Tag: AT+T (Page 1 of 2)

Android 2.0 a Motorola Exclusive???

There have been reports (referred to by this here) pondering if Motorola grabbed an “exclusive” deal with the Google-led Open Handset Alliance for Android 2.0 on its Droid (or, in Europe et al, Milestone) handset. There does not appear to being any formal confirmation of this but it was mentioned that, anecdotally, other vendors (and fellow members of the Open Handset Alliance) like HTC, LG, Kyocera and Samsung were still deploying version 1.5.

They quoted industry analyst Ross Rubin as to why Android 2.0 debuted on a Motorola device:

[…] There could be several reasons. Verizon’s subscriber strength and more direct competition with AT&T and the iPhone may have led it to push for Android 2.0 to be more competitive. Or it could be simple product development timetables. Moving forward, HTC will want to put its Sense user experience on top of Android 2.0, which requires development time. Google wants a healthy Android ecosystem and a competitive Motorola contributes to that.

The article went on to refer to the respective releases for 1.0 and 1.5 (both to HTC). However, one might argue that, for the first two releases, there was not much harm done in working more closely with HTC as they were the front-runners on deploying an Android phone, so that the concerted marketing buzz etc might have been justified. However, now that there is a large number of vendors deploying, one might query the compliance of the term “open source” with such exclusivity arrangements.

It also highlights the dominance Google has in the Open Handset Alliance which might, longer-term, lead to assertions that Google is in fact using the open source road as a cover to push what is effectively an OS largely driven by them. I am not implying that it is and a healthy ecosystem with multiple strong is important in particular for the launch of a new OS in a space so full of powerful multi-nationals but there is a fine line to walk in order to get it right.

Is Apple to break iPhone exclusivity?

There have been rumours galore about Apple’s exclusive deals for its iPhone all over the place (see e.g. here for Verizon). New reports have now surfaced that appear to confirm that Apple is looking at this option for both the US and the UK (and, if this works, presumably also for other territories):

In the UK, T-Mobile confirmed it was in talks with Apple over stocking the iPhone 3G (the 3GS remaining exclusive to O2, which also has its hands on the Palm Pre) and Orange is “believed”, to be as well.

In the US, the Verizon discussion has been around for a while. A new report now suggests that losing the exclusivity would spell doom for AT&T: the report estimates that as much as 30% of AT&T’s customer are with the carrier solely because of the iPhone exclusivity. This sounds a little high to me: after all, the iPhone penetration in the US is much lower than that (it held just under 11% market share globally in Q1/2009). Are they saying that all the other users (those with the less fancy handsets) just stay on AT&T to share into the iPhone limelight? No, I thought not…

Apple is in any event in a beautiful position at the moment: so far, most of its competitors’ “iPhone killers”(Palm Pre, Blackberry Storm and innumerable devices from Samsung, LG and Nokia) have failed to challenge its numbers and, quite literally, all of the app stores set up by competitors showed meagre results compared to the – now – 1.5 bn (!) downloads in a little over a year from the Apple App Store. The good folks from Cupertino are therefore now in a pretty good position: they proved (a couple of times now) that they shift 1m+ devices – on the opening weekend! They bring a lot of sex appeal in which the carriers, not generally known for coolness, can bask. They cracked the content dilemma and produced a thriving developer community, which made people actually use their phones for all these things that have been promised for so long (iPhones are connected, most others can connect). In short: in carriers eyes, they are – aside from the horrible fact that Apple takes a healthy cut – a really good thing for networks that see themselves locked into cut-throat pricing wars over voice and SMS (bringing in, anecdotally, up to 50% of European carrier profits over the past 5 years) and craving for a way to increase user ARPU (app revenue on the iPhone is, apparently, $27 per device). Happy days…

To Skype or not to Skype: Nokia vs Carriers

The most excellent German blog Mobile Zeitgeist alerted me (in German) to a little battle that illustrates the pitfalls of creating the seamless user experience: Nokia appears to being in a tussle with (at least) the German arms of Vodafone and T-Mobile over the pre-installation of Skype clients on some of its forthcoming handset models (including the long-awaited iPhone competitor, N97).

