Something for the weekend…

Fighting talk on roaming

An interesting follow-up on the European roaming charges issue today. The GSM Association has released the findings of a study by CRA International which concludes the European Commission’s proposals to regulate roaming charges would: “create major market distortions and may force consumers across Europe to pay higher prices for domestic services or switch to mobile accounts that prevent them from roaming.”

You can download the full release here.

Of course, it is worth considering the context of this research, which was requested by the Association. Faced with the prospect of losing the lucrative high margins they have been able to charge roaming consumers for so many years, Europe’s major operators will be doing everything possible to fight the adoption of the Commission’s proposals. However, as I mentioned in my previous article on the subject, they are doing themselves a considerable disservce by continuing to confuse, over-charge and discourage users from having confidence in roaming charges.

Encouraging innovation

SymbianOne has an interview with Steve Glagow, Director of Orange Partners, about the operator’s Partner Camp in the US. The event runs 8 – 11 May in Florida.

It is refreshing to see a European operator with no major US interests reaching out to tap the growing pool of innovation in the US mobile market. I am consistently impressed with the innovation coming out of US software developers, who are leveraging the favourable funding climate, talented programmer community and willingness to risk launching independent services to great effect.

The Orange event is focused primarily on helping these developers to tap into Orange’s European and global markets by providing advisory services, marketing assistance and testing capabilities.

Waking up and smelling the coffee

In other news, Orange is apparently shelving its GBP 10m ‘animal’ advertising campaign, the subject of my article a few days ago. The marketing strategy is being axed less than a month after launch, with Orange citing incompatibilities with its new corporate image as the reason. This article has further details.

I received a remarkable number of emails in response to my article on this. It seems everyone in the industry, from platform providers to handset manufacturers, was experiencing the same sense of confusion as to how four animals were going to help simplify Orange’s price plans.

The future of mobile messaging

O2 and Openwave are entering into a series of trials aimed at exploring the future of mobile messaging. Openwave will work with the operator to supply its MIDAS handset client software, which is based around open web standards, and the back-end server architecture. The deal caught my attention because of the comments made by Dave Williams, CTO at O2, in the announcement:

“When it comes to the development of mobile messaging services the industry has been responsible for ignoring the simple things like usability and simplicity, the very things at the centre of a fantastic customer experience. Operators, device vendors and platform vendors have tended to focus on a fragmented, non-integrated approach to the delivery of new IP-based messaging services. This approach is not sustainable in the long term for the network architecture or the user experience.‚Ä?

This suggests to me the project is being driven by end user requirements, rather than the product evolution cycles of the technology suppliers. That’s a welcome change. MMS and most instant messaging offerings have been driven by supplier-dominated committees, with little focus on user experience issues during the standardisation process.

The Openwave and O2 trials will use a combination of methods, including IM and MMS, to create a messaging experience compatible with individual usage patterns rather than the platform roadmap of big networking companies.


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  1. 1
    John M Forsyth

    Interesting to see the Roaming issue arise again.

    I tend to agree with the views that roaming charges are sometimes obscure, often high, and generally confusing to consumers. However I don’t agree that it’s the role of the regulator to determine the price.

    The market should decide.Regulation has a role to play in ensuring the availability and quality of information to the consumer, but travellers have many options for communicating while abroad, and can choose whether to pay more for convenience.

    The mobile operators are indeed doing themselves a severe disservice, however, and will encourage substitution and new entrants. They ignore the implications of two trends that are significant here: growing international mobility, and the increasing geographical diversity of the networks of people with whom the average individual communicates. These suggest very strongly that users will seek and prefer undifferentiated (and low) call-costs. At present, the closest one can come to undifferentiated call costs is through the use of IP telephony over non-cellular networks.

    Mobile Operators still have the opportunity to recognise this and change course before they encourage too much substitution, but if they do not, then it is hard to believe consumers will prove in the long run to have high loyalty to the underlying bearer used for their voice and data calls.

  2. 2
    John O Boyle

    John O Boyle, Sales and Marketing Director of fastmobile Limited replies as follows.

    We warmly welcome the 02 Initiative on Mobile Messaging announced today and the sentiments expressed by Dave Williams on the need to think of a user perspective in messaging.

    From the inception of fastmobile in 2003,this has been key to our philosophy, and Making Messaging simpler has been a single minded company pursuit.

    Our recent launches with Yahoo, the activity with Globe Telecom, BT and our Emerging Market Handset initiatives with the GSMA,all lead me to conclude that the drive to integrated messaging will be a global phenomenon in the near future.

    It is very good news for the industry and above all for customers.

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