Mobile : a swivel handset with the Hero capabilities, said to be addictively ergonomic.
The surprise comes from the deal with Murdoch's MySpace, a competitor to SK Telecom's Cyworld (even if the latter's popularity mustn't go far beyond LA's Koreatown this side of the Pacific Ocean).

To me, this proves how determined Helio are to succeed. Size matters, as well as Time To Market : the MySpace community claims 5M new members every month and must be reaching the 50M mark...
How long will this exclusivity last ? Even if it's for a few months, that's definitely good news for the marketing and sales teams : other partnerships should follow soon.
And who knows... Why not an even bigger deal with Sir Rupert ?


* See "
Hello Helio - here comes the sun" (20051118 + the previous posts related to Helio / SK-Earthlink).



20060219

Tele2 - the end of the affair ?

Tele2 for sale ? The telecom hotspur stucked in a Metro station and missing the broadband wagon ? The leader of cheap voice knocked down by VoIP and genuine category killers ? The Sverige AB nemesis laughed at by Stockholm's establishment ?
Thank the Swede Lord for small mercies : Jan Stenbeck didn't live to see this. He could have sold the business for a much higher price a couple of years ago but back then, Tele2 was still about swiftness and smartness, the most ambitious challenger getting ready for the broadband era, ready for the shift from solid value chains to more disruptive value networks.

That Daredevil somewhat turned into a rusty Iron Man ; the leader of the pack into a follower in the pack. Can the spirit revive ? Is there still something not virtual to be salvaged up there ?



20060216

Play it again, Samsung ?

Mainland Chinese mobile TV operators ordered 500,000 Samsung DMB-T phones, but in Hong-Kong SAR / Xiang-gang, big figures don't necessarily mean good news :

  1. Hutchison Whampoa sold a 10% stake in 3, but to Goldman Sachs and for a lousy 420 million euros. They keep delaying the IPO and see their deal with Skype fall in the shadow of Telefonica's "Plug'n Talk" VoIPo3G solution (even if, for the beginning, it is limited to laptops & PCs through USB & Memory Sticks).
  2. PCCW Wireless added 310,000 new 3G subscribers in January, but without disclosing the cost of their welcome packs (six month of line rental fees, 10,000 mn of local calls per month, unlimited SMS, unlimited 3G browsing... why did only 310,000 take it ?).

The Chinese jackpot was just one part of Samsung's PRsenal in Barcelona : the kings of crossbar confirmed their ambitions for DMB-T in Europe (trials with TF1 - Bouygues Telecom starting later this month, SGH-P900 on time for the 2006 World Cup, undisclosed negociations with several MNOs...), but will also be ready for DVB-H (SGH-P910) and MediaFLO. Besides, Koreans (for a start) will enjoy an exciting SPH-B4100 which allows simultaneous T-DMB and S-DMB*. There's also fish to fry about Microsoft (i320 with Windows Mobile 5 and a keyboard), HSDPA (Z560) and naturally WiBro (a new device - M8000 - and a new deal : Telecom Italia will use Samsung Wibro solutions next year).

To celebrate in music, Samsung decided to showcase a supposedly customer-oriented (but MNO / CSP driven) SecureMMC application lyrically dubbed "Music download service supporting OMA v2 DRM & MMC with Beep Science"... Play it again, Sam ?

Another player put his cards on the table : Option exhibited GlobeTrotter FUSION+ HSDPA (a HSDPA/UMTS/EDGE / Wi-Fi / PEPPERONI / ANCHOVIES combo Data Card) and GlobeTrotter GT MAX (a tri-band HSDPA / 3G UMTS Data Card already snatched by Cingular GlobalConnect for a promising new plan : unlimited at home + 100Mb abroad). Down the corridor, CSI Wireless tried to plug their fixed wireless (GSM or TDMA) phones : Series 405 (basic) and Series 415 (speaker phone capability + internet access & email via PC).

As expected, HSDPA is getting mainstream (ie Intel working hand in hand with the GSMA to boost embedded HSDPA in laptops) and HSUPA starts making noise far beyond the darkest alleys.

