20080702

KT-NTT Venture Forum

Announced last May, the first KT-NTT Venture Forum took place yesterday in Palo Alto, CA.

What's in a name ? This is a forum, it features Venture issues, and is led by KT and NTT, the fixed counterparts to KTF and NTT DoCoMo, whose partnership has been already blooming for a while. The brand KT appears first in this new venture, but NTT is a much bigger player.

What's in a location ? Initially planned to host the premiere, Seoul will organize the next round this September. How "neutral" can the Sillicon Valley be ? Both NTT America, Inc. (
nttamerica.com) and NTT DoCoMo USA, Inc. (docomo-usa.com) are based in NYC, while KT America's HQ are in L.A. (ktamerica.com). But Palo Alto is home to DoCoMo Communications Laboratories USA, Inc. (docomolabs-usa.com), and NTT serves customers in the US far beyond the national expat community (ie Verio).

What's in a program ? 12 start-ups showed up and off at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley. 76 avid investors (VCs, Qualcomm, Sony, Samsung, Cisco, Intel & co) attended speeches by CTOs CHOI Doo-wan and Noritaka UJI. Each operator came with staff from 15 BUs. This was obviously meant to go beyond name-card trading and to let the Sillicon Valley take notice : we may not be the new sheriff in town, but we are no small fish either. And we are willing to invest, to make new things happen.

A few days earlier, SK Telecom confirmed the sale of Helio to Virgin*. To go to Hollywood from Palo Alto, you do have to go South...

Both Korean heavyweights are intensifying the competition at home, where KT and KTF will unite and where SKT purchases his way into the home broadband market. The former PTT is becoming more customer oriented and considering bundles (broadband at home with Megapass, IPTV with MegaTV, VoIP with KT, broadband on the go with KT Wibro...).

On the mobile turf, there seems to be a cultural shift these days :

- KTF found its mojo and developped a taste for marketing entertainment**.
- SKT keeps the overall lead (50%+ market share), but seems to be losing some of its cool factor. It is lagging behind his rival in the WCDMA frenzy : 27.4% of the market have been converted at the end of June 2008 and despite a better month by SKT, KTF holds 51.1% of these 12.3M subs.

SHOW succeeded the old SKT way : massive advertising, devoted shops, an aura of fun and buzz. "T" did enjoy the same treatment but with a rather "Deutsche Telecom" flavor : somehow less fun and less buzz. Actually, this zero-affect-non-brand sounds too techno-oriented and not very sexy, while the Show brand is clearly a hit : just compare "show-time" with "T-time" and it jumps at your face.

The leader is putting all its weight on the new USIM-based solutions (that's "T" and "USIM", not a new brand) including contactless payments. The loyalty strategy lies at the core of mobility, in a tiny little fortress of technology, at the very moment the competitor is embracing a more pervasive kind of ambition.


* see "
Helio lands on Virgin island" (20080509)
** ditto Voda : Vodafone Music Reporter is to rock and roll with MySpace



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