Showing posts from August, 2012

"Not Much Happening" in U.S. Broadband? Really?

The National Broadband Plan, which was released two years ago, says that there should be a minimum level of service of at least 4Mbps for all Americans. "Since then, not much has happened," some would say.  But the Federal Communications Commission says "we found that the average speed tier that consumers were  subscribing to increased from 11.1 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 14.3 Mbps, an almost 30 percent  increase in just one year," in its Measuring Broadband America report. "The actual increase in experienced speeds by consumers was even greater than advertised speed, from 10.6 Mbps to 14.6 Mbps, representing an almost 38 percent improvement over the one year period." You can make your own assessments of whether anything has happened in the last two years. 

FCC Might Limit Spectrum Holdings to Regulate Competition

The Federal Communications Commission could overhaul the way it measures competition in the wireless industry, The Hill's Hillicon Valley reports. Those measures could include both quantitative limits (total amount of spectrum) as well as qualitative standards (how much of the "best" spectrum any single carrier owns or controls). 

According to the report, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to circulate an order with the other commissioners next week that would launch a review of the FCC's rules for analyzing whether any one company has accumulated too much spectrum. 

The commission is expected to vote on the proposal at its September 2012 meeting. 

T-Mobile USA, for example, has argued that the current method, which is quantitative, does not account for qualitative differences, such as ability of lower-frequency signals to penetrate walls, for example. 

"The present screen is inadequate as applied to the current wireless  market, particularly because it fails to …

The Point is to "Be Good," not to "Feel Good"

There is a genuine difference between "being good," or "doing good," and "feeling good." Too often, we opt for the latter, instead of insisting on the former. Consider all-electric cars, something that makes us feel good and virtuous. 

There is a scientific argument to be made, though, that when electricity is generated by coal-fired plants, such vehicles do not actually make a positive contribution to carbon emissions. But it makes people feel good, even when they are not, objectively speaking, "doing good." 

Even when electricity is generated in some other lower carbon way, such as from windmills, there is no such thing as a moral free lunch. Wind farms kill birds and golden eagles. Perhaps that does not cause many qualms. But if not, neither will accidental killing of dolphins when fishing for tuna. 

The specific energy of gasoline — measured in kWh per kg, for instance — is about 400 times higher than that of a lead-acid battery, and about 200 …

Why One-Sided or Incomplete Thinking is Necessary, and Eventually has to be Corrected

Generally speaking, executing on a strategy takes focus and concentration on a small number of things. Just as certainly, all businesses exist in environments that are complicated. So ultimately, even concentrating on "just one thing," or "just a few things," will eventually prove to be necessary but insufficient. 

Compared to the situation of perhaps four years ago, the telco strategic context needs to be considered in a broader or different context, according to  STL Partners. That is to be expected. Even a "big new idea" necessarily is incomplete as a prescription for organization success. 

So where the key point was the idea of "two-sided business models," STL now says that is something that has to be kept in context. Of course. That was true four years ago, as well. But organizations and people can only focus on so much at one time. So the unchanging requirement is to focus on a few things at a time, even if that is objectively "unbalanc…

Have Tablets Overtaken Smart Phones as the Device with Star Power?

The Apple iPhone now drives revenue at Apple. But the iPad now seems to have become the product with more appeal.

While both tablet and phone historically enjoy good scores on YouGov's U.K. "BrandIndex," a measure of public's perception of well-known brands, the iPad now might have reached an inflection point.

On a couple of measures, the iPad now gets more attention than the iPhone, YouGov says. That suggests the point just about has been reached when the revenue contribution from the iPad could start to drive more of Apple's overall revenue success. 

FCC Wants New Tax for Connect America Fund

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to create a new tax on broadband access services to support its Connect America Fund, essentially the replacement for the older Universal Service Fund.

Aside from the change of nomenclature, the emphasis has shifted from guaranteeing voice services in rural and isolated portions of the country to supplying broadband access services to such areas.

“What started as a program with important goals (making sure rural farmers can make phone calls and ensuring the poorest among us can dial 911) turned into an unaccountable corporate slush fund,” says S. Derek Turner, Free Press research director.

Today USF is an $8 billion annual program, nearly quadrupling in size since its inception, with the bulk of those revenues going to landline and wireless phone companies.

Maybe this massive growth would be no concern if USF were a model program with a sterling reputation for efficiency. “But it’s not,” says Turner.

Phones Will Remain the Signature "Mobile" Device Through 2015

Smart phones will be the signature mobile device globally over the next five years, says Leif-Olof Wallin, a research vice president at tech analysis company Gartner. And Gartner thinks Microsoft will be the big winner, representing 20 percent of the market in 2015. 

While the global mobile market as a whole is shrinking, smartphone adoption will continue to explode.