As expected also, "mobile TV" is more often heard than "wireless data". But even if "mobile goes TV" looks strong in the charts, this is only 3GSM radio, and we soon will move back to the "TV goes mobile" tune**.

* 2 channels at the same time, in other words. On the same mini-screen ? Korean will soon outclass Japan in miniaturization. When you think Ninendo consider adding a mobile TV tuner to their DS Portable gaming systems...

** the Murdoch lads managed to sell once again their Sky By Mobile (skybymobile.com) concept. This BSkyB's mobile counterpart to Sky By Broadband leverages on the whole Sky machine : Sky TV by mobile, Sky News, Sky Bet, Sky Digital, Sky Sports (including the Baclays Premiership and UEFA Champions League)...



20060215

Barcelona 2006 Mega SIM city

Just to wrap up my last post ("TDtv and IP fews" - 20060213) : note that Orange will try IPWireless' TDtv during Q3 2006.

That's not the only news 3GSM visitors could squeeze from "Naranjita", who definitely made the headlines* with their Mega SIM concept : a 512M SIM card meant to handle heavy multimedia stuff.

Come on... You don't want to be SIMlocked for your music as well, do you ?
Not only do MNOs compete with music retailers : they're going at the SD / CF market as well, turning their handsets into slot machines.
The equation : one machine (LG for a start) = one slot = one card provider (your usual casino operator - err... mobile network operator, sorry). And make it quick before Compact Flash takes everything.
The catch ? It's just like in Sin City : your hotel provides you with a superb card to play on all its slot machines but you cannot play across the Strip unless that other casino belongs to the same mob.
More fundamentally : you want your storage device to be compatible with all your gadgets
. This Mega SIM makes sense if it boosts your online experience (voice, data) and/or helps you switch handsets quicklier than you change clothes - if it is meant for storage only, you will still need other slots or ports.
Yet, it's about time MNOs realize they can do better with this exclusive entry point.


* sorry for Nok-nok (Nokia 6136 - UMA, GSM / W-LAN, microwave oven and satellite dishwasher), Skype (voice over-hyped with 3 & co), Comsys Mobile (ComMAX, "a full Mobile WiMAX baseband processor")...



20060213

TDtv and IP fews

When I write "IPmobile have remained relatively silent" (after getting a 3G license in Japan)*, I'm only talking about the 3Greenfield operator.
Because mother company IPWireless has been fairly active lately.
In 2006 alone : Sprint Nextel injected another $10M in the venture, the CEO resigned, new & old faces joined the board, and IPW announced TDtv trials for H1 2006, not to mention partnerships with MobiTV and Vidiator.

Based on MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Standard) and, unsurprisingly enough, UMTS-TD-CDMA, this mobile TV solution will naturally be exhibited in Barcelona this week and - a little bit later - used by IPmobile in Japan. IPW's 3G-3GTV combo matches Qualcomm's cdma2000-MediaFLO package : with a slightly smaller customer base to start with, but also with the 3GSM label.
As the GSM family gathers near La Sagrada Familia, faces look much less grim than a couple of years ago. This mob used to milk the neighborhood without pain but suddenly got challenged by competitors and incorruptible regulators. The association reorganized itself in order to cope with both and now looks stronger than ever, able to lead in a world of competition and diversity, eager to market to third parties a consumer base bigger than China.


* see "J:COM's quadruple play : within the fence" (20060210)



20060210

J:COM's quadruple play - within the fence

"J:COM Mobile powered by WILLCOM" will start on March the 1st, 2006. J:COM customers will naturally get a discount fee, and the second line will cost them 2,000 yens instead of 2,500. "WILLCOM Flat-Rate" and "Toku-Toku Talk" plans are also meant to boost multiple subscriptions and intra-customer base traffic. Handsets are of course provided by Kyocera, a major Willcom shareholder.
J:COM aim for a "grand slam" on a relatively medium sized ball park ; a little more than 2M subs overall end of 2005 (3.5M for Willcom) : TV 1.8M (of which 650k digital), internet 911k, telephony 970k. Their homes-passed potential stands at 7.89M.
DoCoMo & co are not facing a power hitter either : J:COM Mobile are a 2G PHS M-VNO. A few hundreds of thousands of subs and a local flavor could mean a sustainable business model. For J:COM, that is : in the long run, WILLCOM must find a way out of 2G... or rather into 3G.
Japan's new 3Greenfield operators should be open to partnerships with wireless players bringing a few million customers along. After being awarded their licenses, IPmobile have remained relatively silent while the other two didn't seem to waste their time.

