Nokia E71 a two handed device.

I’ve been using the E71 for a couple of days now and I don’t know what to think, but something is nagging at me, that maybe this isn’t the perfect phone I’d hoped it would be. It may be just me and how the device is used rather than the device itself being at fault.

Let me try to explain, it’s as simple as some phones need only one hand to be operated, and some need two. The E71 (and the E61i) is for me a two handed devices, ie, to get the best out of it you need to use two hands (or two thumbs) to type, you can’t reach with your thumb in one handed operation mode to keys on the other side of the keyboard, it’s just too big. The E66 on the other hand (no pun intended) is a one handed operation device, which I think is where my head is in terms of devices that I need to use.

I had this same debate with myself a few years back, at the time I had a Treo and it too has an excellent thumb keyboard but it just required two hand operation and after considerable deliberation I swapped the Treo for a (HTC) Orange SPV C500 running windows mobile, which was a much smaller candy bar phone, but it only required one handed operation.

So part of me is saying this E71 is a great device, the battery is awesome, the keyboard (for two handed operation) is great and it’s damn fast, but part of me is saying do I want to have to stop what I’m doing something or let go of something in order to respond to a message, as that’s what you have to do if it’s a two handed device, let go of the handle of Air France shuttle bus, no chance. There’s plenty of occasions when two handed use is just impossible, carrying your suitcase and laptop bag when getting off a plane, phone one hand, laptop bag the other, respond to message, no chance.

Maybe it’s about what you use the device for, if it’s a blackberryesque laptop replacement and typing out emails then two handed operation is the speedier way to go, responding with one line emails and the odd SMS, then one handed and T9 is the way to go. It’s about what you need for a device, is it a laptop replacement or is it a phone. I think I’m in the one handed operation camp, but  Let me give it a few more days use and I’ll have a think again, but at the moment, if you put too devices on the table right now, the E66 and the E71 I’d take the E66, let’s see if my thinking changes over the next week or so.

Which camp or you in… single handed T9 speed merchant or two thumbed typing deamon?

Telco Dilemma Musing: Should carriers move into banking?

There’s two reasons I ask this, because of the talk about selling laptops that I read about and an experience I had yesterday.

The selling laptops is interesting and broadband providers did it recently so it’s not a new model. TalkTalk and Orange offered either free or extremely cheap laptops if you signed up to their broadband packages for, I think, two years. intomobile‘s thinking is that carriers should subsidise not only handsets but just about any data enabled device to drive data usage.

Subsidising handsets is fine if the voice and data packages aren’t capped as you’ll get substantial revenue from the heavy users. Once the cap comes in, subsidising mobile data devices loses it’s sheen quickly as all costs to the users are capped and so is the carriers income for those product.

So I can’t see carriers moving into the adjacent market of high tech goods retailing just yet, even with the buying power of the carriers.

Moving into banking maybe a little too ambitious, what I actually mean is payments. With the Telco Dilemma series it’s becoming clear that looking at adjacent markets is one for the carriers to grow revenue. This Telco2.0 post indicates that Services as an adjacent market is growing, but payment is failing to gain any traction.

Key trend: Beyond IT services, nothing else does – entertainment, healthcare, education, mobile payments, e-commerce all fail to gain significant traction as stand-alone lines of business

I’m struggling to understand why payments aren’t taking off, why is there such reluctance, does someone else have a strangle hold on this area of business and not interested in playing, the banks maybe? My experience yesterday morning was as I do when I’m at home, is leave the house around 8am with the girls taking them to nursery. On the trip home I decided to call into Sainsbury’s and pickup some more coffee. Now most mornings like millions of people I leave the house with my keys and my phone, I can get back in or I can call for help, but I left my wallet on the shelf.

So I walk around the store pick up the coffee and some fresh bread and walk to the checkout, when I realise I don’t have my wallet. But I have my phone, I can pay for ringtones with my phone, via SMS, I can donate to charity via SMS, why can’t I pay for my coffee via SMS?

This payment method could be used in just about any situation, Starbucks, text your order, pay, get text when it’s ready for collection. The carries who provide the network infrastructure take a tiny cut, that’s a tiny cut of every single business transaction that takes place, don’t forget the revenue for the SMS too.

Your mobile phone bill will look a lot like your credit card bill and then we move into interest on balance if you don’t want or can’t pay for all your purchases in one go, looks like banking to me and I want the convenience it brings. You can delve into this model in a lot more detail, the security is there for example, pin numbers in the SMS, but we’ll stop there.

The US becomes a low cost country.

BMW is moving some car production to the US to save costs [via] This isn’t the first I’ve read about switching work back into the US. Infosys the India IT company was moving some helpdesk services back into the US and the mid west to be precise. The advances in remote working for call centre people means that “stay at home mom’s” can now log on and spend some time answering calls and then log back off again in an extremely flexible manner.

Telco Dilemma Series: 3. So is it unlimited or unlimited*

The implication of truly unlimited bandwidth for the users can have huge impacts on the network. We’ve seen the impact of iPlayer on Easynet (a 20% rise in bandwidth and rising), is that there needs to be investment in the underlying backbones to cope with the data.

