Tuesday, July 31, 2012

M-Commerce Growing to 24% of Total E-Commerce by 2017

The mobile commerce market is expected to account for 24.4 percent of overall e-commerce revenues by the end of 2017, according to ABI Research.

In 2011, the mobile online commerce market doubled in size to $65.6 billion in transaction volume.
Still, mobile commerce is a relatively small percentage of the overall e-commerce market, though growing at a much faster rate.

Tablet Ownership Now at 34%

Some 58 percent of American consumers now use smart phones (76 percent among those under age 44), while tablet usage has grown from 0 to 34 percent in two years, according to Frank N. Magid Associates.

By mid 2013, the smart phone audience will increase 53 percent from 99 million to 151 million users, and the tablet audiences will more than double, from 51 million to 106 million users, Frank N. Magid Associates predicts. 

Among consumers planning to purchase mobile devices in the next 12 months, 51 percent already own a tablet, while 75 percent already own a smart phone.

BT Sees 13 Percent Olympics Traffic Spike

BT has reported a 13 percent increase in traffic on its national infrastructure over the last seven days, as the Olympic Games traffic has surged. Average peak traffic on the BT London 2012 network was estimated to be over 6 Gbps, BT says.

So far, at least, fears of bandwidth bottlenecks have not really emerged, with the exception of O2 having trouble sending Olympic cycling results.

FreedomPop Free Wireless Internet Now for iPod Touch

FreedomPop, which offers a freemium model mobile broadband service, now is supporting Apple iPod Touch devices.

FreedomPop buys capacity from Clearwire, and offers a free 500 Mbyte access, with pricing of additional gigabytes at $10 per gigabyte. Apparently the notion is that many users, especially pre-teens and teenagers, will want to use their iPod Touch devices on the network.

6 Mobile Payment Myths, According to Intuit

Mobile Payments Myths

London 2012 Summer Olympics Streaming Stats

After a slow start on Friday and Saturday, Sunday was the day that the streaming of Olympics video  In the United States accelerated, with several networks reaching 34 percent of overall bandwidth, while volume grew by more than 100 percent over the initial two days of events,  Procera reports.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Big are Google Fiber Subsidies?

Google says it aims to make a profit offering Google Fiber services in Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo., despite offering symmetrical 1-Gbps broadband access at $70 a month, and free access at 5 Mbps for a minimum of seven years (users of the free service pay the
$300 drop installation and connection fee). 

Some have wondered whether Google Fiber can achieve its goals, and if so, what the "secrets" of its cost savings might be. It appears there are some savings, though it is not by any means clear how important those savings might be. 

Google gets free central office space; free power; no charge for access to the City’s assets and infrastructure; no charge for rights of way, permits and inspection fees; settlement-free interconnections with anchor institutions; free marketing and direct mail, and even free office space for Google employees. 

Some might argue that Google has shifted much of the cost of its business to the Kansas City taxpayers, some would argue. Some of those savings mostly affect the one-time cost of network construction. 

The free facilities will save some money, and the ability to avoid paying for power likewise will help control operating costs. Google also will presumably gain some benefit on the marketing front. 

Still, none of those categories would seem to offer a decisive cost advantage. Also, Google Fiber is talking on some costs for which it will receive no revenue, especially the free 5 Mbps it plans to offer for seven years. 

O2 Mobile Network was Swamped by Tweets During Olympic Bike Race

O2's mobile network was to blame for a disruption of timing  reports in the Olynpic cycling race, after a surge in tweets from spectators' smart phones disrupted transmissions from cyclists reporting their positions on the course. 

"There was a capacity issue with Box Hill at the weekend," an O2 spokesperson said. 

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) was picking up race data from location-reporting transmitters on the bikes. This data was then supposed to be sent to the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), using the O2 network. 

But congestion of the data network apparently prevented many of the reports from being sent. 

Growing Interest in Image Capture for Mobile Banking and Payments

Though much legitimate attention now is paid to communications methods such as near field communications or barcode scanning as a way of enabling mobile payments or other financial transactions, image capture might be getting much more attention for a wide range of banking and payment operations.

PayPal, for example, has acquired card.io, a San Francisco-based company that provides technology for developers to capture credit card information by using the camera on a smart phone.

