With subscriber growth increasingly restricted to emerging markets with a huge collective population, the operators able to achieve success in these regions will find themselves among the most powerful in the world. And then they’ll want to go global.
Arun Sarin is stepping down from the top job at Vodafone five years after taking the helm. It’s been a bumpy ride, but he’s coming out smiling.
One year into its operation as a merged entity, monster vendor Nokia Siemens Networks is still facing a challenging market. Competition is strong and the growth outlook is not good, as chief executive Simon Beresford-Wylie readily admits the carrier was caught on the back foot. “In 2006, at the time of the merger, the market looked like it was growing. But this wasn’t the case,” he says.
The scale and complexity of enterprise services is mind-boggling. Operators find themselves targeting a vast range of organisations, everything from a ‘man with a van’ removals business right up to blue chip multinational conglomerates with installed employee user bases of tens of thousands and communications budgets of tens – sometimes hundreds – of millions of dollars. There is no such thing as one size fits all and so segmentation plays a vital role.
At the beginning of the millennium, with the fanfare from the 1999 launch of Virgin Mobile UK still ringing in the industry’s ears, it was widely anticipated that an MVNO stampede was imminent in the world’s leading mobile markets. A swathe of consumer-facing organisations, from soft drinks manufacturers and fashion labels to banks and football clubs, were expected to establish some variation on the reseller relationship with network operators, bringing every conceivable brand proposition to a population hungry for mobile services.
If there were such a thing as an anti-WiMAX lobby group (and let’s put aside cynical thoughts that one already exists and is headquartered in Stockholm) it would have had a lot of fresh material to work with recently.
With voice revenues on the slide, data services have long been viewed as the operators’ APRU saviour. Last year finally saw data overtake voice in terms of network load and with many operators now touting the benefits of affordable mobile broadband there is every chance that data volumes will soon dwarf traffic generated by voice. Crucially though, revenues generated from data services show no signs of spiralling upwards.
There are certain things that mobile network operators don’t like to talk about. Revenues generated from adult content, under performing business units or disappointing service uptake are the types of prickly subject that tend to get swept under the PR carpet. But the issues of fraud and security probably top the list of things most likely to be kept tightly under wraps. Vendors, on the other hand, are keener than ever to bring these subjects to the fore.
When you hear of a company that provides service to 185 million cellular customers, your thoughts turn to large international carriers like Vodafone and Telefonica, or maybe a major market giant operating in China or India. In fact, 185 million is the number of subscribers supported by Swedish vendor Ericsson through its portfolio of managed services contracts, according to the firm’s own figures.
With 3G wireless broadband subscriptions forecast to exceed global DSL connections by as early as 2010, mobile carriers are slowly coming round to the realisation that the finite resources of the wireless last mile could pose some serious problems going forward.
How times have changed since the ’60s, when The Beatles were gods and music on the move was a transistor radio in the pocket. John, Paul, George and Ringo formed the first of the superbands and they were epically famous for a reason.
For years the ranking of global handset vendors was a fairly predictable exercise. Nokia was a number one, trailed by Motorola in second place and Samsung in third. Then Motorola’s persistent bout of ill health shook things up a bit, allowing Korean manufacturer Samsung to claim second position last year.
Next generation wifi standard 802.11n is beginning to hit the mainstream, with a steady flow of early adopters announcing plans to roll out the technology over the past couple of months.
Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin has suggested that WiMAX and LTE technologies could be merged, to reduce the burden on the industry of developing dual standards. In a keynote speech at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sarin said that LTE could “provide room for TDD WiMAX.”
Finnish handset giant Nokia sent ripples through the market in late January, with the announcement of plans to acquire Scandinavian mobile Linux developer Trolltech for $153m.
We’re well into the fourth quarter/full year 2007 reporting period now, seeing a mixture of highs and lows but no great surprises.
The world’s advanced mobile markets, perhaps understandably, draw a majority share of industry attention. In these countries the latest technologies are used to showcase the most sophisticated services on the handset manufacturing community’s most cutting edge products.
In January 2007, mobile WiMAX’s high profile American champion Sprint Nextel announced that Finnish giant Nokia would be a “key infrastructure and consumer electronic device provider” for its 4G WiMAX mobility network. Sprint was expected to invest up to $800m (£414.5m) during 2007 and between $1.5bn and $2bn in 2008 on its nationwide US WiMAX network.