Wherever I may roam
It’s not often in the telecoms world that operators go above and beyond the requests of the regulatory authorities. But that’s exactly what happened this week when Telefónica launched an affordable roaming plan just one day after the European Parliament voted to bring rates down within the EU.
Telefónica claims its pan-European data roaming tariff is “up to ten times cheaper” than the price caps approved by Europe this week, with customers on the Movistar and O2 networks able to use up to 25MB of data anywhere across the 27 European Union member states for just €2 per day.
The tariff is being launched first in Germany in May and will be available this summer to roamers, wanderers, nomads, and vagabonds on the O2 and Movistar networks in Spain, United Kingdom, Ireland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The European Union approved legislation earlier this week, ruling that as of 1 July 2012, 1MB data usage should cost no more than 70 Cents – working out at €17.50 for the 25MB Telefónica is offering for just €2.
In the press release announcing its new data roaming tariff, Telefónica said: “Doing what is right by the customer has become our obsession”. This led the Informer to wonder what the company’s obsession had been prior to the tariff. Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner, perhaps? Tamagotchis? Desperately trying to find a picture of Coventry City’s Brian Kilcline so that it could finally finish its Panini Football ’86 sticker album?
That would be a bit weird, of course. But then the Collins English Dictionary does remind us that obsession is “often associated with mental illness”.
Not that the Informer is saying that everyone at Telefónica is psychotic. Rather its claim of obsession is just the latest in a long line of hysterical attempts from corporations to emphasise that they care more about their customers than anyone else could possibly understand. First it was a focus, then a commitment. Next it was a passion. Now it’s an obsession. What next – a crippling addiction?
Given that this is indeed a linear progression towards ever more ludicrous proclamations, the Informer offers up the following to any company that might like to use them to stress its commitment to the quality of the customer experience:
“Customer satisfaction matters more to us than the wellbeing of our own children.”
“We would gouge out our own eyes to see a customer satisfied. Although we wouldn’t be able to see them, because we’d have gouged our eyes out.”
“We would rather see a customer dead than unhappy.”
In other Telefónica news, the innovation arm of the Spanish incumbent has been somewhat less obsessive, finally getting around to offering its first retort to the third party messaging apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber that have been happily tucking into the operators’ lunch for the last couple of years.
The TU Me application, presumably named as such in foresight of the attempt to redirect traffic in some Chuckle Brothers-esque industry slapstick (to me, to you, to me, to you…) and not after Sainsbury’s own cheap pants clothing line, enables rich communications between app users on any network, not just Telefónica’s. It also has much in common with what is expected of the RCSe collaboration Joyn.
The Informer notes that the app will be “free to use at launch,” and “will continue to be developed with added value functionality,” which suggests premium functionality—and associated pricing—is in the post. As one of the Informer’s analyst chums pointed out, it’s not a particularly exciting prospect for consumers because it doesn’t offer anything that’s not already available and it’s not cross platform either. It is however, interesting to industry pundits like yours truly, in that the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger among other OTT services are set to take almost four per cent of voice and messaging revenues from the mobile operators in 2012.
TU Me may be app-based, but from a functionality perspective it foreshadows the network-based Joyn RCSe initiative, announced at MWC in February. TU today stands in direct competition with what is planned for Joyn, yet will likely in future be run in parallel. This is not the first time that Telefónica has pushed out its own version of a product on which a collaborative effort is in the works. O2 UK recently unveiled its mobile wallet service, while its Project Oscar JV with Vodafone and Everything Everywhere remains held up by EC investigation. Interestingly, TU, like the O2 mobile wallet, is designed to appeal to subscribers of competitor networks as well as Telefónica’s own customers. Looks like Telefónica’s playing both ends of the field.
And so is social darling Facebook, which sees its new App Centre as a revenue generator for its own platform’s applications by flagging up popular apps for mobile platforms. It’s one of those concepts that focuses on the discoverability of the diamonds in the rough, helping users sift through the mountains of rubbish to find the good stuff.
The App Center will showcase iOS, Android and HTML5 apps and if a mobile app requires installation, users will be sent to download the app from the App Store or Google Play. But the company will also be selling web-based HTML 5 apps for the Facebook platform, for which it will no doubt take a slice of revenues in a bid to demonstrate a solid revenue stream ahead of its monster IPO.
