a week in wireless

The predictables


Welcome back readers and a very happy new year to all of you who subscribe to the Gregorian calendar. Don’t worry, that sluggish feeling will probably have gone by next week, it’s just your body going into shock from the suddenly reduced calorie intake that accompanied the return to work.

Without the usual early January news blast from gadget fest CES this year – the show has shifted back a week – the Informer was seriously considering a rambling review of his holidays. But fear not, early Januarys are apparently ripe for crystal ball gazers to peddle their wares and there’s been no shortage this year. Next year might be a different story however if you subscribe to the Mayan Long Count calendar, which apparently predicts some catastrophic event on December 21, 2012.

Such an event could turn out to be a good thing for struggling Canadian vendor RIM, allowing the Blackberry maker to save face perhaps. The word on the grapevine is that co-CEOs and co-chairmen Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie could be co-ousted from their roles by Barbara Stymiest, an independent director who joined RIM’s board in 2007. She is reported to be the leading candidate to replace the duo as shareholders seek to turn the company around. An internal review is due to be completed by the end of January and a decision will be announced by the end of February. The question now is whether RIM will last long enough to see any changes come to fruition. Another OEM merger on the cards perhaps?

2012 will also see Chinese industry players continue their international expansion apace, with China Telecom’s European arm becoming the first carrier to launch consumer facing services outside of China after striking an MVNO deal with UK carrier Everything Everywhere this week.

The deal was secured through Everything Everywhere’s mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA), Transatel, and takes the company’s portfolio of MVNO partnerships to 24 in the UK. It will launch in the first quarter of this year and will specifically target Chinese residents and businesses in the UK, as well as Chinese students and tourists. France and Germany are next up for the carrier according to some quarters.

It’s going to be a big year for customer service, or rather more accurately, for the customer experience, as telecoms firms face the dawning realisation that the customer experience is not so much a differentiator as an actual enabler for the rest of the business. The Informer’s chums on telecoms.com are doing a big focus piece on the matter ahead of MWC, which has already begun its slow creep from the Desert of Dismissal to the Horizon of Impending Reality. With price pressures making the mobile market increasingly sensitive, operators cannot continue to invest and encourage innovation and so must reverse the trend and win back customer loyalty based not on price, but on service and brand value. Watch this space for more.

Customer management specialist WDS is putting its bets on more creative, and generous, data sharing policies; smartphones from new market entrants; and consumers turning to more over the top (OTT) type services.

While hardly earth shattering predictions, they make sense, the Informer thinks, having met with Arieso CTO, Michael Flanagan, this week, it’s clear that already hungry handsets are getting even hungrier. Findings from a company report identify that the typical Apple iPhone 4S user is equivalent to two iPhone 4 users and three iPhone 3G users in terms of data demand, while Android is picking up the pace with the Google Nexus One by HTC, which has twice the data calls per subscriber compared to the iPhone 3G. Moreover, ‘extreme’ users are becoming even more extreme, with just one per cent of subscribers now consuming half of all downloaded data. The vast majority of these are dongle users treating their connection as they would fixed line broadband but 33 per cent are smartphone users and the remaining three per cent are tablet users. Usage in these cases tends to be stationary rather than mobile, so Flanagan suggests that these users might be prime targets for femtocells, or in some cases, just getting rid of.

Interestingly, Flanagan suggested an application of such data mining as Arieso is performing, is one helping them recommend devices to customers. “Say a certain customer comes in to upgrade his device to a smartphone and tells you where he spends most of his time. The operator looks on a map and sees the usage profiles for that particular area. The result might mean some devices are more appropriate ones for this person to move towards than others. It’s an informed piece of advice and can be used to manage expectations at the point of sale.”

The likeness is really rather good

Back to WDS’s predictions though and the firm expects Google might lobby for a patent laws overhaul, keeping one of the biggest headline grabbers in 2011 at the top of the columns in 2012. WDS predicts that Google will orchestrate a mass collaborative lobbying effort to bring about regulation of software patents to restore competitive technology design and evolution in the smartphone market. After all, the web giant has just acquired a further 188 granted patents and 29 published pending patent applications from IBM, following a similar acquisition of 1,023 patents from IBM in September in order to combat lawsuits from rivals such as Apple and Microsoft.

On the subject of patent and copyright, those crazy Swedes, always in the news over the Pirate Bay or some other copyright issue, have officially recognised the Church of Kopimism as an actual religion. According to the faith, information is holy and copying is a sacrament so the churches members argue they should be free to copy material without fear of persecution.

And finally, the ever litigious Apple has taken affront at a Chinese built action doll, which, the Informer thinks, bears an uncanny resemblance to the firm’s late leader, Steve Jobs. The doll was due for release in February but Apple claims it owns the rights to the likeness of Jobs and is taking the Chinese firm to court. Of course, the dolls are already all over eBay and selling for upwards of $135. Barbie’s Ken must be quaking in his plastic loafers.

Take care

The Informer

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