Mobile Operator revenues diminishing, what to do?

March 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Unfortunately for many mobile Operators, their revenues are shrinking: Classic voice is commoditized, and Text has become a diminished, all-you-can eat charge. Analysis forecasts that mobile revenues in Western Europe will not increase until 2014, Analysis forecasts (see figure, illustrating negative growth rates forecast). The US market is similarly seeing mobile revenues decrease (see figure, illustrating reducing Voice and Test ARPU, with growing Data ARPU). The challenge is to increase data revenues, quickly.

Retail revenues shrinking in EU

Retail revenues declining in U.S.

Q: What to do to boost revenues?
A: Make mobile data services mainstream (“Crossing the Chasm”). Also, enhance the value of existing services, to bring in new customers.

Taking data services mainstream

Mobile broadband data is being used by a fraction of the subscriber base, with a lot of growth available. Subscribers are overwhelmingly buying smartphones, but many do not subscribe to a mobile data plan. AT&T notes that “56 percent of all smartphone subscribers are on tiered data plans” [4Q2011 Earnings summary]. Adoption of mobile broadband is less than 50% of the subscriber base in developed countries. Growth rates for adoption of mobile data are moderate (20% more data subscribers in Europe, YoY growth), undoubtedly owing to the poor economy. Mobile data is on the verge of becoming a mainstream service, and Operators urgently need to make it easy for new users to get on board.

As an example of making data a mainstream service, T-Mobile (US) is doing a great job of making data services affordable. To encourage new users to “Try it, you’ll like it,” they build a little data into every plan. Also, they allow subscribers to use it at affordable rates without committing to a contract–removing hurdles to the use of mobile data, and making it easy for new users to add this service without breaking the piggy bank. Further, you are not penalized if you use more than you planned: “T-Mobile is the only nation-wide network with overage-free mobile broadband plans.” And you can use all of your services FREE over Wi-Fi (“Wi-Fi Calling”), so that if you have Wi-Fi, you have service, anywhere on the planet. Voice, text, video, e-mail … all free over Wi-Fi.

Enhancing the value of existing services

Orange is enhancing their existing voice service with an offering that should bring in new subs: HD Voice. Since Orange is leading the pack with HD Voice, and the service delivers enhanced voice when both parties have an HD-compatible phone, then once someone experiences this service, they will want all of their friends and family to have the service, too … causing them to flock to Orange. If HD Voice were to be made available on the iPhone 5, say, it could create a surge of influential customers that (a) quickly enjoy the service with a large percentage of others, and then (b) evangelize the benefits of the service to others.

Similarly, other Operators are working to add Presence info to your Address Book and communications apps. Imagine how much more efficient you would be in communicating on your mobile device if you knew whether your friend was Available or Busy, or whether they preferred that you contact them via IM/Text/Voice/Video. Several, leading Operators are delivering RCS (Rich Communication Suite) services to the market, and plan to succeed in making your communications easier and more fun. The benefits could be similar to the example of HD Voice, above: bringing in more subscribers to your enhanced offerings of classic, mobile services.

Improve voice quality (before HD Voice)

March 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Until we get HD Voice, which is being deployed, here’s how you can improve your voice quality:

Reduce Noise: buy a Jawbone headset, the best-rated bluetooth headset around (in the latest reviews by PC Magazine, others). Choose from among several models.

Improve Audio: replace the stock Jawbone ear bud with a custom ear gel from AverySound. This does not cost a lot, but greatly improves the sound delivered to your ear, physically blocking other noises from disturbing your conversation. Here’s a demo on the process and benefits.

Better sound for you and your caller!

Original Ear piece                                             Upgraded Ear Gel   

Jawbone ERA with stock earpiece

Jawbone ERA with custom ear gel

High-Definition Voice coming to Mobile phones

March 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Although the focus these days is primarily on data and smartphones, it’s exciting that Operators have continued to look for ways to communicate better, such as High Definition voice. Skeptical that improvement is needed? Try out the demo (from Orange, who is leading the charge to deploy HD Voice), check out the convincing 3rd-party evaluation, or compare Standard vs. HD audio. Not only is the voice clearer, but there is less background noise; HD Voice includes active noise reduction (similar in function to the Noise Shield(TM) feature that makes Aliph Jawbone headsets so great). The result is “Wow!” You will want to have conversations over HD Voice, as they are easier to understand, and richer, more nuanced … like a face to face conversation.

SInce Voice is still a cash cow for Mobile Operators, it is a great idea to enhance it, to assert the improved quality that you get from a Mobile Operator (vs. an Over The Top service provider, such as Skype). Now that mobile networks carry more Data than Voice traffic, it’s easy to allocate a bit more bandwidth to improved voice. The service uses a new codec, Wideband AMR (an improvement on the current AMR standard used in GSM).

Where can I get it?

As with most new mobile features/services, you will need for your Operator to offer it, and you need a compatible handset (probably a new now, in this case).

Operator Support: At last count, HD Voice is provided by 39 mobile nets, in 31 countries. Orange has been leading the deployment (including pushing the standards development), delivering HD Voice in many of its European and Middle East properties.

Handset Support: Only a few handsets currently support HD Voice, so you’ll have to look carefully. It has been rumored to be a feature of the new iPhone 5 (but, then, what new capability has not been rumored to be in the new, iPhone 5?).

Caller needs it, too: Both Caller and Called must have this feature, for it to work at HD voice quality (see Engadget demo). Makes sense, however, as it is an end-to-end service. Like a Skype video call, both parties need it for it to work, end-to-end.

Tariff: Orange does not charge anything more for this feature, interestingly. It simply establishes Orange voice as a superior service, and encourages callers to use Orange to call their family & friends with HD-capable phones. Nice move.

Soon, you will be able to enjoy HD Voice as more handsets and networks support this important, new feature.

Trend towards Improved Communication

Since mobile phones have become the primary phone that people use–replacing fixed/wireline/VoIP phones–they are incorporating the best features of wireline service:

Done: Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, Three-way calling, etc.
Deploying: Calling Name (see related posts)
Coming: High-quality Voice

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