Significantly, Fidelity Investments Japan Limited just took 11.41% of eAccess last January. A few weeks earlier, eMobile would welcome aboard another financial partner : Goldman Sachs Group. But other players joined too, including Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd, a specialist in entertainment contents. eMobile keep the same TTM target : data services by the end of next fiscal year and voice services one year later.
BB Mobile Corp (Softbank) announced a nationwide mobile broadcasting service by 2012. That will be 5 years after 3G launch but content has already been locked : Softbank's Yahoo! BB are massively doping their movies, music and games portals for IPTV and other screens.

And yes, both BB & e keep talking about WIMAX... Obviously, a xDSL-3G TDD combo is not enough.
But still, there's no shame in drafting minor league cable-PHS customers for pre-season training.

See also : "
3Greenfield Japan" (20051113)
J-Com : http://www.jcom.co.jp
eMobile : http://www.emobile.jp



20060208

Chindias Regal

2005 was the year China became passé. Everybody pulled out of the Middle Empire and invested massively in India where developpers speak perfect English and bubbles (real estate, financial, political, social, ecological, stock-marketal, Mittal...) are less likely to burst in the very short term. Besides, luxury brands eventually realized India would soon become their main market (the country will go from 11 to 20% in about the same time it takes a Ferrari to go from 0 to $200 fines).
Wireless India gained 3.5M subscribers last January and if big metrocities keep claiming the bulk of Bollywood consumer bases, mobile network operators seem committed to roll out in rural India and lower handset retail prices as much as they can : the race has started with the promoters of "fixed-wireless" solutions, supported by your usual suspects from Redmond, WA or Santa Clara, CA, but also by ambitious WIMAX players from Asia.

Don't expect a massive crop of antennas across the Indian horn fields, though : medium-sized cities are big enough for a sound business model, and Monsanto already sprayed Roundup everywhere.



20060206

Reinventing leadership or supersizing Nokia ?

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo wants Nokia to become "the most loved and admired brand in the world". So he hires a top marketing gun from Coca Cola.
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo wants Nokia "to tell a story with each product" and according to four main customer benefits "Design & Style", "Modernity", "Rational" and "Easy & Reliable". So he hires a top marketing gun from Nike.
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo wants Nokia to remain the global leader, so he hires top marketing guns from other global leaders who've never reinvented themselves.
I'm not saying Nokia will turn obese, nor start manufacturing handsets by the hands of Pakistanese kids.
I just thought a leader could reinvent itself only by thinking out of the box... and definitely out of the Happy Meal or shoe kinds of boxes.



20060201

SK Telecom - the year of the milking cow

I must confess financial data tend to bore me. SK Telecom's figures for 2005 look nice enough, even after retracting SK Teletech's sale*.
Considering the competitive circumstances, keeping a 50.9% market share and adding 750,000 subs inspires respect. The success of Wireless Internet (26.6% of all cellular service revenue) should be tampered by the vastness of the definition of "wireless internet", but no one can contest the achievements of MelOn and Mobile Cyworld, or the ingeniosity of the MNO's data plans.
2005 was yet another exciting year for them (even when followed from this not so exciting blog), but also a year of restructuration with spectacular changes in management and a significant marketing rationalization (the marketing expense to sales revenue ratio went down from 17.2% to 19.2%).
2006 should be less juicy from a financial point of view : SKT must invest in HSDPA, face the competition of DMB-T and Wibro at home, and push abroad... but the year could prove much more exciting from a strategical point of view, especially in the contents / partnerships arenas and in the US**.


* see "Hardware behind, hard work ahead" (20050504)



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