Thursday, March 29, 2007

Informa's very successful 2nd UMA conference

Last week Informa held its second UMA conference in Cannes. Overall it was a very successful event, with 8 presentations from operators (two from Orange). All the key players were there in force, including Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Kineto.

In addition, there were many operators who had come to hear about the market and the successes to date. They weren’t disappointed, Orange, Telia and Telecom Italia all presented on the status of their deployments and feedback on the successes.

While it would not be appropriate for me to recite information verbatim, we did get excellent insight into metric of UMA users. Also, Telia shared a very clever television commercial they are running in Denmark for their HomeFree service. It highlighted their fixed/mobile offer and the key benefits. No wonder there is so much demand.

One very interesting presentation was from NXP on their efforts to increase battery performance for UMA devices. The net result is that NXP now has an extremely competitive platform which, in their words, offers up to 9 hrs talk time and 200 hrs standby-time for UMA-enabled handsets. I believe that meets the GSM bar. Kudos to NXP.

Will Franks with UbiquiSys offered an insightful presentation on femtocell technology and how dual-mode handsets and femtos will likely co-exist in the market.

There were two key themes at the event:

First, the industry absolutely needs more handsets. I believe in the coming months, two things will happen. First, there are a LOT of devices in the pipeline, and they will come to market. This is immediately very good news. Second, I believe the operators are beginning to realize the need to actively pursue the handset eco-system for more models. This means being more public about their services and the successes to date.

Second, several operators presented why they chose to go with UMA and not an alternative solution like VCC/IMS. I think hearing the feedback directly from operators on the evaluation process they went through and why they are skeptical or down-right dismissive of VCC was extremely validating for me. As you recall, this is the year I believe the industry will begin to realize just how limiting VCC truly is (witness DT dropping their pre-VCC “T-One service).

All in all, it was excellent. For those of you who didn’t make it, don’t hesitate to send me a note if you’d like to get more information. Next year’s event promises to be even better.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Dogma of IMS

Upperside, a European conference promoter, has an event Apr 17-20 in Paris titled Wireless/Wi-Fi Convergence 2007: Deploying UMA and IMS Architectures.

Often conferences try to stir up controversy by pitting arch rivals against one-another on panels and the like.

Yet this is the first time I can recall a conference evoking the schisms of Christianity to instill some controversy into an event.

And I quote:

And, IMS, like Catholicism, now has its own Protestant sects - ETSI TISPAN, ATIS, MSF, PacketCable and the DSL Forum - that are breaking off and defining their own architecture and technology extensions/replacements to the IMS dogma.

This will prove to be a very enlightening conference!

UMA "in the wild" or at least in Rome

According to blogger Mark, Telecom Italia Mobile is now pushing their UMA service, called Unica, once again.

For a while, it was confined to a handful of stores in Milan, but with this sighting, it looks as if UMA and Unica is expanding across the country.

This fits with another datapoint. TI/TIM executives meet with the financial community on March 9 and presented the outlook for the company. Unica was called out as a key technology for Telecom Italia Mobile going forward.

It looks like things might be back on track in Italy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deutsche Telekom Cancels T-One FMC Service

As reported on Light Reading today, it is certainly a shame that DT cancelled its T-One service (well, not really), I think the announcement warrants a bit “UMA commentary”.

First, as stated, this is a DT (fixed operator) service. Given that dual mode handset (DMH) services are for FMS, it’s always challenging for the fixed operator to reconcile internally a product that fundamentally is about moving minutes off their network.

This is doubly challenging in Germany, as illustrated by the commentary from Current Analysis researcher Emma Morh-McClune, who points out that T-Mobile has a wildly successful FMS cellular home zone” product.

Of course, DT’s service was plagued with all the same challenges of other fixed line operators with DMH services. While there are many other challenges for fixed operators deploying a FMS solution, the fact that T-One only supported a single handset was highlighted as a cause of failure for the service. This is for a couple reasons.

