Monday, 19 December 2011

An early Christmas present for French taxpayers

France became the latest country in Europe to successfully allocate its 800MHz spectrum today, achieving a rather higher sum than they expected.

Not much more to say on the subject, expect that Orange France came within a whisker of breaking the record for amount paid per-person, per MHz for the LTE spectrum. Only T-Mobile in Germany paid more - EUR0.73 vs EUR0.71, demonstrating that even the current economic malaise hasn't dented enthusiasm for next generation communications.

Friday, 16 December 2011

What I've been reading this week

I’m firmly of the belief that participants in the TMT industry need to read widely in order to understand the present and future dynamics of the market. To that end, this post is a collection of the articles that have caught my eye this week.

Digital media

Worth a flick through, although interesting that the website is buggy if you’re not using Chrome. Sign of the times?

The arrogance of the music industry is astounding – why should Megaupload take down something that was legitimately produced and paid for? Do you think there might be a reason the labels and publishers are dying out?

Emerging markets

Old news that I’ve just stumbled on again - I believe that these gateways hold the key for African telecoms networks as onshore cabling becomes more widespread. Malawi is land locked, but could still play a hub role in onshore connectivity.

New business models

This historic deal to merge some of the distribution of the US major cable networks could be excellent news for Verizon’s VDMS digital supply chain business. Having Comcast and/ or Time Warner on board would be a major coup.

Wi-fi has been a big winner this year. Try walking down a street in a major city and finding a spot without some form of coverage... difficult at best, but excellent for the consumer and excellent for device manufacturers.

An interesting analysis that shows how completely Apple has penetrated the consumer market – small screen and silver screen!

The bottom line is that no one knows how many Kindle Fires have been sold. All we do know is that it’s a drop in the ocean next to Apple’s 40Mn iPads in 2011.

And mobile operators still think that NFC secure elements will be in the SIM. Good luck with that.

Technology evolution

Flogging a dead horse, news-wise, but it is interesting to see how Symbian share has eroded as cheap Android devices have hit the market. Microsoft is, however, the right partner in crime for NOK in the markets that matter – those that don’t enforce draconian terms of participation and then steal your IP. As a case in point, Nokia’s former Symbian flagship, the N8 was carbon copied in China... running Android...

And lo and behold, here’s an example of how Android has done for Symbian at the base of the market. Wild proliferation of handset features has driven an acceleration of the chip and chipset market and therefore cancelled out Symbian’s advantage over Android in the hardware that can run it (reasonably) effectively. The user experience on these low end devices is pretty terrible, but how long until it’s acceptable?

In my distant past I had my own radio show that went out online and on AM. Back in the day we had a rack of (old) servers, a couple of mixing desks and thousands of pounds of sources. Now all of that can be accomplished from an iPad. Great news for those trying to take cost out of a radio business. Terrible news for those who work behind the scenes.

Satellite broadband is much under-rated, having taken major strides in the last 5 years. As we become more data-obsessed as a society, then the need to be connected in remote places (like 30,000 feet up) becomes more important and therefore more valuable. All that considered, the $400Mn Viasat-1 satellite, with its 100 metre long solar panels, is an impressive piece of technology!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Handset leasing - the £266 question

This morning, O2 announced that it would offer a handset leasing proposition for UK mobile phone customers. Regular readers will recall that I've been thinking about this for a couple of years now and blogged about it in May 2010 (if only I'd talked to O2 about it).

On the specific deal in question, I thought it was worth working out who benefits from this deal. The answer, to put no finer point on it, is O2. Financially, that is.

The total price of 12 months of £55 a month contract is £660, but you have to take off 12*£20 = £240 for the airtime, so the handset cost equates to £440 for a £499 phone, which would be worth £325 in perfect condition after 12 months.

If you stumped up the full amount for the handset then you’d have spent a net of £174 for the device. If you leased from O2 you’ve paid £440, so the effective cost is £266 for a new phone every 12 months. A great model for O2, as they’re effectively pocketing that £266 in addition to their profit on the service.

c.20% of UK smartphone customers get a new handset in a given year. BIG question is how many of those are regular upgraders and own their own device. Perhaps they’d like another payment option? In any case, I think this is a "watch this space" for 2012, what with further big handset and tablet launches coming up from Apple, Samsung, Sony and Nokia.