And virtually all the leading U.S. banks now are using or adopting image capture technologies that allow a mobile phone camera to take a picture of a financial record as part of a transaction, says Jim DeBello, Mitek Systems CEO. Depositing a check remotely is one example of how image capture can be used to facilitate a transaction. 

For any consumer, the value is pretty simple and obvious: a check deposit can be made remotely, with no need to go to a physical location, stand in line and wait to make the deposit. 

Insurance companies are interested in image capture for similar reasons of convenience, but perhaps more for creating instant rate quotes for consumers who snap a picture of their driver's license and auto vehicle identification number, and get an automated rate quote, for example. 

Many retailers also may want to use image capture to allow users to make remote payments, as they now use electronic banking services. In other cases, a retailer might want to enable use of image capture for providing an instant quote to a potential customer.

A consumer might be able to take a picture of a current credit card statement and then have a potential new supplier make an automatic quote for switching the account. 

Some 60 million U.S. consumers have a checking account, but use no other banking services, says DeBello. That means it might be possible to encourage those users to adopt new services, or use new products, if doing so were as easy as taking a picture. 

Perhaps a prepaid mobile user could take a picture of an existing prepaid card and add more value to the account. 

For virtually any company that normally has to process large amounts of paper, the image capture capability could streamline transactions of many types. 

"Computers" Hardly Matter for Apple, Anymore

Apple doesn't call itself "Apple Computer" anymore for a very good reason. It makes its money, and profit margin, selling phones, as Wings of Reason illustrates. 

Is "Mobile First" Now Affecting Financial Returns?

Is "mobile first" now affecting application and device provider financial returns? You might argue so. 

 “What we’re seeing is that the non-mobile-centric Four Horsemen, Amazon and Facebook, aren’t seeing the same big profits as the two mobile-centric ones, Apple and Google," says  Yankee Group Research VP Carl Howe.  

Facebook’s overall revenue in the second quarter of 2012 hit U.S.$1.2 billion, up 32 percent and beating estimates, but the company posted a net loss of U.S.$157 million vs. income of U.S.$240 million posted a year earlier. 

Amazon, for its part, announced a 96 percent drop in net income, to U.S.$7 million, primarily due to investments in and subsidies for its best-selling Kindle Fire mobile device, 

But Google and Apple, which you might argue have head starts in terms of their "mobile first" strategies, are doing better, financially. 

In fairness, Amazon does, as a matter of strategy, emphasize big investments that provide strategic value, even if it hits quarterly earnings. You might argue that is simply what happened in the second quarter. 

Facebook frankly admits it has to create a mobile strategy, but has yet to do so in practice. 

Some People Just Don't Want to Buy Cable TV

Would lower prices-even prices 50 percent lower-convince you to buy a product you really did not want? That seems not to be the case for some 33 percent of survey respondents who have abandoned their video entertainment subscriptions, according to TechBargains. 

Prices arguably are getting to be a major irritant for most consumers who buy video entertainment services. But not for all. Some consumers simply do not see value in buying video entertainment services at all, no matter what the price. 


Global Handset Shipments Decrease for the Second Consecutive Quarter

handset.jpgAs important and as robust as mobile subscriber growth has been over the last decade, it is not invulnerable to economic stress. In fact, on a global basis, mobile handset shipments have declined for two consecutive quarters. 

An economist, tracking any nation's economic performance, would say that set of data marks the beginning of a recession. 

“Handset shipments have not seen a sequential year over year decline since the global economic crisis of 2008-2009," says ABI Research senior analyst Michael Morgan.

Of course, handset purchases often are affected by consumers waiting for hot new models to be released, while some might also note that the second quarter is a seasonally slower quarter.

Apple, for example, experienced a 26 percent quarter over quarter decline in shipments in the second quarter, as consumers withheld purchasing an iPhone in anticipation of the new model to be released in the late third quarter. 

Research in Motion and Nokia experienced 14 percent and 30 percent quarter over quater declines respectively. To some extent, those dips might partially be explained by customers waiting for the next major product families from each of the suppliers, and in part by a shift of demand away from both suppliers. 

