Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers

Welcome to 2011! So, what will be the top three trends for the mobile channel and mobile technology over the next 12 months?

Speaking from a handset perspective and Data Select’s role as a distributor, 2011 is the battle of the operating systems. Everyone in mobile is now quite familiar with the platforms, RIM, Apple, Symbian (Nokia), Windows, Android and Bada (Samsung), but which will win out with customers (both business and consumer) as awareness peaks in 2011?

Apple has always had a different operating system (try a Mac rather than a PC) and devoted customers, so it will remain the number one premium manufacturer, even though Apple are alone in using their OS.

RIM also has fantastic loyalty and regardless of the fact I don’t think it has the best handsets, it will do well in 2011 as smartphone growth continues.

Symbian (Nokia) is in a tough position with Apple,RIM and Android all nipping away at Nokia’s market share. Is its strategy to focus on its own operating system the right one? I’m not so sure; I think Nokia needs an Android or Windows handset.

Jason Kemp, Data Select head of marketing
Jason Kemp
 

Windows, the sleeping giant, but with so many false dawns it’s difficult to really believe it will turn the market in its direction. Windows is functional, not sexy, and phones have always needed that ‘X Factor’ to succeed en mass. It has missed the boat in convincing business they need Windows phones to integrate with their IT systems, as RIM, Apple, Symbian all work well enough.

Android is my choice to dominate the future. Easy to use, fun, exciting, content rich and supported by a variety of manufacturers. Oh, and powered by Google. Consumers like choice and Android provides this. It doesn’t matter which manufacturers phone you pick up, if you have used Android before you’ll master it in minutes and with killer apps like free sat nav, Google Sky, Cardio Trainer, email and more, so why won’t it dominate?

Samsung Bada, sorry, but I think this will prove to be an expensive mistake. It’s difficult to see how Samsung can back both Bada and Android.

With smartphones marching on, I believe there will be massive demand for good old fashioned talk and text devices. Why?

Most 65 to 70 year olds I know have a mobile phone that they use frequently; but Facebook, sat-nav, email, Wi-Fi, touchscreen, not likely! And kids? Although little Johnnie is demanding an iPhone at 13, when he’s 10 you’re better off giving him a JCB Sitemaster, because it will withstand the knocks until he (or she) is responsible enough to move on to a smartphone.

Kids and seniors are both under developed markets for mobile, one market is seen as controversial (but how many kids of 11 do you know without a mobile?) and one isn’t sexy for a technology product. However, these are the markets that will drive sales of simple handsets for completely different reasons.

From Doro at the senior end of the market, to Samsung with its classic sliders and Motorola coming back with clams, the simple phone has a lot of potential in 2011.

 

Chris Earle, Unicom operations director:

2010 has seen a revolution in the networks ability to set up MVNOs with smaller independent companies such as Unicom. Where as two years ago the main networks were uninterested unless you were the size of Tesco or Ikea, they now see the potential in working with companies the size of Unicom.

Unicom has a fixed-line base of around 90,000 small business customers. We’ve grown this customer base from scratch and are now selling our mobile product into our existing base. Seeing the potential our specialist position offers, Orange has worked with Transatel to set Unicom up as an MVNO. Launched in May 2010, we have signed up over 1000 mobile customers and continue to increase the number of sales closed each week.

As a wholesale supplier networks benefit from a very simple payment arrangement, Unicom receives a single bill for all its mobile customers which is paid promptly. As the customer contract is with Unicom there is no credit risk to the network, no sales cost to acquire customers, no subsidised handset costs, no retention costs and no customer service or handset support to provide.

Chris Earle
Chris Earle
 

Compare this to the current dealer model which involves credit checks, paying commissions, managing clawbacks, investigating sales compliance issues and all the other work involved and the MVNO partnership model suddenly becomes a lot more attractive.

Networks are starting to see how beneficial such relationships can be and the first trend I predict is that 2011 will see networks such as Orange working with Transatel, bringing more firms online as MVNO partners.

Therefore secondly I expect this first trend will create new opportunities for the mobile industry. For example, as a virtual network we would like to offer customers mobile handset insurance. Unicom is currently investigating the options available and I suggest that MVNO targeted solutions will be introduced by companies such as 20:20 to capture this emerging market.

Finally, I expect there to be a shift away from the ‘unlimited’ data bundles currently offered to customers. With the large influx of devices that can take advantage of the mobile data network, supporting unlimited data usage just isn’t as feasible as it once was. Offering sensible fixed data allowances to customers will help manage customer expectations and ensure the extreme heavy users don’t degrade the network performance for everyday users.

 

Dave McGinn, Daisy Distribution managing director:

Mobile will increase its share of the telecoms marketplace this year as technology continues to evolve and improve and unified communications comes increasingly to the fore.