Take a look at data on GSM, 4Kb/s speeds, now look at 3G about 2.5MBits/s and with HSDPA already being rolled out 14Mbits/s. Home broadband for most people if they are lucky is 6Mbits/s, So the impact is going to be huge as this Fierce Wireless posts states, Mobile broadband use up 154%.

image

Therefore the carrier has to invest huge sums in it’s backbone to cope with the hockey stick like impact of data traffic on it’s networks, while battling to retain revenue and market share where price is the only differential. Therefore the carriers see the only way to have any control over that bandwidth is to put a cap on it, so it’s unlimited*, where the asterisk points to a cap imposed by the carrier, usually either 1gb or 2gb. But is the cap only a short term stop gap to the bigger problem demanded by the market, of uncapped flat rate tariffs?

The Telco2.0 blog picked up the above diagram and highlight the unsustainability of the mobile broadband market, especially on flat-rate tariffs.

The presentations (from) Hamid Akhavan’s, CEO at T-Mobile International, seems to have been withdrawn from the site now. We managed to grab it before it was. The key image is below. It shows the economic unsustainability of mobile broadband, especially on flat-rate tariffs. If you understand that low quality YouTube videos now account for 10% of all global web traffic, then imagine what will happen when the quality improves. In fact you don’t need to imagine: see the real stats of the impact of the BBC’s iPlayer (high quality streaming video) on UK ISP’s in the last 8 weeks since launch (a doubling of streaming traffic and a trebling of costs – analysis here).

So T-Mobile, who may have now changed their mind, since they withdrew their presentation, seem to think that this path that we’re currently treading is unsustainable. When you look at some of the facts he may be right.

Telco Dilemma Series 2: The implications of unlimited bandwidth.

Reports already suggest that the ARPU is falling and that the uptake in data is expected to fill the gap. So we know that Carriers are pinning their future on the update of data packages both capped and unlimited.

So we’ve reached the point where an unlimited service costs $99 and now following on from what I said in post 1 of the series, Sprint have launched a $89 deal. The upside is the carrier doesn’t have to operate value added services such as music and ring tone services if it doesn’t want. In other words there is considerable cost savings to be made by reducing or removing the poor value add services and just concentrating on the network. So the difference between the true cost of bandwidth and the $99 dollars should result in a healthy margin for the carrier.

The current implications of unlimited bandwidth are going to be seen in the network itself. We have already read about how the BBC’s iPlayer nukes all you can eat ISP business model, and impacts the broadband networks. There are already rumours of the iPlayer mobile, so we’ll see the mobile networks getting ‘nuked’ too.

So considerable investment is going to be required in the backbones of the ISP’s and wireless carriers networks to cope with the explosion in bandwidth. The problem becomes how do the carriers fund this investment based on failing ARPU’s. Phoneboy commented on Pat Phelan’s blog with how he thinks it could happen.

Let’s assume that in some parallel universe, a carrier decides to ditch all the expense and overhead of trying to “shape” traffic or provide actual content and focuses on being a fat, dumb pipe. What happens?

* All that overhead of dealing with content goes away. This includes backend servers, negotiations with content makers, and customer service reps who have to deal with customers who are purchasing this “content” and it doesn’t work right.

* All that time carriers spend “approving” handsets goes out the window. These devices? They adhere to standards. They’re called GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, HSDPA, etc. Let the goverments deal with that and quit trying to do a job someone else already does.

* That extra money “saved?” Pump it into making fatter pipes and improving customer service.

The carrier with the fattest, dumbest pipe and the best customer service will be sitting pretty.

Conclusion.

So the implications on the explosion of bandwidth is great for the consumer and we’re reaching a very interesting point in mobile computing, but it’s causing a headache for ISP’s, Carriers and Telco’s in general. What should be done, diverting the money from walled garden ‘value add’ services into the network sounds a good a place to start as any.

Telco Dilemma Series: 1. the cost of unlimited & ARPU

As I mentioned in the preface post, SMS Text news has a post “US Carriers become dumb pipes”.

The debate on dumb pipes is obviously wider than that single post and is really around what the carriers should provide, i.e. just the bandwidth and nothing more. The question for the carriers though is how do they grow and how do they please their shareholders by only selling dumb pipes.

Bandwidth is almost an infinite resource and is constantly falling in price. So the problem is if the carrier creates an unlimited price structure, the only way to win and retain customers is to fight the competition by reducing the price. There’s no other service involved with which to differentiate, it’s unlimited bandwidth at $99 from X or unlimited at $95 from Y.

Reports already suggest that the ARPU is falling and that the uptake in data is expected to fill the gap. So we know that Carriers are pinning their future on the update of data packages both capped and unlimited.

So how much will an unlimited plan cost in Europe?