Vodafone and T-Mobile Germany (who have a combined subscriber base of close to 80m) have now publicly stated that they will not include any Nokia models into their catalogues, which will have Skype installed. Now, there’s a market gone dead then… For other models, look to 3 in the UK (and my post on the Skypephone there…).
T-Mobile said that they “would not let their business be destroyed” by this. Their terms and conditions prohibited VoIP clients already but the carriers did anecdotally turn a blind eye towards this in the past. Nokia’s push however now is apparently too much for the carriers who fear network issues. Interestingly, this surfaces on the same day where, in anther part of the world, some queried the sustainability of free data plans for the iPhone (namely the Wall Street Journal on AT&T’s policies in respect of the iPhone). Predictably, Skype lambasted the move as “unfair practice”.

The name of the game is – of course – the pipe (not new: see e.g. here and here): the WSJ quotes from an Alcatel-Lucent analysis of North American networks during the midday hour of one day, which apparently shows that web browsing consumed 32% of data-related airtime but 69% of bandwidth whereas e-mail used 30% of data airtime but only 4% of bandwidth. The reasoning goes that increased data traffic impacts the networks’ capex whilst remaining – at best – ARPU-neutral (AT&T ponders to drop its data plan for the iPhone by $10), cutting down margins and hurting the carrier more than is healthy. Voice and SMS services are – on a bit for bit basis – very, very profitable as they use very little bandwidth.
To conclude though – as the WSJ does – that unlimited data plans should be abandoned “in the short term”, pours the baby out with the bathwater: smartphones are paving the way into the wireless future (20% of US households are completely wirefree already!) and it is a space where the carriers have great gains to make; maybe not on the sumptuous margins they were used to but healthy and viable nonetheless. To do as the WSJ asks would be as if one would have asked ISPs to please stop flat-rate plans for Internet access; and look what has become of the Internet!
Accordingly, other voices argue that a) slowing voice ARPU is at least being part set-off by increasing data ARPU (which grew a healthy 32% year-on-year in Q1 and saw more than $10bn in wireless data plans being sold in the US for the first time), and b) that the carriers actually know this for a while now and, accordingly, upgrade their networks to better cope with higher bandwidth demands in order to make the move to data pipes; the fight is arguably now “only” about whether these would be dumb or smart: with app stores, VAS and business-to-business (and machine-to-machine) solutions opening up vast new segments that have been completely unexploited to date, one should think that there is room for the smart pipe operator. So fear not!

Top 10 Phones in the US, December 2008: the Ascent of the Smartphone

There’s new data out on the bestselling handsets, and this time it is not being derived from accessory sales (which may have its flaws as I pointed out here) but from a survey amongst service reps and store managers across the 4 big US mobile networks (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile; these comprise 85% of the total subscriber base). Now, this would arguably reduce the recorded sales for the iPhone since this is also being sold via Apple’s own retail stores as well as Walmart, Best Buy, etc. So again not an entirely accurate yardstick, huh?

It is noteworthy that only one handset is available on more than one carrier (and, yes, it ranks prominently amongst the top 1) and that Nokia, despite all waiting, has still not managed to break the top 10.
It is also noteworthy that most of the handsets would certainly be classified at smartphones (the Samsung Rant might be the exception). And this is certainly good news. The T-610 and RAZR may finally have left the building…
So here we go (number in brackets is the previous month’s rank):
1. (1) Blackberry Curve
2. (2) iPhone
3. (3) Blackberry Storm
4. (6) LG Voyager
5. (4) LG Dare
6. (5) Blackberry Bold
7. (-) Samsung Rant
8. (9) Samsung Behold
9. (10) Samsung Instinct
10. (8) LG Env2
Source: Rankings are by Avian Research LL.C. (via the above link)

Mobile Music on the Rise: 40-45% of Digital Revenue for UMG

January is MIDEM time (even though, sadly, I cannot go this year), which means that music dominates the news. In an interview, the EVP of Universal’s eLabs, Rio Caraeff on the revenues of Universal Music Group that:

“about 40 to 45% of our overall digital business is coming from mobile channels like Verizon and AT&T. […] On much of our frontline pop or R&B or urban releases […] we’re seeing mobile comprising 20-45% of the [overall] revenue for those artists.”