Friday, 9 December 2011

What I've been reading this week

A short list from me this week as I’ve been travelling and therefore reading on the iPhone!

Breakthrough technology

If Intel can pull this off then it will give them an advantage against ARM in the mobile processor space. Our ability to fab smaller, faster architectures makes it possible to create processors with more tailored computing units, increasing efficiency and therefore decreasing power consumption

I just like satellites – an amazing piece of technology

The baseband processes radio signals and manages the wireless transmissions of a cell. Moving this processing into the cloud will be a trend in network builds in 2012 as operators seek to create more dense, but also more cost-efficient radio networks.

Media business models

I’m perplexed by this judgement too – there are lots of options for obtaining movies in the UK by all sorts of different means. This is a non-exclusive market and doesn’t need legislative or regulatory meddling.

Things are looking bleak for the broadsheet newspaper industry in the UK – the big question now is at what point the stereotypical “white van man” has an iPad rather than a red-top on the dash of the aforementioned van

Although I’m of the opinion that the role of social media in advertising is overstated, there’s no doubt that it occupies plenty of column inches. The infographic is pretty, if nothing else.

Friday, 2 December 2011

November 2011 Africa investment map

$907Mn of investment in African telecoms was announced in November, much of it related to deepening of mobile network capacity in markets where subscriber growth is ongoing. One of those may well be Nigeria, where regulatory action to enforce subscriber registration has led to a reduction in SIM numbers to about 93Mn. Interestingly, this action has co-incided with 5th operator Etisalat pledging to invest in an additional 1,000 basestations next year to take advantage of what now looks like substantial headroom for growth.

What I've been reading this week

I’m firmly of the belief that participants in the TMT industry need to read widely in order to understand the present and future dynamics of the market. To that end, this post is a collection of the articles that have caught my eye this week.

Technology evolution

Tiny steps towards standardised communications in cars, but positive. The big, long term gambit must be to connect the cars themselves together to enhance safety and navigation, while reducing fuel consumption.

More bad news for AMD. This time they’ve compounded the error of creating an architectural dud by alienating the fab that makes said dud (and used to be a part of AMD). The implications are potentially disastrous for AMD’s 2012 and 2013 line ups as switching fabs means redesigning the product. Bad times in Sunnyvale.

The rate of advance of ARM chips is startling, however I wonder whether we’re beginning to get to the point where successive iterations are bringing successively reduced customer benefits. The move from 600MHz to 1GHz was very noticeable, but how much better will 2GHz be then 1.4GHz. In any case, 3D capabilities are rumoured for the next iPad – Galaxy will go head-to-head.

I’m of the opinion that 2012 will be the last year that the magnetic hard disk will outsell solid state alternatives. This hybrid of the two, which retails at $250 for 750GB, represents an intermediate step towards mass market take-up of SSD.

With apologies for the old news (if only by a few weeks), my view on the wi-gear acquisition is that it enables Apple to add Apt-X high definition audio support to the iOS range – whether they’ll also offer a headphone range is unclear. Apple doesn’t have the best track record at providing accessories and benefits from the ecosystem of accessories around its device as they offer physical customisation of the user experience to go with the software customisation that iOS offers.

New business models

I remember being really excited by the potential for location based advertising in 2006, but we were thwarted by the low penetration of the only smartphone that could actually serve it (the Nokia N95, if you remember back that far). Now that smartphones are becoming more ubiquitous and consumers more switched on to the

Indoor mapping is a step towards a much more contextual (and invasive) mobile retail and advertising model. Or, to put it another way, one step closer to Minority Report by giving organisations the ability to manage demand on their media asset management systems by plotting where people are and caching content up close.

Misinformation is the name of the game in the CDN industry, which always reminds of a kitten trying to make itself look like a tiger. Mass market IP-streamed video is still a decade away and 20,000 tiny customers won’t convince me otherwise.

Mobile industry

2G switch off will be a story only for the most advanced operators and economies in the next 5 years. As usual South Korea are at the forefront.

And this is why... consumer acceptance of smartphones makes LTE networks immediately commercially viable, particularly since the cost of acquiring spectrum is so much lower than for 3G. Notable that the UK is not one of the countries included in the 39.