20060530

Voda results and a DVB-H Kartel

German MNOs definitely took their time to answer debitel's M-VNO - DMB combo*. Vodafone, E-Plus, O2 and T-Mobile unsurprisingly decided to push DVB-H, but their joint approach may prove counterproductive : it looks like clumsy lobbying from all 3G auction winners / losers (Telefonica included), with the benediction of the main lobbyist behind European UMTS then and DVB-H now (Nokia, a former Finnish timber company building forests for towercos). The message : we paid the price for your bad spectrum allocation management so this time let us do our job. We'll take care of everything and TV operators will enjoy an efficient one-stop-shopping system. Mobile TV belongs to us not to them, we need to recover some of our losses thank you.
Losses ? Voda painted their net loss of 21.9 billion pounds a rather T-Mobilish pink in a "Delivering against expectations" section where they "meet or exceed all financial guidance for FY05/06". Meet "financial guidance", the latest financial indicator... a sure hit after the 2000-2002 EBITDA wave, even if all analysts are not bound to dance on this one that easily.

Other remarks :
- over 5% of total revenues for the FY (10% for the last month) were generated by "3G devices", which means "3G" itself delivered much less than that.
- one year after the French NO (to the constitution as well as to the sale of SFR), Europe seems to have stalled. Spain looks fine but Voda warns the audience : fiercer competition in 2006 means weaker results ahead.
- messaging put aside, data jumped an impressive 60% but only represents 3% of controlled service revenue. Revenues can be "stimulated" but margin will improve much quicklier across the Red Empire through a much less glamour "disciplined execution".
- dividends are definitely following a positive curve but in such a context that sounds like a strategical dead-end
- The Verizon Wireless operation comes handy and I'm not sure it will be the case in the future. I see neither strategic vision nor long term commitment in the following statements : "Vodafone's board will always consider shareholder's value", "Vodafone is happy to remain in the US with its existing stake". Actually, I don't think shareholders are happy to remain with the existing lack of strategy.

Now moving on to the "Mobile Plus" revolution (which could be translated by "we cannot survive as mobile only but we cannot scream our loss of face so loudly so let's label fixed services as mobile extensions") : Vodafone At Home and Vodafone At Office were very much needed, and tapping into the advertising well makes perfect sense, but the company seems to define itself as a follower.


If I didn't expect Voda to turn into a daredevil overnight, a cultural shift demands at least some affirmation from a leader. Here, a "customer demand led" Vodafone cautiously dips a timid toe inside the fixed arena ("only the fixed services customers want") and doesn't even expose its own brand in the advertising field where it is so much relevant : to me, leveraging on Google only, a rival in location-based services, instead of developping the Vodafone brand is a strategic mistake.

Well... I've definitely not been very kind to Vodafone lately, but I'm holding no grudge against them. Only expressing some frustration considering what they could do. I felt the same about Orange a few years ago and I hope it won't take them as much time to deliver.

* see "CeBIT unnovations" (20060312)



20060525

Free broadband for broadwallets

Back to the future : remember the panic seizing operators when the "free internet" tidal wave landed on their shores ? We're back at it and with a larger magnitude.
But this time is different. Operators surf the wave and just unleash a small part of the potential of truly convergent offers.
After Carphone Warehouse and BT, Orange UK announced a free broadband bundle. Actually, you have to subscribe to Orange the mobile service to get Orange the fixed broadband service for free. In other words, Wanadoo is dumped a second time within a few weeks.
So even these days, there's no such thing as a free service. For instance, "Free" requires paying £20.99 per month at CWH.
Vodafone are expected to announce something beyond their getting rid of Arcor or a few of their top execs getting rid of their positions.



20060521

Being intelligent - on your to do list

Seoul Digital Forum 2006 - World ICT Summit starts next week in Seoul. Steve Balmer, Paul E. Jacobs and a few others* will chat more pervasively than evasively about digital intelligence around the topic ''Being Intelligent: The Next Digital Revolution. Smart Devices, Robotics and the Future''.

Actually, even to survivors of the internet bubble, "being intelligent" seems a major shift.
Not as glamorous as it sounds, yet. Because "being intelligent" is more and more about thinking as and designing for dummies. Since "Digital Intelligence" failed to be intelligible, since our own emerging mobile markets include elderlies and technophobes, handset manufacturers started competing on dumbphones as well as on smartphones.

Note that dumbphones are not meant for dumb people ; they're made by dumb people who thought they were smart. They put "intelligence in the device" and "intelligence in the network" but were outsmarted by consumers who either made hits of the applications they didn't believe in (SMS) or flops of applications they considered as killers (sorry, I don't have enough space to list them).