North American Mobile Capex to Grow in 2013

North American mobile operators will hike capital investment in 2013 to support fourth generation inetwork construction, ABI Research estimates. But some think 2013 might market a peak of mobile capital investment on a global basis.

Mobile capital investment fluctuates from year to year, based on network upgrade plans, economic conditions and competitive threats, and investment has been building since about 2008, partly because of 4G network constructiion and partly because operators were cautious during the Great Recession that began in 2008.

“North American mobile cellular capital expenditure is expected to hold its ground in 2012 year-on-year, with expenditure of around $10 billion”, says Jake Saunders, VP for forecasting at ABI Research. “In 2013, mobile capital expenditure is likely to surge 4.9 percent to $10.5 billion.

Service providers are in many cases also shifting investment from older networks to 4G. Verizon Wireless, for example, has announced an end to the  expansion and capacity enhancement of its 3G network, in favor of building out its 4G LTE coverage.

Mobile operators, as typically is the case, squeezed capital expenditure during the economic downturn in order to protect cash flows and maintain profits. What normally happens is a catch-up phase where deferred investment gets made.

Wireless Intelligence notes that total global mobile capex peaked at $204 billion in 2008, at the beginning of the financial crisis, accounting for 21 percent of total revenues.

However, capex then fell to $197 billion (19 percent of revenue) by 2010, as operators reacted to the crisis. In developed mobile markets operators reduced capex by eight percent in 2008 and by six percent in 2009, increasing capex again in 2010 as many operators began investing in LTE.

The typical investment slowdown in tougher economic times boosts free cash flow, at least temporarily.

The reductions in capex over the last few years saw operating free cash flow grow to $200 billion (19 percent of revenue) by 2010, up from $133 billion (11 percent of revenue) in 2007.

This means that global operator cash flows are now roughly at the same level as capex. In 2011-12, Wireless Intelligence has predicted operator capex to remain stable at 16 percent of total revenue in developed markets and 23 percent in developing markets. OFCF will account for close to 20 percent of total revenues in both regions.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Zealand Mobile Operators Eye December 2012 Decision on Mobile Payments Venture

New Zealand mobile service providers say they will decide by the end of 2012 whether to create a mobile payments joint venture. 

Bank-owned Paymark, Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees had said they wanted to form a mobile payments business in April 2012, based on use of near field communications. 

Another mobile payments trial was launched in the spring of 2012. 

Google Fiber Could Get 20% Penetration of Some Kansas City, Mo. Neighborhoods, Quickly

Within just two days, more than 20 percent of the eligible neighborhoods on the Missouri side of Kansas City already have already reached Google’s thresholds for activating home drops. If all those households actually wind up subscribing, Techcrunch reports.

Each neighborhood can have a different threshold, ranging from five percent of homes to 25 percent of homes.

Google Fiber could hit at least 20 percent penetration relatively quickly. In the neighborhood with the highest rate of interest, Google Fiber has reached about 18 percent of homes. 

You can track progress online. 

Things apparently aren’t moving quite as fast in Kansas City, Kansas, though, where the median household income is significantly lower than on the other side of the city.

Twitter Users Disrupt BBC's cycling Coverage?

Oddly enough, given concerns about broadband Internet access in London during the Olympics, the first report of any disruption has come from BBC officials who say use of Twitter, a low-bandwidth application, apparently disrupted television coverage of the cycling road races.

Apparently, updates about cyclist timing and positions were blocked when fans sent updates to Twitter while watching the race, and apparently jammed transmissions of race information.

The BBC  blamed the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) for the lack of information. But the International Olympic Committee said fans sending updates to Twitter while watching the race had in effect jammed transmissions of race information.

Precisely how that can happen is not entirely clear, unless timing information was being sent using Twitter. 

WyWallet Mobile Payment Launches in Sweden

WyWallet officially launched - mobile payment for all SwedesWyWallet, the mobile wallet joint venture by the four largest mobile network operators in Sweden (Telia, Tele2, Telenor and 3), has launched. The mobile wallet service is said to be the first of its kind in Sweden and will from start cover 97 percent of the mobile users in Sweden. 

WyWallet supports person-to-person money transfer, payments using text messaging, online shopping and "prepaid card top ups."

