First Words: The New Language of Wireless Marketing

Posted on April 16, 2015

Control language and you can maintain order. This observation was made by George Orwell in his cautionary novel 1984 — a year in which, as it happened in reality, the first sale of a handheld mobile phone to a US consumer was made. The corollary to this theory (and Big Brother’s great fear) is that, if you free language, you will create an environment in which change becomes inevitable. More than 30 years since that first Motorola DynaTAC was snapped up for almost $4,000 (closer to $10,000 in today’s money) Orwell’s insight is being neatly illustrated in the US mobile market. The language being used to speak to the end user is evolving thanks to a challenge being mounted against incumbent operators by a wave of newcomers keen to change the conversation. Historically, incumbent mobile operators have relied heavily on the network in their messaging, in particular like-for-like network comparisons. By keeping the discussion centred on their networks they ensured users could only decide on their service provider by comparing the things that the operators wanted them to compare. It made sense in a world where the service and the network were one and the same. It remains a favoured…

Wi-Fi Calling for Change

Posted on April 13, 2015

By giving customers Wi-Fi calling capabilities mobile operators are showing they understand that a truly comprehensive wireless connectivity service can only be created through the integration of cellular and Wi-Fi access.

Connectivity First: An Operator Census

Posted on March 4, 2015

Mobile operators are not alone in providing wireless connectivity. And as end users’ connectivity options become more diverse, mobile operators must seek out new ways to keep themselves relevant. Mobile World Congress is where the mobile operator community convenes to search its soul. To collectively address the big existential questions: What are we? What are we going to be? In the good old days, when competition existed only within the community itself, imagination was the sole constraint on discussions. In 2015, a new reality has entered the building. You can answer those big questions in many ways. A mobile operator is at once a legally obligated licensee, engineering organization, retailer, distribution channel, billing engine, customer service operation, brand, wholesale dealer, and more. Many have wider aspirations, their sights set on advertising revenues or the Internet of Things. Ask a typical end user, though, and they’ll probably get right to the nub of it, telling you a mobile operator is a company they pay for wireless connectivity. So, how does the operator landscape look today? GSMA counts almost 800 mobile operator members, which shakes out at roughly one operator to every ten million people on the planet. It seems like a…

Connectivity First: Mapping The Landscape

Posted on March 3, 2015

The connectivity landscape is complex and crowded, with huge variation between indoor and outdoor locations. As a real-world walk-through shows, end users need help to navigate their way through it. How do you paint the Connectivity Landscape? For decades mobile operators have relied on coverage maps, which necessarily simplify a complex reality into an easily digestible picture, presented as evidence of available connectivity. Their usage has been sustained by the rollout of every new generation of network technology, with islands of 3G superimposed on saturated 2G maps, and the process repeated with the introduction of LTE. Unfortunately, from day one, these maps aggravated those end users whose experience of connectivity contradicted the pictures they’d been given. Intended to market network strengths, coverage maps simultaneously exposed network weaknesses. The biggest problem with these maps, of course, is that they ignore an entire dimension of the user’s real world. The connectivity landscape they depict is flat and featureless. In life, that landscape is crammed with buildings that create havoc for smartphone users, and the mobile operators trying to keep them connected. These maps hide literally millions of uncomfortable truths beneath their blanket cellular coverage. Provision of indoor coverage is the most daunting…

It's a Hotel Wi-Fi Free-For-All

Posted on February 19, 2015

Google “meaning of life” and you get 408 million search results. Google “free hotel Wi-Fi” and you get 645 million. Clearly hotel Wi-Fi is important to a lot of people. Studies into its availability and quality abound, catering to an international clientele that increasingly factors Wi-Fi into its choice of hotel. Specialist websites name and shame the hotels that fall short, crowd-sourcing performance data from guests all over the world. Consumer money-saving sites urge holidaymakers to seek out the hotels that get them online for free, and journalists in the financial press rail against the hotel Wi-Fi charges they encounter, reflecting a common irritation for their globe-trotting readership. Indeed cost is by far the biggest issue associated with hotel Wi-Fi, affecting everyone from backpackers to business travelers. Smaller hotel chains and independent players have been offering free Wi-Fi for some time; it is the large incumbents that have been reluctant to do so. Hotels have to pay to provide it, they have argued, so they are entitled to their surcharge. But hotels are greatly outnumbered by their guests, and those guests are delivering their judgement at volume and en masse: Wi-Fi should be free. A study by last year found that free Wi-Fi was the most desirable in-room…