Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The 3G iPhone needs "...VoIP like T-Mobile..."

Dear Steve Jobs...

In an open video/letter to Apple, the Street's senior technology correspondent Gary Krakow makes a list of his requirements for the new 3G iPhone.

Top of the list: 3G (doesn't that go without saying?)
But #2 on the list: "...a VoIP feature like T-Mobile..."

I think he means UMA!

If there's a problem, here's the link:


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Apples and Oranges

I do appreciate the quote in Strategy Analytic’s press release about their latest research on the Enterprise FMC Market. They said “UMA is here to stay”.

But after reading the release about the report, I’m left feeling they are comparing apples and oranges.

"SIP-based services will initially be implemented by large multinationals with the capacity to carry voice traffic on their private MPLS network. Consequently, SIP-based revenues will overtake UMA revenues toward the end of the forecast period. Moreover, Microsoft's UC (Unified Communications) solution, is also likely to see positive uptake as a business solution," commented Andrew Brown, Director for Wireless Enterprise Strategies.

There’s no doubt that enterprises will use SIP for IP telephony. IP-PBXs all run SIP. One of the fundamental advantages is that the calls can be carried between PBXs over the enterprise’s own private networks. But that’s an enterprise solution.

UMA is a technology for mobile operators, not enterprises. Certainly prosumers will use UMA in the enterprise, but IT departments can’t ‘deploy UMA’. And UMA was not designed to be carried through a private network.

So comparing UMA revenues with SIP revenues for Enterprise FMC doesn’t seem to be comparing like services.

There is no doubt that UMA will have an impact on the enterprise market, but it will be an FMS impact, migrating minutes from the fixed network/PBX to the mobile network.

RIM Redux

Following up from yesterday's post, I have now listened to all of Jim Balsillie’s comments during his presentation at RIM’s Capital Markets Day, May 12, 2008, I wanted to offer up some of his quotes.

I’ve tried not to take these comments too far out of context, but basically Mr. Balsillie is bullish on UMA. About 29 minutes into the presentation (slide 24), he talks of their UMA-enabled products:

“The Wi-Fi UMA is going remarkably well.”
“I’m hard pressed to not see this as inevitable, for most if not everyone.”
“This is happening and it’s happening fast”.

In his Q&A section (slide 33), a gentleman from Integral Capital Partners asks:

“Can you comment on the carrier’s adoption, or in some cases, the lack there of, of the UMA option?”

Mr. Balsillie: “I think it’s a fair comment. I think a lot of carriers were keen on it, some were less keen on it. It’s hard to find a carrier that isn’t keen on it now. Some saw it as a threat, I saw it as an enabler, an inevitability. In a sense, it’s hard to find a carrier that isn’t excited about it now. I think it’s just so compelling and so inevitable. It’s not going to take out the cell phone. It’s a complement.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Monday, May 19, 2008

RIM is BOLD with UMA

RIM’s presentation during their Capital Markets day (May 12, 2008) talked a bit about UMA. In the slide below, they indicate the new Bold device is part of their UMA portfolio. Sounds good to me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wi-Fi Battery Life: UMA Wins Again

Last month PC Magazine reviewed the RIM Blackberry 8820. The review was quite positive, but one thing which really jumped out at me was this paragraph (second to last in the article):

One area where the 8820 really excels is in endurance; it beats the Curve 8320, although the 8320's performance isn't shabby. On a cellular talk time rundown test, the 8820 lasted 11 hours and 29 minutes with the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios turned off. Over UMA and Wi-Fi, the phone ran for almost 14 hours on the same test. If you're tired of your cell phone's short battery life, this device should be on your short list.

Or as they state in the article:

  • Continuous talk time (cellular): 11 hours 29 minutes
  • Continuous talk time (Wi-Fi): 13 hours 55 minutes

An all too common complain about dual mode phones is that Wi-Fi = poor battery life. Yet in PC Magazine’s own test, talking over Wi-Fi/UMA resulted in a 20% improvement in talk time/performance.

The evidence continues to mount that those issues are a thing of the past. Companies that are serious about Wi-Fi in devices are optimizing the performance to meet and many times exceed the performance of GSM only.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sorry Sprint

A very interesting opinion was posted to the GLG site the other day. Samual Greenholtz with Telecom Pragmatics opines that Sprint’s first choice for its home zone service was a dual-mode CDMA/Wi-Fi product. But lacking a DMH standard for CDMA networks, they were forced to settle for their second choice technology: femtocells.