Unlimited bundles of both voice and data will cost what a carrier expects to make from a customer with all it’s added value services in place. The ARPU needs to be the same with the locked in poor services as without them. So without unlimited voice and data, a carrier will push it’s own music service, ring tones etc and expect a revenue of $99 per month from it’s customers as an example. So, In the dumb pipe world, the carrier has to get the same or more revenue per user, so will price the unlimited service at $99 ARPU target figure. The reason for $99 is that it’s not going to be able to up sell you any value add service so needs to get the revenue by offering you the unlimited service at the same ARPU target price, as all the market appears to want is a dumb pipe.

So what does that equate to in Europe, your guess is as good as mine. $99 is about £50 in the UK, I’m guess it’ll be more than that, for between £60 & £75 I’d expect to see an unlimited voice and data package hit the shelves here in the UK. That’s $120 to $150, so considerably more expensive than the US.

Is the ARPU model bad?

Maybe the ARPU model is the root of the problem for carriers then, Stephen Wellman also thinks so;

ARPU as a model has been a big reason wireless carriers have not embraced change. It’s the primary reason carriers love to trap their customers with long contracts and ARPU is the reason carriers have tried to control all aspects of the mobile market, from devices to content to the mobile Web. While carriers in Europe and Asia have been more flexible than their American counterparts, the end result of this model has been a market that has failed to really innovate.

I’ll discuss innovation in another post because I think is there area where future revenues have to come from. Stephen goes on to highlight how successful the iPhone has been and calls for the carriers to leave the devices and services to the people that actually understand them.

Conclusion

So the problem is still there; how do Carriers please the share holders, by only focusing on delivering a ‘dumb’ network? Moving to an unlimited pricing scheme doesn’t fix the problem. So maybe the ARPU model is the root of the problem after all.

The Telco Dilemma Series.

I’ve been thinking about the implication of the $99 unlimited packages hitting the US shops and what the impacts of that would be if the model is adopted here in Europe. My musings then went on to cover the other challenges facing the mobile and fixed line carriers. So I’ve decided to split the post up and cover each of the questions in a little more detail.

So these are the ten questions I’ll be asking and trying to answer over the next few days.

1. How much will an unlimited plan cost in Europe?

2. The implications of unlimited bandwidth.

3. Is it unlimited or unlimited*

4. Is unlimited* bad or will the three strikes rule remove the *?

5. Should the value added services be dropped?

6. Has Nokia shown the way with Ovi?

7. Is the carrier model too predictable?

8. How do you compete in a market place when services are free?

9. Why is there loads of innovation in the mobile space, yet none of it from the Carriers?

10. Google has bought, Grand Central and Jaiku, who should the carriers be buying?

If you think you can answer any of the questions then please let me know.

New role at Orange

I’ve been keeping this under my hat for a few days, but my Manager told the rest of the team last week so it’s in the ‘public’ domain. I have the name of the person to handover to and a date too, so I’m a bit more comfortable talking about it.

For the last 7 months I’ve been working on Orange’s only full scope outsourcing project as the lead buyer, so managing pretty much everything that Orange needs from third parties, software, devices and services. It’s been extremely interesting understanding how Orange manages its outsourcing business and I’ll miss the guys working on the account and the account directors of the various suppliers. I also spent a lot of time with the finance guys helping to fix the growing pains we’ve experienced, well outside of my remit I know, but it needed to be done. Over last few weeks I’ve been ‘loaned out’ to the CIO of the customer, helping them with an RFP, hence the recent 3 day trip to Halmstad, it’s been a strange experience, but an interesting one nonetheless.

So where am I going..

I’m joining the group level integrated Telco operator’s team, so I’m back working in a Telco only environment. There’s two of us in the UK team working on all Telco spend at group level, which means covering, Orange Business Services, Orange Mobile and Orange Home. I spent last Thursday down in Bristol taking a look at all of the projects going on which was great to be talking about Telco stuff again. We even had a great geek out tour of the Bristol Switch, a 500m2 room with all the associated kit of a mobile network.

So it’s going to be fun to understand from an insider view point, how enterprise, mobile and DSL networks are managed, costs are saved and partners chosen. Which in the face of calls for dumb pipes from the Telco’s it’s going to be interesting and challenging. I’ve read the paradox of the best network and totally understand the drive for more bandwidth and realistically priced mobile data access and how the likes of the BBC’s iPlayer will impact the network to deliver the extra bits and bytes.

So I just can’t wait to start the conversations

Sky broadband customers blindsided by SMTP switch-off

The register has an interesting post on the problems Sky has had moving it’s email over to an outsourced partner. What I found was interesting is that the email outsource is to Google. I must have missed this move by Google to move into the outsourcing space.

When you sign up with Google, you know they read your emails and place adverts next to your mail. So if you sign up that OK’s, you know what you’re getting into. But I wonder here if this is just using Google’s SMTP infrastructure, or is a wholesale swap out to gmail. If it’s a swap out to gmail. I wonder if the Sky customers know that their mail is now being read by Google?

But as the original post on the register suggest’s I bet there is a huge number of customers who’ve no idea how to change their pop and smtp settings, another great example of customer care in the broadband space.