So the next revolution means let's get rid of that smartass, let's make the human as irrelevant and transparent as possible, let's talk real business, machine to machine. No more mistakes ? Not so sure : to err is human, but to RFID is devilish.

"Being intelligent" was "being eBay" ; anyone selling anything to anyone anytime. "Being intelligent" may turn out to become "being Woot!" ; selling one object per day. Home shopping the most basic way, almost repulsive : "We anticipate profitability by 2043 – by then we should be retired; someone smarter might take over and jack up the prices. Until then, we're still the lovable scamps we've always been."

Now that's what I call intelligence and a truly forward looking statement.


* surprisingly enough, a rather strong French delegation makes the trip - after all, Bernard Spitz is also working on the 120th anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and Korea.

Websites :
SDF :
http://www.seouldigitalforum.org.
woot! :
http://www.woot.com.



HBO Mobile highlights, teasers and tasers

Nothing disruptive in today's article in the NYT "For Tiny Screens, Some Big Dreams" (20060521). Digital Chocolate's shares should go up for a while but beyond that, nothing really new.
Yet, that was the occasion to mention HBO Mobile and the concept of series-highlights for catch-uppers, some kind of a sequel-teaser for those who missed the Sopranos or their favorite program. You can see who stole the base during the bottom 5th without being stuck on your seat for 9 innings, you can tell what Jack Bauer's been doing without following him everywhere all those damned 3600 seconds. That's what highlights are all about : putting the bulk of the time in the dark. That's what mobility is all about nowadays : getting more essential but less substantial.
The younger generations are growing up with their own figures of speech (which has always been the case), their own writen language (an heritage from SMS and e-mail) and now their own emotional quick fixes (sneak peeks, highlights, teasers, flashes, vibrations, artificial "Events"...) ; your mobile and your remote control* as tasers directed towards yourself. It's getting more and more difficult to make you react but that's the only way to make you feel still alive.


* in my case, it's the same device, remote con becoming a basic feature in handsets. Korean web, TV and mobile programs are becoming more and more exhausting for overstimulated networks and viewers.



20060520

A new Vodafone vis-a-vis Japan

Far from Jean-Marie Messier's extravaganza at Quai Branly celebrating the purchase of Mannesmann by Vodafone and that of Universal by Vivendi (and matter-of-factly the launch of Vizzavi), Arun Sarin and Masayoshi Son shook hands at a Tokyo hotel to celebrate the sale of Vodafone KK - to Softbank (and matter-of-factly the launch of a 11 bn yen and 50-50 JV between Vodafone and Softbank).
We're not witnessing the birth of the next Yahoo! : because Son has been holding Sunnyvale, CA in his heart and wallet for too long, but also because this JV is more about actual mortar than virtual clicks.

The Indo-Brit and the Korean-Japanese will cooperate on handsets (development and purchase), software (creation) and mobile content (creation and distribution). No farfetched branding this time - only a sober Softbank Mobile Corp to replace the doomed KK, and no hint regarding the future of Vodafone as a brand in the archipelago.



20060519

A fine slap on the wrist

1.78 billion seems quite a heavy fine but we're talking Korean Wons and not even 2 million bucks. Korea's Fair Trade Commission found out a collusion meeting occurred between the 3 MNOs on June 24, 2004 in order to put a stop to flat rate systems, an attractive concept for customers but a repulsive one for shareholders. For a much milder crime, French operators had to pay hundreds of millions (Euros this time).
Competition again : SK Telecom said their new HSDPA service* would mark a shift in the market "from membership-based competition to service competition". Don't expect this elaborate wording to mean "price war" either. I guess it will go beyond the cultural shift where average customers won't have to take a ticket to be served at the customer service boutiques (VIPs should still enjoy the operators' lavish lounges).
What does this "+ life"** mean then ? A better customer experience for videocalls, downloading and roaming. Videocalls will become faster and cheaper : a W Standard Rate is comin'up soon at a mobile theater near you at 1.3 won per 0.5k packet. Automatic roaming just started with 02 in Frankfurt, Hannover and Leipzig - a 100% coverage for Korea's first round in FIFA World Cup 2006. Voice calls to Korea range from KRW2,444 to KRW2,826 per minute and videocalls stand at KRW 5,829 per mn. Still not cheap.


* see last post "Commercial HSDPA live in Korea" (200060517)
** SKT labels the service "3G+" or more simply "3+"... which makes Hutch a Three Minus ?