Mobile U.K. Shoppers Still Prefer to Buy Using a PC

U.K. Internet users are comfortable using mobile devices for researching and browsing products, but they still prefer to turn to a PC when it’s time to buy, a study by Kenshoo and publishing and events company Figaro Digital indicates. 

That study mirrors in key ways the findings of a Google study that suggests as many of 90 percent of people use multiple devices when shopping, for example.

The preference for purchasing using a bigger-screen PC is pronounced when looking even at research activities such as clicking on paid search ads. 

Some 11 percent of all paid search clicks in the United Kingdom in the first quarter of 2012 came from mobile devices (not including tablets), the Kenshoo study suggests. Another 5.8 percent of paid search clicks came from tablets. 

Computers accounted for the lion’s share, at 82.8 percent, according to U eMarketer

But actual transactions are more likely to be conducted on a PC. More than nine in 10 said they preferred to buy using a PC, compared to three …

Why it is Difficult to Understand Mobile Payments

Some markets are hard to understand because the concepts are new or because a particular market is intertwined with other markets that also are changing. You might argue that unified communications has been that sort of market. 

But it also appears that mobile payments is that sort of business as well. At some basic level, the value proposition is unclear. Paying using a mobile device instead of cash or a debit or credit card doesn't always have immediate resonance as something that is 10 times better than existing methods of paying for retail purchases.

But part of the uncertainty is probably because retailing is changing. "Mobile commerce" is starting to show signs of merging with the broader "e-commerce" business, which in turn is starting to show signs of merging in a bigger way with physical retailing. 

In other words, m-commerce is merely another form of e-business or e-commerce. Mobile payment is part of the broader m-commerce business. So it might ultimate…

Illiad's "Free" Business is Hammering Rivals

Illiad's "Free" mobile service was intended to disrupt the French mobile market, and it seems, at least for the moment, that Illiad is succeeding. 

French conglomerate Bouygues posted sharply lower first-half profits for its second quarter of 2012, largely because of price competition from Free, which has caused the other leading mobile firms in France to cut prices. 

Bouygues also cut its annual profit forecast for its telecoms division unit by roughly 12 percent as a result of the expected competition, Reuters reports. 

Martin Bouygues, Bouygues chief executive, directly blamed Free Mobile for his company's woes.
"The difficulties we are experiencing are due to competition and the low prices charged by Free,"  the Bouygues CEO said. 

France Telecom, using the brand name "Orange," warned that it expects average revenue per user to fall by 10 percent at its domestic mobile unit Orange France in 2012, as operators engage in a price warfollowing the entr…

2.4 Billion Enterprise Smart Phone Subscribers in 2017

ABI Research estimates that by 2017, 2.4 billion employees globally will be using smart phones, growing about 17 percent a year and representing nearly three times more smart phones than used in 2012. 

Many hundreds of millions of those devices will be brought to work by people who want to use their own personal devices. So mobility suppliers and enterprises need to think in terms of serving all those employees with tools, apps, and services, even if not using company-issued devices, ABI Research says. 

Android has the dominant leadership position among the global workforce expected to grow to 56 percent by 2017.

90% of Content Operations Move Between Devices

Metaswitch Networks thinks a key to providing more value for communications service providers is to enable sessions using multimedia to be maintained as users move between networks, devices and locations.

“Immersive multimedia telephony” (“Accession”) enables a user to move a conversation or session freely between preferred devices, and to take advantage of local network connectivity or handset capabilities, while instantly sharing content that is related to the users' actions, surroundings or needs, Metaswitch says.

A new study by Google suggests people behave that way when consuming content or conducting search operations as well, so Accession might well be something important.

“The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior”study found that 90 percent of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that’s on smart phones, PCs, tablets or TV.

Of the 90 percent of media consumed on a screen of any type, browsing, shopping, trip planning and…

Will U.K. Business Largely Abandon Landlines Within 5 Years?

Some 65 percent of 500 U.K. chief information officers surveyed by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Virgin Media Business believe fixed network telephones “will disappear from everyday use within five years,” Virgin Media Business says.

PCs are the next most likely to become redundant according to 62 per cent of CIOs. In contrast, smart phones (13 percent) are seen as the least likely devices to be abandoned.

If those opinions wind up being correct, whether the magnitude or timing of the changes are accurate, there will be shifts of opportunity for suppliers of unified communications, business phone systems, mobile and fixed network service providers alike.

Aside from depressing sales of business phone systems, there are potentially greater opportunities for providers of hosted alternatives, especially those providers whose unified communications services are well suited to use of mobile devices.

But the impact is likely to be disparate. Some workers might find there is less need for unified…

Apple will Create its Own Wireless Network with "AirPlay Direct"

Apple wants to improve the AirPlay wireless music streaming technology, which currently requires Airplay speakers and a WiFi network. The new version will require just speakers or a stereo system and an iDevice. Reportedly, the iPhone, iPod or iPad would form its own network to allow a direct connection and music playback.