Wow! Universal’s digital sales have been growing by 33% during the first 3 quarters of 2008, and they seem determined to fully converge “online”, “mobile”, etc into one:

“The consumer doesn’t want a mobile-only experience – they want an all-digital multi-platform experience. They want to consume their music on their mobile handset [and] on PC and other online platforms. Partners like Verizon and AT&T wanted to have multi-platform online experiences as well. […] Now at Universal, we don’t have a mobile business. We don’t have an online business. We just have one multi-platform digital business.”

Amen to that! And how right he is. Universal also adapted pricing, so that a song costs the same no matter on which digital platform you buy it. And, apparently, mobile storefronts play a role, specifically Amazon‘s MP3 storefront, which is pre-loaded on the G1, the first Android phone. So it’s app stores (or markets) all over this year, huh?
This shows that the majors learned from the pain of recent years and now get a grasp on the digital world. Good stuff that!

Most Precious Mobile Operator Brands

And the winner is… China Mobile. Hard to guess, huh? Some research shows that the Chinese carrier’s brand is worth $30.79bn. Vodafone and Verizon took the other spots on the podium. The top 10 is below (courtesy of the good folks at telecoms.com). And for some (by now a little outdated) comparison for how they rank amongst other industries, see here.

The study applies a royalty based on forecast of sales, brand strength (from qualitative panel data) which priced in market share, growth, price positioning, market scope, preference, awareness, relevance, heritage and perception. They complement these slightly fluffy markers with data on turnover, subs, churn, market share, ARPU, profitability, etc and then took the average score of the two to determine the royalty rate applicable. Apply tax and (low) discount rate and off you go. Pretty simple, isn’t it? And, yes, I still think Cingular was cooler than AT&T… 😉

China Mobile China Mobile China Asia 30,793
2 Vodafone Vodafone UK Europe 22,131
3 Verizon Verizon Communications US North America 20,382
4 AT&T AT&T US North America 18,886
5 T-Mobile Deutsche Telekom Germany Europe 16,802
6 Orange France Telecom France Europe 15,489
7 NTT DoCoMo NTT DoCoMo Japan Asia 14,871
8 KDDI KDDI Corp. Japan Asia 14,454
9 Movistar Telefonica Spain Europe 10,799
10 Sprint Sprint Nextel US North America 9,661

AT&T to go all Symbian

An article tells us that AT&T Wireless intends to run all their phones on one platform as soon as 2014, namely on Symbian. Is this odd? I mean: the iPhone isn’t Symbian, is it? 

It is of course not odd. The carrier wants to avoid platform fragmentation (see also here and here) which has made it hard to develop mobile applications (and one might well now think that they indeed had a very powerful showcase paraded past them over the last 5 months: see here), and their Director of Next Generation Services, Data Product Realization (can’t they have shorter job titles?), Roger Smith called Symbian “a very credible and likely candidate” to be “the One”.
AT&T intends to
 provide an own-branded smartphones and they reckon – rightly! – that it would be a “support nightmare” would they run this on various platforms.

Mr Smith also came up with some damning verdicts about J2ME: it failed to deliver a simplification for application developers and, moreover, doesn’t allow developers to get deeply enough into a phone’s OS to deliver the kind of experiences consumers want (what are these, I ask? Not having to put up with clunky and unintuitive restrictions? Ah, now I get it).
Symbian, Android (see here) or another one: the path is, I reckon, the right one. And it is a milestone for Symbian (and one probably only possible because of the decision to go open source with it) as it would wrap up one of the largest carriers in the world under its wings.

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