Friday, November 28, 2008

EU Roaming ... but what about the fraud?

The EU has finally bitten the bullet today and announced it will introduce measures that will slash the cost of sending a text while abroad and reform the way phone operators charge for data calls made when customers roam.

For the subscriber, this is clearly great news. But for the operators? What does it mean?

Well, if you look at the issue of roaming fraud, it soon becomes clear that squeezing the margins on roaming could have a significant impact. Roaming fraud represents one of the most prevalent forms of revenue leakage for mobile operators today. A constantly growing and mobile population of subscribers is incurring losses for operators largely down to outdated roaming processes. A ccording to a GSMA survey in 2007, operators are routinely suffering losses in the region of EURO11.1 million over a two-year period, making it a very real threat to an operator’s bottom line.

A retail cap of €0.11 per roamed text message (down from an average of €0.29) on the 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU is bad enough. Add to that the wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte of roamed data also announced and it’s clear that operators need to get their houses in order and put in place the revenue assurance systems that will enable to them to wring every last cent out before the revenue stream is throttled.
India ... some good news on a bad news day

While the world's attention is focused on the shocking events in Mumbai, it's easy to be drawn into a spiral of doom and gloom. India is a country I know well and love even more. A country full of diversity in all the best and worst that that implies. But it's richness is something one can't deny.

The potential of the country is similarly unarguable.

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has just announced that 10.42 million mobile subscribers were added in October alone. This follows on from 10+ million in September and over 9 million in August ... making a staggering 92.1 million new mobile subscribers in 2008 so far and a total of well over 325 million nationally.

It's easy to see both why the likes of Vodafone and Telenor are making big moves on the market ... and on the flip side why behemoths like Tata are now undisputed global companies.

Ultra-low cost handsets will undoubtedly further drive the unquenchable growth in Indian mobile subscribers. But is that enough? Is it enough to just add more and more subscribers ... especially when the ARPU per subscriber is going to get ever smaller as less well off communities become connected?

India, however, can also give us much to learn about mobile content ... a continent with such a passion for music, where Bollywood stars make the Hello Magazine faces of the West seem anonymous in comparison; with such a passion for sport, where cricketers are not only megastars in the true definition of the word but are reinventing a sport and, despite the poverty in parts of the country, contributing over 70 percent of the money in the sport globally ... such a market is going to offer up rich potential for mobile content.

Well, provided the networks can cope, the pricing and business models make sense, and the right sort devices are in the hands of subscribers.

So, while there is understandable concern about the recent violence in Mumbai (and don't get me started on that ... Indian history and politics is my first love and I could wax lyrical for hours!) the potential of India remains undimmed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It was only a matter of time ... the great branding machine that is Apple has been pulled up by the regulator. Only its the advertisting regulator (the ASA) not the telecoms one (OFCOM) that's done the deed.

Apple may be redefining the mobile user experience with the iPhone but it's also had to finally accept that it can't control the whole experience. It's dependent on the mobile operator and their network.

So what does this all mean? Well, Apple is taking a risk with its brand. Suddenly, the Apple experience (or is that the "i-xperience"?) isn't controlled end-to-end by Stevie J. There's a crucial link - the mobile network - which has a massive impact on the user experience and is beyond their control.

Not only that, but if you look at the stats being reported back by the likes of ATandT about the impact the iPhone is having on their network, and you realise that the mobile network is creaking under the strain. The mobile operator's getting hammered. The iPhone experience is getting hammered. And now, finally, the regulator has stepped in and pointed out to Apple that there is a real world out there, inhabited by real people who are using the iPhone to do real things.

So let's applaud Apple for doing what they do best ... creating and sharing a dream. But let's also remember that dreams can be interpreted in multiple ways. And how the subscriber interprets it will depend on the quality of service on the mobile network to which they are subscribed.