If you founded a multi-billion dollar valued business, the Informer suspects you can pretty much do what you want, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently demonstrated by splashing out $1bn on Instagram, purportedly without his board’s knowledge. The Zuck once famously met with initial investors hours late, still wearing his pyjamas. But he has lately come under fire for showing a lack of respect to money men by persisting in his hoodie and sneakers attire for meetings.
That doesn’t seem to have stopped him spending though, the firm added another acquisition to its books this week as it seeks to shore up its talent pool ahead of its imminent IPO. Glancee is another one of those mobile discovery firms. This one started in 2010 and claims that it’s not a dating app or a social network, but is designed to bring users into contact with others that share similar interests. The focus is on location enablement, with the app running constantly in the background and alerting users whenever others with similar profiles are in the immediate vicinity.
So doesn’t it tread dangerously close to the functionality that landed creeper app Girls Around Me in hot water not so long ago? Or is it different if you’re actively, rather than accidentally, giving up your location and profile details, bearing in mind that Facebook’s own obfuscated privacy configuration was to blame in the first place.
Things ain’t looking too rosy for the Instagram deal at the moment, though. Word is that the American Federal Trade Commission has begun a competition probe into the deal, which could delay it well beyond the expected IPO launch.
There was acquisition news from newly instated king of the handset hill Samsung as well, which has picked up US firm mSpot, a specialist in cloud storage and streaming of multimedia content. Having a strong services play is seen as essential for many handsets OEMs these days, and the deal will give Samsung a cloud-based services suite, catering to music, video and radio services for users of its devices. “mSpot’s entertainment services will be a key integrated offering on newly announced Samsung mobile devices,” the firm said. The cloud firm’s existing offerings are akin to digital locker services like Google Music or Amazon Cloud Player, allowing users to upload content and access it via a variety of web-enabled devices.
Digital content fell under the gavel in the Netherlands this week, as the Dutch senate passed a net neutrality law that makes it illegal for ISPs in the country to filter internet traffic. As a result, all traffic must be treated equally and may not be blocked or throttled. The Netherlands is the first European country to adopt such a law, and the second country in the world to do so after Chile.
The move ensures that end users have unfettered access to over-the-top services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber. What’s more, ISPs will not be allowed to alter prices to reflect the use of such services on their networks.
An exception clause to the law does allow for ISP filtering when requested by customers, a clause that remarkably was voted for accidently last year by the Dutch Labour party, after a sub-amendment was proposed by the Dutch Reformed Protestant Party SGP and Christian Democrat Party CDA. Senator Han Noten of the Labour Party said that this would be corrected by a further amendment, after fears that it could lead to internet censorship.
Ah, internet censorship, that old bugbear. Exactly one day after the net neutrality bill was passed, the Court of the Hague ruled that the Netherlands’ leading ISPs must block access to the Pirate Bay. The same ruling has been made in several other European countries of late, but the Informer is not quite clear on the beneficial impact of such a stance. It’s well known that maintaining such a block, technically, is impossible. There are always workarounds available for the pirates (Yarr!), which are charged with doing so much damage to the content industry. So this move doesn’t fulfil that objective. Moreover, if it is so easy for sites to be blacklisted, then why is there a need for controversial proposals like ACTA at all?
Anyway, the Netherlands was also in the crosshairs of Latin America’s own Daddy Warbucks, Carlos Slim, who tendered a bid for KPN via his operator America Movil. The LatAm firm is currently the third largest operator group in the world, in terms of subscriptions, according to Informa’s World Cellular Information Service (WCIS) and sought to take its stake in KPN from 4.8 per cent to 28 per cent, as it aims to expand its geographic reach.
Increasing the scope of its business in Europe would improve innovation within the business, and given that Latin America is a prepaid-dominated market, moving into Europe would help create more postpaid users for the firm.
The offer is symptomatic of the shift of power going on in Europe, where the regulatory environment is arguably hostile to telcos, weakening them sufficiently to make them quite an easy acquisition target.
Yet Slim’s offer was roundly rejected for “undervaluing the company,” although the chase may not be over yet. The Dutch firm undid another shirt button and said it will “seek further clarification as to America Movil’s intentions” and will “explore all strategic options.”
Slim after all, is a man with a big appetite. And so are readers of AWIW according to a certain application developer who contacted the Informer this week. After four months in development, the hotly anticipated and first-of-its-kind ‘Superfood-powered’ weight loss app for iPhone is expected to launch, the release harks, before jabbing an accusatory finger into your wobbling paunch, dear reader:
“We believe that your readers in particular would find our app of great interest.”
Never mind. The Informer understands; it’s your glands.