Thursday, 27 August 2009

3 UK deploys mobile broadband advertising

Another source of mobile broadband revenue has reared its head today, with 3 UK's agreement to host advertising on its mobile broadband dashboard, i.e. the sign-in and status screen.

Yell has been signed up as the first advertiser. 3 UK advertised for partners in July. It has been successfully run in Austria with advertisers such as Honda, Suzuki and VW (yes, curiously automotive-oriented isn't it).

I'm a 3 subscriber and frequent, often frustrated, user. So I'll keep you posted on what it looks like and what the impact, if any, is on the service.
Oh, and before you ask, "Received Top" of 173.6kbps (on the graphic, left) after 15 mins is actually pretty good for where I Central London.

Mobile money is THE growth area in emerging markets and Nokia wants a slice

Nokia has announced that it's getting into mobile money with its new, imaginatively named, "Nokia Money" initiative in conjunction with mpayment specialists Obopay. The new mobile wallet application, aimed squarely at the unbanked in emerging markets, will allow users to make payments, transfer money, pay bills and top up their prepay. They're also building a network of agents to allow users to deposit and withdraw cash.

In emerging markets mobile money is THE growth area. Mobile offers the only viable option for many financial transactions due to the lack of banking infrastructure. The average country in Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, has less than one bank per 100,000 people, compared to about 1 per 3,500 people in the United States. Almost half of subscribers to one Kenyan mobile operator are registered for their m-payment service and they reported over USD200 million of funds transferred in March 2009 alone. Almost 8% of that company's ARPU is accounted for by m-payments and that figure is rising. In that context, it is hardly surprising that Nokia is looking at getting a piece of the action as they extend beyond devices and into services.

What's generally lacking in mobile payment systems is interoperability. Let's hope Nokia helps rather than hinders that. Let's not forget the importance that interop had in driving SMS. The same will be true of m-money, although being a bit less P2P it's not as critical.

For more on this area, see Analysys Mason's forthcoming report Sub-Saharan Africa telecoms market: regional overview 2009.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

T-Mobile launches LTE test network

T-Mobile has announced the launch of live multi-user field trials for its first next-generation mobile network (NGMN) deployment. The 60-cell LTE network, supplied by Huawei, will be deployed in Innsbruck, Austria. The network will be capable of 50MBit/s uplink and downlink.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Short-term hire is the next MBB niche

Australia has recently been setting the standard for marketing innovation in mobile broadband and it's always worth keeping an eye on what they're doing down under. A recent development has been the launch of short-term dongle rental aimed at businesses.

The new Laptop Connect service from Telstra charges up to AUD10.95/day for 143MB (evidently based on 4GB/28 days). Charges fall depending on the duration of the rental: sub-AUD10 for anything over 5 days. Targeted segments include home-movers, business users attending events and holidaymakers.

As MBB penetration increases, subscriber growth will increasingly depend on finding niches. This looks like an attractive and high margin one, albeit a bit troublesome to manage. A lot will depend on distribution channels and ease of sign-up.

So, while their cricketers were being turned over at the Oval in the final Ashes test, they do at least have innovative MBB pricing as some compensation.

Monday, 24 August 2009

How analysts do their forecasts...

Saw this on Technobabble 2.0 and it rang a bell

Nokia launches first laptop

Nokia has announced its first foray into the laptop space with the "Nokia Booklet 3G", a Windows-based subnotebook weighing in at 1.25KG with 10" screen. It features 3G/HSPA, integrated GPS and, of course, a full Ovi suite pre-installed. No pricing details yet. We'll need to wait for the Nokia World event next month for that.

The interesting thing for me is that they've chosen to go with Windows, rather than launch a Symbian-based subnotebook. In a recent Perspective I wrote for Analysys Mason (Mobile OS developers will compete fiercely with Microsoft for presence on notebooks) I speculated about handset vendors extending their OSes onto notebooks. It seems that Nokia is not quite ready to make that leap.

This also follows hot on the heels of a Nokia agreement with Microsoft to support the Office suite of applications on Symbian phones as well as speculation (mostly from FT Deutschland) that they will junk Symbian altogether and use Maemo. Although I'm sceptical about the latter, all of this does betray a more pluralistic approach to OS.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Mobilkom Austria looking towards joined up broadband

Telekom Austria has announced its results for Q2 2009. Its (i.e. Mobilkom's) mobile broadband subscriber base increased 43% y-o-y to 464,000 connections. Net adds during the quarter was 23,850. So growth is slowing somewhat. Of the 140,000 subs added in the last 12 months, only 17% came in Q2. Mind you, we can expect Q2 to be relatively slow anyway. Data now accounts for 35% of traffic-related revenues, up from 31% in Q2 2008.

Interesting quote from CEO Hannes Ametsreiter in the earnings call "I believe it's also important to have a look at not only mobile broadband and fixed broadband, but we are looking at total growth in future market broadband, there we can clearly see that we could increase our market share in that market." (Transcript at

Telekom Austria has been keen to offer fixed-mobile broadband bundles, and indeed to also throw fixed and mobile voice into the mix too, under the "aon" brand. This is clearly a way to differentiate it from the keenly price MBB offers in Austria. As an example, the aonBreitband-Duo MBB/DSL plan costs €30/month including a free laptop. It's only a short step from that to the joined-up broadband that will become the de facto standard over the next couple of years.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Multi-SIM/multi-channel mobile broadband? Is there an opportunity?