The move is expected to be announced at the launch of the new iPhone, which is widely rumoured to take place on September 12, according to the Telegraph

In its current form,AirPlay allows users to stream video, music, and other audio from their Apple devices to an Apple TV or to AirPlay-enabled speakers. This ability requires a local Wi-Fi network. Presumably, Apple is thinking about enabling new  third party speakers to build Wi-Fi capability directly into the speakers or a receiver so that the streaming signal can be received directly from an iDevice.  In other words, iDevices will create their own Wi-Fi network, assuming there is a backhaul or access network the iDev…

How Important Has App Ecosystem Become?

It is a given these days that a robust applications environment is essential for an operating system or device to attain huge success in the consumer market. What is less clear is whether any device manufacturer "needs" its own app ecosystem, or can succeed by leveraging the OS ecosystem. 

A somewhat related question is whether other participants in the mobile business "need" their own ecosystems to enhance their specific roles within the ecosystem. The value and feasibility of mobile service provider app stores provides an example. 

Samsung also is a case in point. Up to this point, Samsung has achieved significant success in the smart phone business by leveraging Android and the Android apps ecosystem. One might argue that nothing has changed, just because of the Apple patent infringement win. 

Google Play arguably provides equal benefit to every manufacturer of Android handsets. And, at least so far, it is hard to see that Google's ownership of Motorola has bes…

Need More Spectrum?

Though it might seem unlikely, there is some debate about whether additional mobile spectrum really is needed. 

In some cases, the issue is "who has it" and who does not. But most in the business argue consistently that spectrum resources are inadequate for future needs. Others think the carriers just want more spectrum to avoid using other methods of handling capacity demands. 

Licensed spectrum normally is considered the basic raw material for creating a mobile business. But Wi-Fi offload shows there are other tools potentially useful for improving the performance of any network using any discrete amount of spectrum. 

Better antenna technologies, signal coding, network architectures or even mergers and acquisitions can alleviate apparent physical shortages, some would argue. 

But some would point out that 16 percent of the airwaves best suited for mobile broadband are available for that purpose.  

A significant majority – nearly 85 percent – of the crucial spectrum needed to su…

How "Machine to Machine" and "Cloud Computing" Figure into Mobile Commerce

Machine to machine communications, sometimes referred to a new "Internet of things," is viewed as a major growth opportunity by most larger mobile service providers in developed markets, for obvious reasons. 

To create large networks of distributed, small sensors that often are mobile or untethered, and must operate at relatively low costs per unit, mobile networks are ideal. Much of the discussion about real-world applications now focuses on telemetry applications in the energy and transportation industries, for example. 

Separately, lots of companies and developers are working on mobile wallets, mobile payment systems and mobile commerce systems that aim to glean real-time intelligence about potential customers and shoppers, before, during and after a visit to a retail location.

Underneath it all, software and applications are designed to work with heavy reliance on external data center processing of data. So it already is possible to forecast that cloud computing, M2M networ…

In U.K. Fixed Business, Data Revenues Will Not Replace Lost Voice Revenues


Smart Phones Will be a Majority of Devices Sold in 2013, Globally

Smart phones will account for the majority of global mobile phone shipments in 2013, for the first time, about two years earlier than previously predicted by IHS iSuppli. Among the reasons are a strong demand for lower-cost smart phones in developing regions.

Smart phone shipments in 2013 are forecast to account for 54 percent of the total mobile phones sold, up from 46 percent in 2012 and 35 percent in 2011, according toIHS iSuppli.

“Over the past 12 months, smart phones have fallen in price, and a wider variety of models have become available, spurring sales of both low-end smartphones in regions like Asia-Pacific, as well as mid-range to high-end phones in the United States and Europe,” according to IHS iSuppli.

By 2016, smart phones will represent 67.4 percent of the total mobile phone market.

Feature phones, which lack the sophisticated functionality of smartphones, in 2011 represented 46 percent of sales, but will drop to 41 percent in 2012.

By 2016, feature phones will have market …

Samsung Resale Prices Drop, Apple Patent Win Seen as Cause

Significantly more customers of Samsung are putting their smart phones up for sale on reports a 50 percent increase in placements of Samsung smart phones in the last week of August, which has led to a 10 percent drop in prices for those devices.

“Consumers seem to be jumping ship,” says Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer at “We expect this trend to continue, especially with this latest verdict.”

It is possible that Samsung users suspect the next generation of Samsung phones may be very different from those on the market today. That could be an issue since consumers get used to certain key features of their phones, and they might not be so sure that will be the case in the future. 

