At the recent MEX conference, Juha Christensen, CEO of Sonopia, explained how the mobile user experience covers the time from shopping around for a phone, right up to months or years later when you decide to replace your phone. One of the crucial aspects at the beginning, during and the end of this cycle is the choice of tariffs and services offered by the network operator.
This is an area that is continually changing. However, there have been some interesting recent announcements…
Last month, 3 decided to allow access to external mobile content via their ‘Mobile Web‘ service.
While still limited to some degree (there is only access to sites that 3 has deemed are a high enough quality and are suitable for mobile), this is a large turnaround. It shows that the ‘closed’ network operators are starting to think that they should open up their network to encourage off-portal services, email and content in the same way many network operators have been doing for a long time.
Whether 3 can effectively police what sites and services can be accessed remains to be seen. However, it will make many users happy that they should at least be able to access their email on their shiny new smartphone.
From this month, Orange supports 3G Pay As You Go
This brings many new ‘smartphone’ handsets and 3G services within the reach of the mass market.
From this month, Vodafone has simplified 3G Data Card Tariffs
More importantly there’s an ‘unlimited’ tariff of only £53/month and a data travel bundle with 100Mb of data when roaming for £95/month. It’s expected that fixed price tariffs will become more common for all types of user and stimulate uptake of mobile services. Many users currently avoid using services either because they don’t know how much they will cost or because they have previously had a ‘bill shock’.
This year, Orange is to introduce Business Anywhere
This will be a wireless convergence product that will greatly simplify connection to 3G, Wi-Fi, LAN and dial up based on enterprise defined rules. The worker will just select ‘Connect’ and the appropriate service will be used based on availability. Furthermore, Orange is partnering with some Wi-Fi hotspot providers so that there will only be one bill. This won’t exclude use of other Wi-Fi providers which will obviously be billed separately.
In the more distant future, it will be possible to perform transparent handover between Wi-Fi, LAN, 3G and dial up based on availability.
While these changes are specific to particular network operators and geographic regions, they demonstrate the variety of the kinds of things network operators are currently thinking about when trying to improve the user experience.
Network operators have exhausted the possibilities for innovative tariffs based on free minutes, time of calling and bundled text messages. In the future we are likely to see a greater range of tariffs based on specific data services and converged connectivity.