Concerns about Facebook’s ability to monetize its growing mobile traffic have resurfaced following its first earnings report since its IPO in May. The social media giant posted a 2Q12 loss of $157m, sending its stock price tumbling to $24 a share – which means its shares are now trading at two-thirds of the value they sold for during the IPO.
Whilst UK mobile operators have yet to fully unveil their plans for a mobile wallet joint venture, dubbed Project Oscar (Weve), the UK’s Payments Council has been quietly working with leading banks and payment networks to roll out a nationwide mobile payments service next year in which the operators appear to have zero input.
Last week I attended the GSMA’s NFC & Mobile Money Summit in Milan to take the pulse of what’s been happening in the mobile contactless payments space over the past year.
Concerns about Facebook’s ability to monetize its growing mobile traffic have resurfaced following its first earnings report since its IPO in May. The social media giant yesterday posted a 2Q12 loss of $157m, sending its stock price tumbling to $24 a share – which means its shares are now trading at two-thirds of the value they sold for during the IPO.
Deutsche Telekom (DT) has followed in the footsteps of other major European carrier groups in unveiling plans to launch a prepaid card in association with one of the big card-payment networks. The German incumbent – which has 90 million mobile subscribers in Europe through its T-Mobile subsidiary – has partnered with MasterCard to enable payments from a stored-value account linked to both a mobile wallet and a plastic card.
Facebook has been at the forefront of the growth in mobile data usage in recent years. It is indisputably one of the big stars of mobile; one that most operators have wanted to ally themselves with to drive the sale of data plans on their networks.
Yet, by Facebook’s own admission, mobile could be its Achilles heel.
The O2 Wallet is the most comprehensive mobile payments service launched to date by an operator in Western markets. And interestingly, although the service is packed full of cool capabilities, such as text-based money transfers, price comparisons and offers, it is not yet enabled for contactless payments. Unlike other players in the nascent mobile payments market, O2 hasn’t chosen to make NFC (near-field communication) the focus of its mobile wallet’s appeal – not like Google Wallet or Quick Tap, the NFC m-wallet service launched last year by rival UK operator Orange. O2 is waiting until NFC handsets and payment terminals are more widely deployed to switch on that capability – but is not banking on it for the success of the wallet.
It’s perhaps too easy and fashionable to trash multilateral operator initiatives – to think they are doomed to failure from the word go. But their dismal track record supports such cynicism. And after attending Informa’s WAC Focus Day in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, one couldn’t help but leave the event with a pessimistic view of the prospects for the Wholesale Applications Community, or WAC for short.
The relationship between operators and Android Market is getting closer. Not only is carrier billing featuring much more prominently on the application store, but so are operator storefronts.
Informa analyst Guillermo Escofet comments on the billing and monetisation issues facing developers working in the many app ecosystems, and also the latest developments from the WAC.
Last year, Orange said that it was giving up on content publishing to focus on content aggregation and distribution instead. Essentially, it pulled the plug on the expensive venture it embarked upon a few years ago to create its own exclusive sports and movie TV channels. As CEO Stephane Richard put it when unveiling the carrier group’s five-year plan in July, Orange does not think of itself as a media group.
Coming as it did just two days before Christmas Eve, the announcement went almost unnoticed. But it was a biggie: Media giant News Corp. divested itself of its ailing mobile entertainment arm, Fox Mobile Group (FMG), selling it to industrial conglomerate Jesta Group, a newcomer to the mobile content scene with interests in a disparate assortment of industries, including real estate, hospitality, manufacturing, technology and aviation.
Earlier this month, a mobile industry player, handset retailer Carphone Warehouse, broke new ground in the cloud-music-services sector with the launch of Music Anywhere. The service is a “digital locker,” in the sense that it is designed to let users store their music collection in a central place on the internet, which can then be accessed by different devices.
It all sounds impressive. So could operators prove sceptics wrong and successfully pull off a multilateral initiative of this scale where so many others have failed before? Could operators have found the answer to fighting back against the huge lead taken by mobile-industry outsiders Apple and Google on the mobile applications front?
The recent launch of Facebook’s new text-only mobile website, 0.facebook.com, is a good illustration of the kind of non-commercial relationship that online social networks and mobile operators tend to form. Although 53 operators from 45 countries have agreed to waive browsing charges for 0.facebook.com users for at least a year, they are getting no payment in return from Facebook. No money has or will be changing hands between the social network and its 0.facebook.com operator partners.