WyWallet also supports retail payments using near field communications. 

Wywallet is available on Android, iPhone and will be available for Windows Phone later in 2012.

Content Owners Wary about New Distributors, But Need Them

Hollywood studios and video entertainment service providers understandably have a wary relationship with current distributors such as cable, satellite and telco video subscription providers, as well as new distributors such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and others.

But there are different tensions within the ecosystem. Video service providers realize they have reached a point where higher content payments to content owners cannot continue to rise indefinitely, since those higher fee payments mean retail prices must be increased. And there are growing signs of consumer frustration over the ever-growing retail prices.

In the home video market, previously driven by sales of DVDs, sales have been falling for about three years, for the most part, even as online sales (streaming services such as Netflix) have been growing. That causes a different kind of friction between distributors and content owners.

On one hand, online delivery of movie and TV content is seen as the future, and revenue trends show the potential. On the other hand, too swift an arrival of that new business could destroy a physical delivery business that, though challenged, remains important.

That is true both of the home video business, traditionally based on sales of DVDs and to some extent by DVD rentals, as well as the bigger video subscription business.

But Netflix and even video on demand continue to grow, meaning growing tension between the legacy and new channels.


The digital side of the business generated $2.4 billion in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, representing growth of  78 percent. Subscription video on demand grew 430 percent for the first six months to $1.1 billion.

Overall U.S. home entertainment spending rose 2.5 percent to around $4.45 billion in the first quarter, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. That means home video revenue has grown for two out of three of the last quarters, a welcome change from revenue trends that had been falling for three straight years.

Since peaking at around $21.8  billion in 2004, the U.S. home entertainment industry has seen steady declines, falling  to $18.4 billion in 2011.  

And the shift top online delivery keeps growing in importance. IHS Screen Digest has  predicted that the number of movies and TV shows legally streamed and downloaded in 2012 will for the first time surpass the demand for those films and shows on physical discs.

IHS predicts that online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Vudu and iTunes, will conduct around 3.4 billion individual U.S. movie transactions in 2012. That would be a 135 percent increase in digital home entertainment transactions over 2011. It would also surpass the 2.4 billion DVD and Blu-ray sales and rentals predicted for 2012.

And despite studio unease about Netflix, Netflix U.S. streaming revenue of $1.04 billion in the first half of 2012 might be largely responsible for the growth of content owner revenues.

Will subscription VOD ever displace content sales, in terms of profitability? Not likely, given the vast difference between margins.

The overall disc business keeps declining, with sales of physical video media dropping 3.6 percent to $3.7 billion during the first six months of 2012, while disc rentals declined 26 percent to $2.3 billion.

However, the kiosk rental business, led by Redbox, is still expanding, up 23 percent to $990 million, according to DEG.

So, like it or not, Netflix and Redbox might continue to be important partners as the future unfolds.

Surprising Findings about Mobile Payments

You might not be too surprised if told that about a third of U.S. mobile phone users have used mobile payments of some sort over the last year or so. You might not be surprised if a significant percentage of those sales were of digital goods such as games, apps or music.

But a new study found surprising behavior. Despite the popularity of digital downloads, such as apps and music, more respondents reported buying physical goods with their phones than online services, digital goods, or virtual currency, IDC reports.

That would be a significant finding, indeed, at least for remote payments made from a mobile device.

The  IDC Financial Insights study  found that mobile payments have more than doubled in popularity, reaching over 33 percent of survey respondents. Of those that had made a mobile payment, more than half used PayPal Mobile (56 percent), with Amazon Payments and Apple's iTunes service statistically tied at about 40 percent.

The findings are important for mobile payments providers and merchants, as the behavior shows increasing adoption of the mobile payment habit for products not traditionally associated with mobile device content and application purchases.

O2 London Small Cell Network Will Offer Free Access After Olympics

O2-wifi-coverage-in-londonU.K. mobile service provider has built a network of 100 free Wi-Fi hotspots in West London as part of the Olympics. As always is the case after an Olympic event is held, the purpose-built facilities are reused in new ways. That will be the case for O2's network as well. 

The Wi-Fi network, serving the West End, offers service at speeds up to 24Mbps.