I was chatting today with Raj Krishna at Manovega about their new mobile broadband product. Essentially the aim is to speed up mobile broadband connections by combining multiple (5-10)channels in a single device through the use of multiple SIMs.

This is an interesting approach to solving one of the critical issues for MNOs: How do you differentiate an enterprise offer? Currently with no differentiated service, enterprise customers are sensibly migrating to cheap consumer plans. Offering larger bundles doesn't really appeal to business users as enterprise apps are typically not that data hungry. What business users will pay for is speed. Unfortunately no-one has really managed to successfully address this requirement. The potential benefits to the operator of doing so are substantial in terms of higher rev/MB. Enteprise users are willing to pay, but they must receive a substantive benefit, i.e. faster or more reliable connection. By combining multiple connections (and potentially connections from multiple MNOs), this multi-SIM/multi-channel solution potentially offers an enterprise-grade MBB service. Or at least gets closer.

The challenges, however, are manifold, including:
  • Peripheral devices have a limited shelf life as modems become increasingly embedded
  • Operators typically push back against devices with multiple SIMs
  • Infrastructure vendors are looking at pushing a similar agenda, allowing MNOs to differentiate an enterprise proposition without the requirement for multiple SIMs

However, the principal is a good one: more bandwidth for those willing to pay. There must be a significant premium associated with this as effectively any user will be hoovering up 5-10 users' capacity. So at least a 5-10x premium must apply.

Monday, 17 August 2009

3 growth outperforms the market

In more 3-related news, the operator's parent company Hutchison Whampoa has announced that the group* had 3.8 million mobile broadband customers as of mid-2009, up 170% compared to mid-2008.

According to my estimates, over the same period in Europe as a whole, mobile broadband connections grew by about 104%, so 3 seems to be outperforming the market. That said, of course, the comparison isn't exactly fair as 3 isn't present in all the markets and they tend to drive a lot of the growth. So it would be fairer to compare with those markets in Europe where 3 is present (I don't currently have Israel or HK forecasts, they're coming soon). The composite growth figure for the Austrian, Danish, Irish, Italian, Swedish and UK markets is 100% over the year to June 2009, making 3's growth of 170% all the more impressive.

Full mobile broadband subscriber (and more) forecasts available here.

*Including Israel and Hong Kong subsidiaries as well as "3" companies.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

3 set to launch MiFi

3 UK is set to launch a MiFi router in time for Christmas (see press release here). For those unfamiliar with the device it's essentially a WiFi router but it uses HSPA for the backhaul rather than DSL. No pricing announcement yet.

As noted in an earlier blog post (here) I have a healthy degree of scepticism that these devices will have a long-term future, not least because the growth of embedded modems will eventually render peripheral devices (including dongles) redundant. That said, I have been very impressed with the Novatel MiFi device I've been using. Set up is easy and being able to put it anywhere means I can find a reasonable connection in my Faraday-cage-like apartment. Part of the improvement in the service (relative to my 3 dongle) could be down to better coverage from Vodafone.

Nevertheless I still suspect that the WiFi router will see only modest uptake. Three-quarters of users of mobile broadband (as indicated in the recent Ofcom Comms Market Review) use it as a complement to DSL/cable, rather than a replacement. As a complement it doesn't really make that much sense since for out-and-about use, it's unlikely that most users will need to share. The router is aimed squarely at the replacement market and then only if the owner lives alone or never moves it. There's nothing like taking the family broadband connection away on a business trip to really annoy a spouse/the kids. So there's a healthy opportunity there, but not massive.

For forecasts of mobile broadband adoption by device type, see Analysys Mason's recent report Mobile Broadband Devices: From USB Modems to Where?

Friday, 7 August 2009

T-Mobile selling iPhones in the UK????

Report here that T-Mobile has been importing iPhones to use as customer retention tactic for high value subscribers that are looking to migrate to O2. Wow!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Orange set to spark price war in UK MBB with £5 tariff

Orange has introduced a 500MB £4.89/month mobile broadband offer. This is only open to existing Orange customers. Given that average utilisation is probably now comfortably below the 1GB/month mark there should be a lot of casual laptop owners interested in giving Orange a go. I await the reaction of the competition with bated breath.

Mobile broadband is highlight in Ofcom's UK Comms Mkt Review

This morning Ofcom published the Communications Market Review 2009 (here). Mobile broadband provides one of the few positives. According to the figures 12% of households have mobile broadband, giving 3 million connections and 75% of them are complementary, rather than replacement. I would advise caution over the figures. While GfK has a reasonably robust methodology and Mobile Today generally know what they're talking about, you can take it for granted that there is some margin of error in their figures quoted in the Ofcom report. However, I think they're very close to the truth. All of the figures are completely in keeping with the forecasts I compiled for Analysys Mason for the report Mobile broadband in Europe: forecasts and analysis 2009–2014.

The socio-economic analysis that Ofcom has done is quite interesting. Nothing we weren't expecting though I'd say: ABs have the highest penetration and typically use MBB as a complement; DEs have fewest connections and are proportionately more likely to use it as their main connection (reflecting the fact that they're more likely to be mobile-only households and the affordability of prepaid MBB).