It’s a good time to be launching a new mobile brand in the UK. EE will, to all intents and purposes, be a new network but crucially, one which has excellent coverage to compete with the existing players. This is what has made it difficult for new operators like 3 in the past. Most importantly, when EE launches later this year it will have at least five devices that work on the 4G network including the best-selling Samsung Galaxy 3.
I remember speaking to a senior director at a Middle Eastern telecoms operator five years ago about Formula 1 motor racing and Vodafone. He’d got used to seeing Vodafone’s name plastered all over race tracks as a sponsor of first the Ferrari and then the McLaren teams. But he didn’t know that Vodafone was a telecoms operator (Vodafone did not operate in his country) – he thought it was a sports marketing brand.
They sold out of wifi-enabled iPad mini tablets at 8.30am this morning at the flagship Apple store in Regent Street, London. It has been a similar story every day this week. The nice Apple lady in the shop told me that the queues were now starting at around 6.00am.
I always vowed never to write a piece based on my own personal experience as a telecoms consumer. But I am excusing myself just this once because two things happened to me in the last week that have caused me to question whether operators really are committed to improving the customer experience. And just to be clear, I am adopting a broad definition here of customer experience rather than the narrow big data and analytics part of the equation.
Ben Verwaayen is not prone to making headline-grabbing comments. He is a seasoned industry campaigner but not really the type of industry leader to obsess about developing a strong public profile. But when, at a shareholders meeting earlier this month, the Alcatel Lucent CEO was asked about some of the factors behind the company’s slide back into the red, Vervaayen referred specifically to the status of telecoms regulation in Europe and the pursuit of policies which risked creating a “digital desert”.
The thought of Apple becoming an MVNO and offering its customers IP voice and messaging services as a cheap alternative to conventional voice and SMS is one that keeps many mobile operator CEOs awake at night. It is not just the loss of voice and SMS revenues that alarms operators. It is the risk that the operator would lose so much of its retail business. Network operators would become invisible to many of their (previous) customers.
Unresolved questions about the Nokia–Microsoft tie-up hung heavily over Barcelona today like the grey clouds and drizzle which seem to have become an unwelcome feature of the Mobile World Congresses in this city.
When the mobile industry became aware of the potential of HSPA to offer high speed mobile broadband services more than five years ago, the key protagonists – mobile operators and network infrastructure vendors – decided that this would inevitably mean the end of the public wifi business model.
An agreement between 15 of the world’s largest mobile operators to combat the dominance of Apple in mobile applications dominated proceedings on Day 1 of the Mobile World Congress here in Barcelona.
It’s hard to imagine an industry that generates US$200 billion in global revenues – a figure that’s growing 35% a year – as anything other than an outstanding success story. But for some time there has been a widely held view that the mobile content sector is failing to live up to expectations, 3G has disappointed and mobile operators have thrown away an opportunity to develop a revenue stream that could ultimately surpass the voice business.
Mobile operators are starting to uncover new business models that help to address the problems posed by saturated mobile markets and high handset subsidies.