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.

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