First, the main handset vendors won’t touch the technology until there is some type of standard. The only standard on the horizon for fixed line operators, VCC, still has a ways to go.

Second, fixed line operators really don’t have any pull with the mobile device manufacturers. The cold hard facts are that the vast majority of handsets are sold through the mobile channels. As an operator, if you aren’t moving 10m units or more (I’m guessing) of handsets a year, you don’t have much pull with getting a unique application or service installed on a device.

Such was the case with T-One. This “pre-VCC” solution was based on a non-standard network controller (from Siemens?) and presumably required some heavy pull to get the “special” code loaded onto a single handset from Foxconn. Because the protocol isn’t a standard, it works with that one network controller (Siemens?) and it doesn’t work with Alca-Lu, or Nortel or any other of the other “pre-VCC” vendors.

Even if the standardization/handset availability issues are to be overcome, we haven’t even come to the challenges of providing “mobile services” when the subscriber is indoors and connected to the SIP/VCC controller.

Can the user download a ringtone? Upload an MMS? No.

VCC supports “voice call” continuity, it doesn’t support “MMS” continuity or “Ringtone” continuity or any other application you’re thinking of...

If DT and T-Mobile acted cooperatively rather than competitively, perhaps things would have been different. Arguably it’s a cooperative relationship between BT and Vodafone that has kept the Fusion service going (and the fact that it’s based on UMA, a real standard with real mainstream support).

But I have a feeling this situation is about to be repeated at incumbent providers around the world. The world wants mobile for voice. Investing in fixed line voice services going forward is a losing battle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

unik at 100,000

unik in France now has 100,000 subscribers in five months, a number that will increase in the months to come.

This article is interesting because it points out that the numbers have been achieved with (they say three, we know it's two) handsets. Yet the pipeline for devices is very strong and I think we have a good shot at 10 UMA devices by the middle of the year.

I think the Ovum analyst quoted in the article is correct, that the current rate of 20,000 subscribers/month won't get Orange to 1m subs in 2007. But a source shared with me that unik advertising in Paris has gone quite. I expect what we've seen from Orange is just the first shot, to make sure they systems and service work as expected. With a flurry of new devices coming in the next few weeks, I think we'll see a stronger, sustained push from Orange in the coming months.

It will prove futile to keep up with unik's monthly subscriber numbers here, UMA is happening...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Orange's Georges Penalver comments on unik

In comments made at 3GSM in Barcelona, Orange confirmed that there were more than 69,000 unik handsets sold in France in the last three months of 2006. According to Georges Penalver, senior executive marketing vice president with Orange Group, 15% of new customers joining Orange were doing so to get the unik service. A tremendous recognition of the value of the service.

Penalver confirmed three more handsets are joining the unik service plan and that Orange in France is forecasting 1m UMA units in 2007. Commercial launches for Spain and the UK are planned for the first half of 2007.

“Unik brings simplicity and cheaper access to basic services, like voice,” Penalver said. “It provides a better customer experience for data access, better indoor coverage, and it off-loads the mobile network.”

More interesting, according to Penalver, unik hasn’t cut into existing mobile revenues. “The positive parts are the price of the unik option and the retention effect and ARPU uplife. Customers pay less to get the same service.”

It is important to note that Orange introduced an unlimited international call tariff for unik business users in January, 2007. The “unik for professionals” tariff covers all calls made over UMA/Wi-Fi to landlines in Europe, the US and Canada for a flat fee of €15.88/month, available only in France.

Continuing, Penalver said that bundled services are an important focus for Orange. Through an internal study, Orange determined that by 2008, 63% of European households would have both broadband and mobile services, of which two thirds would take a bundled service from a single operator. That works out to 42% of European households looking for a combined mobile/broadband provider.

It’s clear that unik and UMA continue to be a key and central part of Orange’s strategy throughout Europe.