Users will have to register, but unlike Virgin Media's network on the London Underground, O2's hotspots will remain free after the Olympics are finished. So you might well wonder what the revenue model will be.

O2 aims to support its investment by selling advertising to local businesses, probably adding location features to craft deals based on end user location. There is another difference.

O2 is using the 100 Wi-Fi hotspot deployments as the foundation for a future small cell network that will use O2's 3G network, reinforcing the macrocell network where it is most congested. 

As a matter of engineering, that has meant locating the Wi-Fi hotspots in locations where eventual conversion to a GSM small cell network will be compatible with the macrocell network. 

According to O2 Wi-Fi managing director Gavin Franks, the carrier is targeting the end of the year for the small cell conversion

Predictably, Dish Network alters AutoHop

Dish Network has made a series of software upgrades to its DVRs embedded with the "AutoHop" feature, that automatically removes all advertising from prime time broadcast TV network programming recorded using the DVR feature.

Subscribers now have the ability to choose which channels to record among the "Big Four" networks, where previously they were all automatically recorded.

Subscribers also can choose to delete programming off the hard drive at a time of their choosing, as opposed to accepting a default-delete date.
A third change switches the cursor default from "yes" to "no" when presented with the option to skip ads.
All those changes presumably are intended to bolster Dish Network's defense of its technology, as it faces major lawsuits from broadcasters who claim the AutoHop feature is a violation of their copyrights and also a breach of affiliate contracts Dish Network has signed with the broadcasters. 
The broadcaster challenges were entirely predictable. Whenever an upstart has challenged the over the air broadcast business model, there have been legal and regulatory challenges. In the mid-twentieth century, for example, broadcasters successfully convinced the Federal Communications Commission that some core cable TV industry values, such as offering out of market TV signals, were impermissible. 
Broadcasters and movie makers also challenged the legality of such devices as the video cassette recorder. So the challenge to the lawfulness of AutoHop was inevitable. 
That incumbent legal and regulatory resistance always is predictable when new technologies or business models pose a challenge to either communications or entertainment industry business models. 
Dish Network presumably hopes the changes will bolster the Dish Network argument that AutoHop only provides consumer choice and convenience, and does not constitute any sort of copyright infringement. 

Some Parts of the Telecom Business Are Shrinking

Virtually all experienced observers of the global telecom business are familiar with the notion that, over time, there always is consolidation. In large part, that is because there are scale effects in the business, meaning that the more volume a supplier has, the lower its costs typically are, per unit delivered.

But there is something more at work, as well. Generally speaking, global service provider revenues, overall, are flat. Some regions are growing, while some are shrinking. But if you assume any public company must continually grow its revenues, acquisitions simply are the only way to grow revenue, long term. That leads to supplier consolidation. 

There are changes beyond the tier-one service provider level, as well. Smaller or more specialized service providers likewise are consolidating. And so is the channel. 

"The channel is shrinking," argues channel expert Dave Michels.  "Enterprises are buying less, prices are dropping, models are changing."

"There will be fewer dealers tomorrow than there are today," he says. "There is still plenty of channel opportunity, in fact huge."

"Just not as huge as it once was," argues consultant Dave Michels.

Some of us might argue that the revenue opportunity might not be so much "huge," as it is "significant." The reason is that distribution by channel partners historically has made sense in the medium-sized business segment. 

Consumers and small businesses are best reached using mass media and now the Web. Enterprises can be sold direct. In the middle is where the channel has made financial sense. 

But some of us would argue that cloud-based application delivery will shift more of the mid-sized business opportunity away from channel partners and towards direct delivery as used in the mass markets. Not all mid-market applications can be delivered that way, to be sure. But a significant portion will shift. And that means suppliers will "go direct" rather than using channel partners. 

Veritical specialities also are likely to become more important, once cloud deliver makes it easier for enterprises, mid-market firms and small businesses to "buy direct" and provision from the Web. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

12.5% of Western Europe Smart Phone Users Buy from Phone

Of smart phone users in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, about 12.5 percent have made a purchase from their devices during the last year, according to the comScore MobiLens service. 

