QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

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What will it take to kick-start the mobile web revolution? For instance, does it need one or more operators to introduce a flat-fee, unlimited-usage model?

Piper, Emblaze: Sure, pricing and availability of bandwidth are key. We have seen an explosion in multimedia content on the web not only because the pipes have got bigger but because of the cost controls that flat rate access has offered.

Mobile is no different. Mobile operators need to see Mobile data consumption in the same context as other forms of data consumption. Customers will only pay more than the internet if the content is time-critical or unique. There is no future in getting the same stuff on your mobile that you can get on the web.
Griffiths, O2: Does the mobile web revolution need kick-starting? O2 Active has over 4.3m users at a recent count; and with the launch of i-mode in Q4 last year, more customers than ever are accessing mobile internet through their handsets.

The key to encouraging customers to use mobile internet is providing the right customer experience and the right content at the right price. The industry needs to provide a wide range of content in order to provide compelling services to a mass market. There needs to be a range of informational services such as news pages and directories; a good selection of transactional services such as eBay so that customers can shop on the move; and traditional mobile content in the form of entertainment and lifestyle services.
Heeran, Valista: While high data charges are certainly a barrier to a true mobile web revolution, there also needs to be an evolution in how services are accessed and delivered. A significant proportion of the mobile subscriber base will always find that mobile browsing is not usable or not appealing in its current form, especially when compared to traditional web browsing on fixed broadband connections.

NTT DoCoMo’s new iChannel service in Japan could be one to watch if you are looking for the sparks of revolution. Designed specifically to target users who are not inclined to initiate mobile web sessions, iChannel is a push service which delivers information straight to the handset at regular intervals. This ease of access to personalised information – especially time-sensitive information – is exactly the type of compelling mainstream mobile service which, coupled with flat rate data charges, should take the mobile web to the next stage.

This type of innovation will be lead by global operators who can influence handset specifications to match their service offerings. In this instance, market forces will move faster than the standards bodies.

Parven, Fone Logistics: Put simply, we need serious, user-friendly ‘full-service’ mobile internet access. Give the customer a rich experience with rapid download times, full-screen browser capabilities and a reflection of the most popular desktop internet applications. And adopt a fair pricing model (and even extend this to the prepay and budget contract propositions).

But we must also learn the lessons of the past, and ensure that there is sufficient volume of mobile web-compatible devices – and ample bandwidth to boot. The introduction of a simple pricing matrix, or even an ‘all you can eat’ service for a fixed fee would undoubtedly overcome many of the customer fears and suspicions about how much mobile web usage will reflect on their monthly bill. Perhaps T-Mobile’s Flext proposition will encourage this sort of usage?
Shardlow, Virgin Mobile: All the channels offer their own value-add to pre- and post-pay products and services. Giving away MP3 players and DVDs is nothing new – and is sure to continue.
This is driven partly by a desire of the channels to win the customer over in a highly competitive market; partly it is fuelled by networks providing too much channel margin. But good independents will continue to compete by combining good value with strong, tailored customer service.

Short, O2: Independent retailers have an opportunity to sell in many markets. Creative marketing or bundling should not constrain mobile sales. Nor should it be a norm when there is clearly value not only in these products, but also in the associated services and content that can be sold.
For example, independents may offer more flexibility in terms of customer management or specialist services.

Superior overall customer experience drives success which in turn generates repeat business, increased loyalty and reputation, and can drive up customer usage. Real value comes from a whole range of things including differentiated service, great handsets, content, pricing and simplicity. Nash, Elite Mobile: Gifts have long been a feature of the industry and in an FMCG environment will continue to be a factor. The successful independent will always counter this by deploying his own creative offers.
Innovation, flexibility and adaptability are the cornerstone for the independent, coupled with his ability to offer his customers superior personalised customer service, specialist knowledge and a variety of value-added services, which is very much the independents’ unique selling proposition.
In your personal opinion, what is the most appropriate age for a child to get their first mobile?
Short, O2: I do not think age limits should be set without clear reasons.

Usage should be based on needs analysis. My son used to complain that his nine-year-old friends all had phones before he did at the age of 10 , but we made it clear then that until he had to travel on public transport the need was not justifiable. My 10-year-old daughter does not have the same needs, even if there is some peer pressure. And the option for them to occasionally borrow parents’ phones still remains.
Etiquette continues to be something that needs to be learned, but I am pleased that O2 has a range of billing, barring, and filtering controls available that can provide additional support. Mobile content can be both challenging economically and inappropriate for some age groups. Abuse of camera capabilities needs to be discouraged through emphasis on the benefits of occasional use.

Outright school bans seem to be an overreaction. Using the ‘off’ button in school should be enough.
Parven, Fone Logistics: There is a danger in the apparent need to regulate mobile phone usage among children; it can become counterproductive.
Without doubt the benefits in terms of safety and security far outweigh the apparent dangers and distractions they also undoubtedly bring. Any parent will testify to the fact that being able to raise their child leads to peace of mind and alleviates concerns.
However, mobile phone usage amongst children needs to be regulated, either formally or informally, to prevent the mobile phone replacing normal forms of communication and the unique text language from replacing written English.

Mobile phone usage within schools should be subject to stringent controls, too, to prevent the intrusive interruptions an ‘always-on’ communications tool can cause.
The Mobile Business Industry Panel aims to get views from leading figures on key topics.
On the panel we have a selection of senior management from operators, distributors and retailers, plus a couple of industry observers and pundits. Each month we invite comment from some of them and we print the best/most interesting of their responses.
If there are any questions you think we should put to the panel just email them to us: panel@MBmagazine.co.uk

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