With that, I say “Sorry Sprint”. It’s well known that there is no UMA/GAN for CDMA networks. With a 3GPP2 version of GAN, Sprint would have been free to choose dual-mode handsets, femtocells, terminal adaptors or even softmobile clients to run off their mobile network.

Is there an opportunity here?

Another fixed line operator drops mobile

Yesterday, the Embarq CFO said that the company may drop its wireless service in 2009, handing subscribers back to its MVNO partner Sprint.

Embarq is the spin-out of Sprint’s original fixed line business. As part of the deal, Embarq developed an MVNO relationship with its former parent.

Embarq was one of the first to develop a dual-mode CDMA/Wi-Fi service. The service was announced by former FMC technology provider NewStep Networks.

In the article, Embarq said their original target was for 1 million mobile subscribers, but had achieved just over 100,000. I can only imagine what fraction of those subscribers actually chose the NewStep/FMC service. Suffice it to say, it’s hard for fixed operators to sell mobile services in general, let alone dual-mode services.

I have written in the past about the problems with fixed line operators developing dual-mode services. The problems aren’t technical. It’s possible to make a phone hand-over between fixed and mobile networks.

The problem is that dual-mode services are fundamentally about Fixed-to-Mobile Substitution (FMS). Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what a fixed operator wants. Fixed operators need MFS solutions, or a way to put mobile minutes back onto the fixed network. That is contrary to what consumers expect today.

Dual-mode services from fixed operators are always going to be challenging.

Note: I found a link to this article from another FMC company focused on fixed line operators. I think this company is actually gone now too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A New Thought On Femtocell Pricing

This week, analyst Danny Briere with Telechoice wrote an interesting piece for Telephony Online. The article was titled a rather depressing “Carrier Femtocell Pricing Doomed?

I don’t think so, and Mr. Briere offers some interesting thoughts on alternative methods of pricing femtocell services. He has two points which I’ll oversimplify here:

  • Separate the ‘coverage’ aspect of a femtocell from the ‘service’

The issue Mr. Briere has with Sprint’s Airave offer is that the consumer is required to purchase both ‘coverage’ and ‘service’ with the femtocell. A consumer wanting improved coverage must spend $50 and pay a recurring fee of $15/month. The same applies to a subscriber just interested in the flat rate calling plan. There’s no ability for Sprint to segment the subscriber benefit.

He contrasts this with T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi-based service where consumers can get ‘coverage’ by simply getting a dual-mode phone, no additional fees apply. Then if a consumer wants the flat rate calling ‘service’, they can spend an extra $10/month.

  • Don’t underestimate subscriber’s ability to pay for something they value (in this case, coverage).

I think the concept of offering the femtocell as a pure consumer product play is creative. If the consumer values coverage, they may be willing to pay to address this issue. The operator may choose to have the consumer pay full price for the femtocell, or elect to subsidize a portion of the femtocell for subscriber retention reasons. But for subscribers who are coverage challenged, this may work.

One could apply the handset subsidy approach. If you want to just by a handset, a consumer pays full price. But if you choose to sign up for a service plan and commitment, then the handset is deeply subsidized.

To be worked out is the secondary/after market usage of a femtocell. Will the consumer be able to use the femtocell with a new mobile provider? In the US, there is an immediate radio issue (GSM vs CDMA) which hampers the issue immediately.

The point is there are many ways to meet consumer need, and the femtocell market is just getting started.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fierce Names Top 5 'Converged' Devices

FierceWireless released their list of top ‘converged’ devices. By converged I think they meant dual-mode devices, as each of the five devices on the list had Wi-Fi.

The list was:

  1. BlackBerry 8820
  2. BlackBerry 8320
  3. HTC Mogul
  4. HTC Tilt 8925
  5. iPhone

Interestingly, two of the five are UMA-enabled. Given HTC is rumored to be bringing out UMA-enabled devices shortly, there’s a chance that next year’s list will be 4 out of 5 UMA-enabled.

As for the iPhone supporting UMA, it has been rumored in the past. But UMA in handsets is typically driven by operator requirements. Orange and Rogers both support dual-mode UMA service. Orange and Rogers also both sell the iPhone. Interesting…

PS – credit where credit is due: The image is from Gizmodo. I think choosing Mr. ROGERS to hold the iPhone is brilliant.

PPS – according to Wikipedia, the Mr. Rogers show was first developed in Toronto for CBC, making the reference doubly brilliant.