We will witness the progressive evolution of the smartphone, with iPad alternatives being introduced to the market, such as the BlackBerry Playbook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Many see these devices, embedded with wireless internet technology, as a natural alternative to the laptop or netbook due their ease of portability, always on access and wide variety of applications and services.

While price is also a factor, with smartphones generally being a cheaper alternative, cost is not seen to be the determining factor in a consumer’s choice. This mainly comes down to advanced computing ability and connectivity.

This year is going to be very much about unified comms and mobile is a very bigger player in this. We have already seen the introduction of Vodafone’s One Net offer, which sees the merger of landline and mobile calls, and O2’s Joined Up Communications, embracing resellers who already operate in the fixed line and IT space, but who are new to the mobile arena and providing traditional mobile dealers with an evolving route into the fixed line marketplace.

Dave McGinn
Dave McGinn
 

For both, the natural benefit is in consolidating their relationship with customers and strengthening their ties through being able to satisfy multiple communications requirements.

 

Rimma Perelmuter, Mobile Entertainment Forum executive director:

The latter stages of 2010 have seen a flurry of announcements relating to mobile commerce from all players across the value chain.

The revenue potential of this sector generates significant column inches; IDC recently estimated that mobile shoppers will spend $129 billion this Christmas, accounting for 28% of total consumer spend during this period.

There is also clear evidence of consumer demand, with recent research conducted by Populus for the online shopping club, Glamoo, finding that as many as 7.7 million UK consumers want to shop on their mobile devices, naming convenience and time efficiency as the key drivers.

Rimma Perelmuter, Mobile Entertainment
Rimma Perelmuter
 

Meanwhile, the recent launch of Isis, a new national mobile commerce network in North America endorsed by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, will enable consumers to use near field communications (NFC) to make point of sale purchases on their mobile devices. This initiative not only has the backing of operators, but also of players in the financial services industry, highlighting the commitment of key actors across the ecosystem to accelerate the mobile device’s capacity to serve as a powerful purchase and payment point.

While these developments highlight mcommerce’s coming of age, we shouldn’t forget that the mobile industry already provides a range of consumer-friendly billing options which have achieved significant ROI for selected retailers and brands. However, if m-commerce is to realise even a fraction of its potential, greater investment by retailers is paramount. Industry research, consumer demand and Isis should serve as a wake-up call to those which have not incorporated mobile into their multi-channel strategy.

The development of the applications market to date has, to a certain extent, been characterised by the widespread availability of ‘one off’ apps, destined to sit redundantly on a user’s device after initial download. Quantity has most definitely ruled over quality.

2011 may mark the end of this trend and the beginning of an era where users demand more from their app experience. Apps which generate revenue streams for the developers must focus on delivering services that provide regular engagement for the consumer, as opposed to just one time usage.

Those who succeed in monetising their apps will be those who develop (and who have experience in providing) service-based relationship models. While there is no single model for success in the apps market, future strategies should focus on developing an ongoing relationship with the consumer.

 

Andy Tow, managing director, Avenir Telecom:

It is increasingly becoming an understatement to say that mobile technologies are changing the way we live and conduct our businesses. With smartphone adoption estimated at 70% growth in the past year, and with over 50% of UK mobile owners already using their mobile devices for purchasing, I believe that the evolution of the m-commerce channel is set to boom in 2011.

According to research firm, comScore, 4.2 million UK consumers visit mobile retail websites every month. Mobile manufacturers are already jumping on board with applications such as RIM’s new BlackBerry Wallet app that makes mobile shopping that much easier. Plus with increasing investment in added security on mobile transactions, confidence among users is only going to intensify.

We’ve already seen consumer mobile behaviour becoming more sophisticated and moving towards mobile rather than the traditional desktop or laptop search platforms, and companies who are looking ahead and investing in full scale m-commerce sites are set to succeed.

With the major introduction of applications throughout 2010, I think we are going to see more focus being given to those that work to increase business performance. Tracking applications, such as Crystal Ball’s offering, is a perfect example of how apps will have a significant part to play in 2011 as businesses look not only to reduce expenditure, but also add efficiencies into their operations and secure additional cost savings.

Andy Tow
Andy Tow
 

Opt-in location and behaviours based applications will also contribute, which allow organisations to stand out in a saturated mobile market by closely monitoring their clients’ search and buying habits and contacting them with highly targeted marketing messages while in the close proximity of their business. Organisations who are one step ahead and who incorporate these innovative apps into their marketing strategy will be the ones to reap the benefits.

As Google UK CEO, Matt Britting, has reportedly said: “If you think the internet revolution is big, the mobile revolution is going to be bigger and much more widespread, and faster.”