Tuesday, 21 April 2009

3 defends mobile broadband strategy

An interesting article on Broadband Genie on Friday about 3's mobile broadband strategy. They chatted with a former colleague of mine, David Kerrigan, head of internet services at 3 at the launch of Gadget Show Live, a consumer electronics show here in London.

You can read the article yourself, but here are my main take-aways:
  • 3 receives more complaints for its mobile broadband service because it has more customers and they're "working really hard" to improve customer service. The customer service implications of MBB were always going to be one of the big headaches. 3 probably does have more MBB customers than anyone else, but it's impossible to draw any conclusions without being able to do a "complaints per user" calculation.
  • They've added 1,000 base stations over the last 8 weeks and will keep on ramping up the roll-out. I assume this is all part of the network share with T-Mobile. The pooling of 3G resources with T-Mobile will increase the number of base stations to which each operator has access. This will give both operators better coverage, but there will be fewer base stations in total as the companies rationalise their sites.
  • Focus less on headline rate and more on average customer experience and whether they can use the applications they want. This seems fair enough. The headline speed only goes part way in determining the user experience. Numerous other factors also play a part: quality of the CPE, distance from the BTS and contention ratio to name but three. This is particularly true if the high headline rate has a very limited geographical scope.

With regard to the last point, I draw the analogy with Blackberry who continued to sell a 2.5G solution when 3G networks and devices were available. It wasn't about the speed, it was about whether the application worked, which it did. With mobile broadband it's not simply about delivering the fattest pipe possible. There are surely smarter ways to deliver the service required, at a lower bandwidth, e.g. through content adaptation or local caching.

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