Indian Consumer Fixed Services Market To Reach Rs 240 Billion In 2012

The Indian consumer fixed services market is on pace to reach Rs 240 billion in 2012, a 2 percent increase from 2011 revenue of Rs 235 billion, according to Gartner. At an exchange rate of 44 rupees to one U.S. dollar, that implies about $5.5 billion in fixed network revenue. 

By way of comparison, 2012 mobile voice revenue should reach about $25 billion. 

Consumer fixed voice revenue is forecast to reach Rs 148 billion in 2012, a seven percent decline from 2011. From 2012 through 2016, voice revenue will further decline by 25 percent, Gartner says. 

“Voice traffic continues to shift to mobile,” said Neha Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner. 
The Indian consumer fixed line services market will see growth from broadband and Internet access sectors, which will collectively grow to Rs. 92 billion in 2012. 
In 2012, household broadband penetration will cross six percent. 

Apple Genius Bar Seems to Pay Dividends

The conventional wisdom suggests that "good customer service" is a business asset. The conventional wisdom might be right, at least for Apple. 

Nearly 60 percent of Apple product owners said they are somewhat or much more likely to make another Apple purchase following their tech support experience, according to NPD Group. The positive tech service also helped change consumer perception of Apple, NPD says. 

Some 31 percent of survey respondents said they had a much more positive view of Apple after their service, NPD reports. 

That service left almost all of the 40 percent of Apple owners who took their Apple devices to the Genius Bar very happy. 

Nearly 90 percent of consumers who used Apple’s tech service said they were extremely or very satisfied.

Price help. Some 88 percent of Genius Bar consumers said their service was free.

Coquitel Uses Mesh Wireless for Isolated Communities

Unlicensed spectrum and self-configuring “mesh” radios continue to be an attractive option for bringing voice and data communications to isolated communities.

Coquitel is about to provide such service to 10 Puerto Rico communities with a potential customer base of 150,000 people. Cooquitel was built with open source software and inexpensive hardware designed by Village Telco, a nonprofit organization in South Africa.

The mesh network will use unlicensed spectrum and is based on Village Telco’s “Mesh Potato," a weatherproof 802.11g wireless access and VoIP connection point designed for unstable electrical power conditions.The design principles are simple enough. The system is designed to support “pay as you go” affordable and simple to bill communications.

The idea is to make the process of setting up service as simple as creating a nw wordpress blog.

The costs are intended to allow a break even point in six months, and should be capable of being used by any business person, without …

MasterCard, Everything Everywhere Announce NFC Mobile Payments Effort

MasterCard has signed an exclusive five-year deal to develop a mobile payments system for Everything Everywhere over the next half decade, using near field communications. 

After the initial payment capability, the plan is to then extend that platform into the usual mix of loyalty cards, money transfers and online payments using the smart phone as a point of sale device. 

Orange, one of EE's consumer brands, earlier had launched "Quick Tap," a mobile payments system that has had little success. 

One of the first products to launch through the partnership will be a co-branded pre-paid solution for mobile devices that allows customers to make payments using NFC at more than 100,000 retailer locations in the United Kingdom.
Strategically, the venture aims to enable consumers to have the same simple shopping experience whether they're paying in-store, online or using their mobile device.

How Should We Regulate Declining Industries?

UBS researchers remind us of some salient facts about the U.S. fixed network voice business, namely that both the total number of lines in service, as well as profitability of voice services are dropping. 

Where at one point there were almost 100 million fixed network voice lines in service, there now are perhaps 50 million in service, about half of which are supplied by U.S. cable companies.

Mobile substitution accounts for much of the change. But the changes also should warn us about the growing risk of investing in the fixed network business. The issue is whether the evidence so far shows conclusively that investing in the fixed network at typical rates (14 percent to 19 percent of revenue) is sustainable and even rational in the long term if aggregate revenue does not grow. 

To be sure, up to this point telcos have added enough new revenue in the form of entertainment video and broadband access to basically offset voice losses. But telcos are reaching, if they have not already reache…

Mobile, Cable Markets Destined to be Concentrated

There's a good reason antitrust regulation exists in principle, though we might disagree about when and how to apply it. The reason is that a robustly competitive communications market will resolve itself into a stable pattern over time, with few leaders.

If you think about it even casually, there is a reason for that pattern. Over time, people gravitate to products and providers they prefer. That's why Apple consistently gets 60 percent to 70 percent of tablet sales. 

In the fixed network communications or video business, there are slightly different dynamics, since the market originally was a highly-regulated monopoly business, with one authorized provider. Only since 1985 has the U.S. market been "competitive" in a legal framework sense,  to growing degrees. 

That highly unequal outcomes have been seen would not be surprising to anybody who studies market structure. In a highly capital intensive and competitive market, few entities really can risk the amount of capit…