Thursday, October 11, 2007

T-Mobile Wins 2007 Telephony Innovation Award

At the Telephony Live event taking place in Dallas, T-Mobile’s HotSpot@Home service was recognized as the Most Innovative Consumer Service for Telephony Magazine's 2007 Innovation Awards.

In accepting the award, T-Mobile product manager Kevin Kvarda said that the launch of @Home was the culmination careful planning and preparation to ensure the service exceeded customer expectations, and it was an honor to be recognized for such innovation and effort. The service is just getting started, said Kevin, and we should look for more to come.

Congratulations T-Mobile.

Friday, October 05, 2007

So, how cool is it?

Now that the RIM 8320 is available from T-Mobile (and easier for us in California to get than Orange’s 8820), many people ask “How cool is it?”

It’s true that several people in the office have 8320 with UMA and the feedback has been very positive. But a review on Mobile Tech Review has captured our sentiments and more:

Now T-Mobile goes one better with the Curve 8320 which adds not only WiFi but UMA for phone calling over WiFi networks. That's what we call a killer application in tech lingo: something new, cool and downright useful that might just start a new technology trend.
We agree, RIM and T-Mobile definitely have a winning combination.

Dual-mode phones: Influencing the Euro mobile market

Industry research firm Instat announced yesterday the availability of a new report which highlights 10 key trends in the European handset market. Among the trends is the growing demand for dual-mode handsets. Given Orange’s continued success, it’s really no surprise.

Check out the report here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wi-Fi: A 'feature' or a 'technology'?

A research company sent me the outline of a report on the global mobile device market. In it, they promoted the fact that they had a comprehensive list of market statistics that could be divided up by region, handset tier, by technology and by feature.

The ‘technologies’ listed included the usual RAN suspects: GSM, GPRS, EDGE, CDMA ..., HSxPA, WiMAX, LTE,...

The ‘features’ listed the same usual suspects: email, IM, camera, video, MP3, GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

This got me thinking: Is Wi-Fi a ‘feature’ or a ‘technology’?

For any non-UMA-enabled dual-mode phone, the answer is clear that Wi-Fi is a feature. The iPhone, any Nokia E series, or Wi-Fi enabled HTC devices all list Wi-Fi as a feature. This is because Wi-Fi is not essential to the operation of the device. These are essentially GSM mobile phones, and the addition of (or lack of) Wi-Fi does not impact the core capability of the device (the ability to make a phone call).

Sure, the iPhone has gotten close to ‘seamless integration’ of Wi-Fi as a *feature* on a device, but I’m sure there’s a large percentage of people who never use the Wi-Fi ‘feature’ or who only use it infrequently.

I contrast this with a UMA-enabled dual-mode Wi-Fi device. In this case, Wi-Fi is used every day. Any time the subscriber is at home or even in the office, the phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Not that the subscriber has to know or care, but Wi-Fi is actually rather essential to the operation of the device. When attached to Wi-Fi, voice services, SMS, MMS, all mobile services are delivered over the Wi-Fi radio.

Certainly for people who acquired a UMA-enabled device to ensure coverage in the home, this is a fundamental requirement and therefore is not just a ‘feature’, but more of a core ‘technology’ of the handset.

I think it’s fair to compare the operation of a UMA-enabled dual-mode phone with the operation of an equally ‘dual-mode’ phone: 3G. I say ‘dual-mode’ because all 3G phones come with 2G RAN technology as well. A subscriber using a 3G phone doesn’t spend too much timing thinking about whether the phone is connected to the 2G or 3G network. The phone just works. The subscriber doesn’t expect there to be any service interruption or disruption that comes from a 3G/2G device. Frankly, this is exactly how Wi-Fi/UMA works in a ‘dual-mode’ phone as well.

I know that T-Mobile with their HotSpot @Home service does not consider Wi-Fi to be a ‘feature’. For T-Mobile, Wi-Fi (with UMA) is a core RAN technology. It is literally a second RAN technology. T-Mobile has a nationwide 2.5G network, and by rolling out HotSpot @Home, they now have a second RAN technology.

Perhaps the definition is that Wi-Fi by itself is a ‘feature’, but UMA-enabled Wi-Fi is a RAN ‘technology’.

I think this gets down to a core issue that the market isn’t seeing. The operators who are doing UMA/Wi-FI aren’t doing it because it’s an interesting feature, they are doing it as a second (or third in the case of Orange) RAN technology.

We have always said “UMA is a parallel access network,” but it’s clear this message isn’t getting through.

Monday, October 01, 2007

UK Operators unleash ‘flat rate’ data plans

The BBC reported today that T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and Three offer flat rate price plans for internet access on mobile phones. O2 will launch a plan in October prior to the iPhone launch.

In the article, Richard Warmsley, head of internet at T-Mobile, comments that 500,000 people have signed up for their ‘web and walk’ service in 18 months. Mr. Warmsley goes on to add:

Half of our customers surf the internet on their mobile when they are at home watching TV. They do not need to go to a laptop and fire it up. The mobile is there for them.”

Key take-away #1: As an operator, if 50% of your data traffic is generated at home, use Wi-Fi and UMA rather than the more expensive macro RAN.

Another interesting point in the article is that flat rate pricing apparently boosts downloads from an average of 0.18 megabytes to 0.60 megabytes, more than 3x in capacity.

Key take-way #2: Is your network ready for a 3x increase in data traffic/capacity, especially when 50% of that traffic is happening at home within range of Wi-Fi and could be off-loaded to broadband & IP?

There is a chart in the article which shows the different rates:

  • T-Mobile - £7.50/month (1 GB limit)
  • Vodafone - £7.50/month (120 MB limit)
  • Orange - £8.00/month (30 MB limit)
  • Three - £5/month (1 GB limit)
  • O2 - £7.50/month (200 MB limit)

Key take away #3: As an operator, prices for flat rate data plans are going to come down. Clearly Three is already one third the price of the T-Mobile plan. Therefore, making massive capacity investments to support more traffic at less revenue per user is not ideal.

Wi-Fi, IP and broadband look more attractive all the time.