Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On the subject of advertising...

While I'm on the subject of advertising and whether the promises mobile operators make and their partners really are accurate, you really can't help but love this spoof iPhone commercial.

Of course, the iPhone commercials in the UK have themselves been the focus of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings on the grounds that they are "not quite true" (which to you and me means they are misleading). They've been hit for claiming users can access the "whole Internet" (you can't) and for exaggerating the speed of the apps and webpages being loaded.

Between the ASA and OFCOM, maybe mobile phone users will start to get a fairer - and more honest and straightforward - deal from the mobile industry.

"I'm on the train!... [click]"

On the day that OFCOM has released new guidelines to stop mis-selling of their products and services or from "engaging in dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct", for once I'm not going to pick on them. On the contrary, I'm going to pick on Virgin Trains. Yes, I know this is a blog about the telecoms industry, but that's precisely it.

Yesterday I had the joy of a trip to Milton Keynes with a client, so we took the train. A direct service, and we wanted to be able to work, so we even paid the little bit extra and went first class. Now, in first class they have apparently "enhanced mobile coverage"... another reason for spending the extra so you can do business calls and make the travel time a bit more productive.

So, just how many times do you think my poor client's call got dropped due to poor coverage? Once? Twice? ... FIVE times in a 30 minute journey.

If that's enhanced mobile coverage, what the service is like in cattle class at the back of the train I dare not imagine.

It's timely then that OFCOM have decided it's time to clamp down on dodgy sales tactics ... maybe they can sort out the inflated claims and promises operators and their partners make at the same time too.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Why Orange/T-Mobile merger means less subscriber choice

The big news today is undoubtedly that of the merger between Orange and T-Mobile, to create the UK's biggest operator with 28.4 million subscribers. Of course, the companies are lauding it as bringing "substantial benefits to UK customers", but will it really?

Consider this. Vodafone and O2 have already announced a network sharing deal (essentially this means that they will consolidate 2G and 3G cellsites, but they'll keep their own Node Bs, RNCs etc.). T-Mobile is similarly already the host for '3' and for MVNOs such as Virgin Mobile.

So, merge Orange and T-Mobile and the subscriber really is down to a choice of just two networks.

Sure, they'll have their own OSS/BSS and equipment at the edge of the network, but if mobile is about anything, it's about the RAN. It's about coverage, quality of service and (call me old fashioned) being able to get a dial-tone and make a call. You can have all the choice of price plans and shiny devices in the world, but if you keep dropping a call, can't get coverage in your home, or have a painfully slow mobile data experience, what's the point? And if you can't switch network to one with better coverage, where's the consumer choice?

As we saw earlier this year from OFCOM's coverage map, 3G coverage remains far from nationwide. Merging Orange and T-Mobile may save over £3.5 billion "over time" (a helpful comment that gives no indication of timescale), but will these savings be invested in extending mobile broadband coverage?

The simple situation seems to be that while UK subscribers may have lots of brand choice in terms of which operator they choose, ultimately they will have the choice of only two networks.

Doesn't this sound like something that should excite OFCOM?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it

If like me you thought MWC 2008 was too big and actually quite enjoyed the more manageable and businesslike atmosphere of this year's Congress, then you'll probably mixed emotions at the news that Nokia will not be exhibiting at MWC 2010.

While the GSMA has tried to reassure other exhibtors that Nokia "remains committed" to MWC and the GSMA itself, it really is a sign of changing times.

Let's be honest. MWC is unrecognisable from the cosy industry get-together that was 3GSM in Cannes. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The show (and I mean 'show', not 'Congress') was starting to become preoccupied with mobile entertainment and consumer devices. But it's not a consumer show, it's an industry event.

While sad news for the GSMA, it's perhaps reassuring news for the mobile industry. Maybe now it can get back to focusing on the business and the technology that powers it, and lose the fixation with celebrity keynotes. And anything that makes it easier to find catch a taxi in Barcelona in February can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Finally, someone who REALLY appreciates mobile phones!

In proof that 2G certainly isn't dead and can still bring unbounded joy to people's lives, the Pacific island of Nauru has declared today a public holiday in celebration of the launch of its first mobile phone network, courtesy of Digicel.

Admittedly, it is unlikely to set the world alight with its subscriber numbers (Nauru is the world's smallest independent nation with just 10,000 inhabitants), but it nevertheless is a good reminder of what mobile communications is really about, while the rest of us get caught up in hype around 4G and how mobile is going to save the world. Realistically, will this stop Nauru from disappearing into the sea as the oceans rise due to global warming? Well, no, of course it won't.

Mobile communications aren't going to save the world, but they can improve the quality of life by bringing access to otherwise disconnected communities. Indeed, maybe Nauru should go back to its previous name, now that it really is a Pleasant Island.