20060517

Commercial HSDPA live in Korea

SK Telecom launched its HSDPA service in 25 cities yesterday and intends to cover 84 by the end of the year. KTF will follow in June with 50 cities.
Dubbed 3.5G and announced at 5.76 to 14.4 mbps rates, HSDPA will be limited to 1.8 mbps at the beginning due to the lack of handsets : the only one available right now is a W200
Samsung slider model costing 800,000 wons without subsidies. SKT expect handsets to allow 7.2 mbps rates next year and 14.4 in 2008.
W-CDMA was almost shunted in Korea, but KTF are eventually leveraging on their partnership with NTT DoCoMo for the World Cup : as the official sponsor of the Korean Football Association, they're advertising about successful roaming video calls between members of the official supporter group (Red Devils). Meanwhile, WiBro trials started rather discretely in Seoul : only a few southern areas like Gangnam-gu or Bundang are covered and a WiBro Bus* will roam the streets to draft testers. Subscriptions are expected to be twice the cost of a fixed broadband connection.
As for DMB, Korea Pool, the joint negociating arm of all three broadcasters, clinched a deal with InFront to make sure all 64 games are broadcasted. No one will lose and certainly not consumers.

* KT WiBro Experience Bus : www.ktwibrobus.com. Note the pedagogy of WiBro : allIP + Triple Play (Data, Communication, Media) = Personal Broadband.



Wanadoo wannabe Orange

France Telecom's ugliest brand is dying and not many will be mourning. The future is bright, the future is Orange, the future is convergent and France is eventually experiencing the true launch of the Brand. By a simple change of name, Orange the 3G runner-up MNO will claim the broadband lead and Wanadoo the anti-competitive incumbent will be absolved from his sins.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm still mourning VoiLa, a beautiful brand created by beautiful minds from the Belle Province and FT R&D labs. Now that was a global brand (try launching Orange in catholic Ireland), a brand meant to offer something to the multitude, not to press the juice from millions of customers.



20060510

Jeju Telematics celebrates the wedding of GPS and DMB

Jeju-do, Korea's capital island for honeymooners, has been a test bed for enhanced telematics since 2004. When the trial period ends next July, the Jeju Telematics consortium promoters (beyond the MIC and a few VCs : SK Telecom, SK Communications, SK C&C, Samsung Electronics...) could start exporting the concept to mainland ROK.
Nothing revolutionary there : LBS, 3D navigation, multimedia broadcasting... but you can tell SKT are involved : e-mail since the beginning, Cyworld, DMB games and TV for the second phase started last month. Samsung's 3.7 inch touch screen PMPs (Portable Multimedia Player) complete the multimedia oriented consumer experience. It definitely beats NATE Drive's handset craddles for seamlessness.



=> Jeju Telematics website :
http://www.jejutelematics.com.



20060507

Helio live at last

That's it. The party is on at Hollywood - Santa Monica where SKT - Earthlink launched Helio, their much awaited* M-VNO. Celebs, hot air and an empty blog mark the first day of operation.


I'm not exactly in a mood for West Coast hype. So if you don't mind I'll leave it up to you guys (another thing I don't quite like from that area : being youguyzed). Good luck and let's just see how you perform.


* For over one year - see previous posts on Helio (last one : "
Another good fairy over Helio's cradle" - 20060414)
** Heliomag :
http://www.heliomag.com.



20060503

Internet Explorer 007 - licence to kill

Fox hunting season in Redmond, Washington : tired of being snatched whole market shares, Microsoft hired IE double-o-seven to whack Mozilla Firefox. IE7's main "innovation" ? The very tabs system invented by its competitor. An unprotected specie, just like the windows concept invented by Apple before MS turned it into its most valuable brand.
Internet Explorer already proved leathal against Netscape. Not thanks to its own virtues but thanks to Microsoft's dominant position in the OS field. The time for justice to nail the murderer, it was too late for Sun... now a major promoter of open source softwares.
Microsoft can cry the EU rivers, and invest millions to prove communicating their codes would endanger their capacity of innovation... I guess it would cost them much more to prove this very capacity of innovation still exists.



20060502

Hiwire - Aloha Partners, Goodbye Stranger

"The Largest Owner of 700 MHz Spectrum in the US" ? Aloha Partners' claim might lure investors but won't attract many consumers. So last week, their mobile TV trial arm, Hiwire, teamed with SES Global SA / SES Americom to help Charles Townsend fulfill his vision of mobile digital TV (and matter-of-factly fill his future pipes).
We've seen Aloha try Flarion's FLASH-OFDM in Tucson or 3G CDMA2000 1x EV-DO with Lucent. Flarion and CDMA almost belonging to rival Qualcomm, Aloha bets on DVB-H in Vegas for his new partnership. Smells like Finn spirit... guess who could be Nokiaing on heaven's door ?

Links :
- Aloha Partners :
http://www.alohapartners.net
- SES Global SA (SES Americom) :
http://www.geamericom.com



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