The study showed that the mobile retail audience in those countries nearly doubled over the past year, with 1 in 6 smartphone users accessing online retail sites and apps on their device, comScore reports.  

Mobile Retail Activity Among Smartphone Owners
3 Month Average Ending May 2012
Total EU5 (FR, DE, IT, ES and UK) Smartphone Audience: Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Target Audience (000)% of Smartphone Audience
Total Smartphone Audience: 13+ yrs old117,609100.0%
Purchased goods or services14,55212.4%
Type of goods or services purchased  
Clothing or accessories5,0364.3%
Books (excluding e-books)3,8063.2%
Consumer electronics / household appliances3,6983.1%
Personal care / hygiene products2,4522.1%

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is "National Broadband Policy" Needed, or in Need of Adjustment?

U.S. broadband prices are not the lowest in the world, by any means, and some worry that neither speeds nor prices will improve much, in the future. That inevitably will lead to calls to “do something” about national broadband policy.

There are a couple issues there. The first is whether, under present fiscal circumstances, the federal government and U.S. States can do much of anything about direct investment of their own. Like it or not, the answer is that policy frameworks can be adjusted, but that there is precious little “investment” possible, from government quarters.

The more contentious issue is likely around what incentives properly can be provided for cable operators and telcos to voluntary boost their own investment, and how much those incentives matter, where it comes to investment decisions.

Some might say that almost no amount of incentives would convince a rational executive to invest “too much” in a business that cannot return a market rate of return, compared to all other alternatives that promise a higher return. It is not easy to balance end user welfare and industry incentives, under conditions of great uncertainty.

A new FCC study released in July 2012 does show that progress is being made. As always, the issue is whether the progress is fast enough.

Whether Google Fiber in Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. will have the intended effect of spurring more investment by telcos and cable operators remains to be seen. So some might say handwringing about the state of progress in the U.S. broadband market are overblown.

That is not to say issues exist. There clearly is an argument to be made that most telcos cannot outline a solid business rationale for aggressive fiber to the home upgrades, in many, if not most cases. In part the problem is that financial return is questionable. In other cases the argument is simply that alternative capital investments in mobile assets will drive a higher return.

Also, unlike the situation in many other markets, a powerful, facilities-based competitor with arguably better cost structure (both in terms of capital requirements for bandwidth upgrades, and workforce cost issues), competes head to head in virtually every market, with two powerful satellite contenders that reduce the potential gain from offering video entertainment services, a key element of the telco business case for deploying fiber to the home.

As far as the retail pricing, where the U.S. never ranks among the “best” providers, measured in terms of price per megabyte of access speed, one problem is simply that costs are higher in the U.S. market.

Population density might be the single most important factor determining the cost of any fiber to home network build. A related issue is average “loop length,” a metric that is roughly related to population density.

U.S. service providers have to supply service over much longer average loops than service providers in Europe, or in many “city states” that feature high-density housing. Basically, retail cost everywhere is related rather directly to network investment cost.

So Google Fiber’s $70 a month benchmark for symmetrical 1-Gbps access, along with a similar offering by Sonic.net, probably are best viewed as “stretch goals” for most U.S. telcos, arguably less a stretch for cable operators, and out of reach, for technical reasons, by satellite broadband providers.

Perhaps progress in the U.S. broadband market is not “the best of all possible worlds.” But options simply are not unlimited, or investment drivers very easy.

Notice What is Missing on Google Fiber

Virtually unmentioned in discussions about Google Fiber as it is being deployed in Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. is that voice is available as part of the service. That’s largely because the really unique aspect is the 1-Gbps broadband access.

Even the video service is a relatively basic offer lacking many channels many consumers will prefer.

But voice is less than an afterthought. it’s just something users can supply themselves, using over the top applications such as Google Talk.

That tells you much about potential future models for at least some access providers, if Google Fiber proves it can make an actual profit, offering 1-Gbps symmetrical Internet access and entertainment TV, on its own fiber to the home network.

Broadband access will be the foundation. Google Fiber believes video entertainment is a crucial service to drive higher average revenue per user. Sonic.net believes Internet access and voice is the more logical bundle for it to offer.

In either case, the real top draw is Internet access at 1 Gbps for $70 a month. Basically, voice or video are complementary services.

Cable operators and telcos, with higher operating costs, might always feel it necessary to offer the triple play as a way of creating enough gross revenue to support their services. But some service providers might try and optimize their offerings around broadband access, using either voice or video as a complement, but not both.

Will Google Fiber Economics Work?

“There’s no sense selling a product at a loss,” says Google CFO Patrick Pichette. “But it’s not only about profits, it’s about changing the access costs,” Pichette also has said. 

Assuming you believe that Google is serious about "making money" selling symmetrical 1-Gbps connections at $70 a month, and video service starting at $50 a month, the issue is what Google can do that cable operators or telcos have not been able to do to get capital investment and construction and other costs down to a point where retail prices at such levels still turn a profit.

Sonic.net might agree that it is possible, under some circumstances, to offer very high speed broadband access at shocking prices. Sonic.net already offers consumers 1-Gbps service for $70 a month. But Sonic.net also notes that its construction cost is about $500 for each home passed. And since Sonic.net gets about 33 percent take rates, the effective network cost for each customers is about $1500.

If Google gets similar economics for the network, and few observers are likely to think Google has found some magical way to avoid the actual costs of installing cabling, and also gets about 33 percent penetration, it should be possible to make money at $70 a month for a 1-Gbps service. 

Of course, operating costs will have to be kept in check as well, and that is an area of potential friction for Google, which arguably will not have the infrastructure a service provider might normally be expected to support. 

On the other hand, significant portion of the cost of delivering service is not the actual backbone network, but the drop network and then customer premises equipment. Google's "$300 connection fee" suggests the cost of activating a drop is that amount.

Then there is the cost of the customer premises equipment. Some might argue Google has a cost advantage in that area. To be sure, building custom boxes, in low volume, is not generally the key to low costs. 

But perhaps Google has built a really simple box, using its new Motorola expertise, that dramatically lowers CPE investment. On the other hand, some observers will note that Google actually supplies three separate boxes, plus a Nexus 7 tablet, for a customer buying the 1-Gbps plus video entertainment service.

Some will argue it is hard to see significant cost savings when using a discrete approach such as Google is employing, but perhaps that saves significant money. 

Others might argue that Google will save on marketing costs or other overhead, and that might be a more-reasonable argument. Sonic.net probably does not spend as much money on marketing as Comcast, Time Warner Cable or Verizon does. Google might be able to do as well as Sonic.net

Mobile Device Sales Hit by Economy, Globally

As much as people love their mobile devices, economic stringency is having an effect.But some would say tougher service provider policies, such as ending device subsidies or making upgrades at affordable prices more difficult, also are having an effect,  

Oddly enough, some service providers have concluded that they do better, financially, by slowing the rate of smart phone adoptions. Others have concluded they simply need to shift demand to smart phone brands that provide more favorable operator economics. 

The global figures also suggest that current demand now is driven by smart phones, rather than feature phones that traditionally have represented the sales volume. 

Global mobile phone shipments grew a modest one percent annually to reach 362 million units in the second quarter of 2012, Strategy Analytics reports. 

Samsung was the top performer, shipping 93.0 million handsets worldwide and capturing a record 26 percent marketshare to solidify its first-place lead.

Nokia’s global handset shipments continued to decline, at a negative five percent annually, reaching 83.7 million units in Q2 2012. 

Apple shipped 26 million handsets worldwide in the second quarter of  2012. 

Samsung was the star performer during the quarter, capturing a record 26 percent marketshare. 

Other findings from the research include:

  • ZTE captured 5 percent of global handset shipments as shipments slipped minus 16 percent annually, partly because of weakened demand in major markets of Western Europe and China;
  • LG’s shipments nearly halved year-over-year to 13.1 million units, as its feature phone volumes continued to slip. However, its global smartphone shipments encouragingly improved on a sequential basis.
Global Handset Vendor Shipments and Market Share in Q2 2012
Global Handset Shipments (Millions of Units)Q2 ’11Q2 '12
Global Handset Vendor Marketshare %Q2 ’11Q2 '12
Global Handset Shipments Growth Year-over-Year %11.9%1.1%

Sales Friction Creates Barriers to Buying Behavior

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