The nice thing about the CTIA (the wireless association) conference is that you get to see all the new mobile toys.

The great thing about the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is that you get to see everything – present/future mobile infrastructure technology…services/offerings in every country…devices/features that make your eyes water.

We change “devices” about every six-nine months (it helps the economy).

Until recently, we kept the same mobile service provider.

Service was OK.

Digging to find a new provider just seemed to be too much work.

Digging Out – While you may be paying to use their service to communicate with others it is often extremely difficult to dig your way out of the really great contract. It all sounds great at the outset, calls anytime/anywhere, shoot/send photos, watch TV on your screen, IM folks, stay in email touch…great. Until you try to escape. Photo – The Great Escape (Universal Artists)

But our provider made the work a little easier. We had been paying (extra) for service in neighboring countries (Canada, Mexico). But not being able to make/place a call made us determined to escape.

Tech support in Bangladesh assured us the provider has service in those area. Had to be “our” fault.

Weren’t satisfied? Call to their international roaming staff.

No they can’t transfer you.

No they can’t email them to call you.

Other option…escape!
The First Call

The industry has changed dramatically since Martin Cooper, a manager at Motorola, made the first call with a mobile phone.

Can You Hear Me Now — Martin Cooper, a Motorola manager, didn’t have any trouble connecting with the industry’s first “brick” phone call in Japan. Of course, it’s not like the call had to go halfway around the globe through 20 different providers either.

Moving from provider S to V or A in the U.S. isn’t one of them.

In most countries you want mobile connectivity you have choice.

Go to the store, pick the phone.

Go to another store, pick the service.

Then pick the features and talk…text…listen to music…watch videos…catch TV shows…email…surf the web.

Figure 1 – Pick Your Service – Today’s mobile service providers and some of the Greatest Products of the Year offer you capabilities like you wouldn’t believe. It may all be just data but each has a different price.
Yamaha RX-Z11

Over “there”, they don’t use the “free phone” (Americans really are cheap!) to confine you to a 2-year iron-clad contract!

In the U.S. the provider doesn’t tell you but what he’s saying is repeating Co. von Luger’s statement…”We have in effect put all our rotten eggs in one basket. And we intend to watch this basket carefully.”

After all, the provider has built out “his” infrastructure…”his” service offerings to meet your needs.

After all, the offering is where the money is at:


4 million people will use mobile maps this year

Premium mobile content will generate $44 billion in 2011

By 2010 there will be 100 million mobile video subscribers

29% of adults 25-34 will download mobile games

By 2010 there will be 134 million mobile gamers

Mobile video generated $200 million in sales last year

By 2011 mobile video will be a $6 billion industry

Figure 2 – Not Just Dialing for Dollars – Phone call minutes are just minutes. But put mobile entertainment into the picture and an hour can whiz by in no time at all. That’s big bucks!! Source — IDC

Big deal!

If you’re a supplier (hardware, service, content) sure.

If you’re a consumer?

Most simply want a phone service that works…all the time!
A Little Love

According to an In-Stat study 60% of the users feel unappreciated by their wireless operators.

Sure In-Stat also notes that 70% of the folks over 50 are satisfied with their provider but that just means:

1. escaping their clutches is too much trouble for them
2. they stay pretty close to home where service is “reliable”
3. they don’t use their phone that much

But the sweet spot for mobile providers, the teens, tweens, 18-24 year olds?

They care about them. That’s where the money is:


46% regularly rack up 500 min usage a month

68% use the camera feature…regularly

85% text regularly (our kids don’t holler at each other anymore)

38% watch videos on them

26% use the built-in MP3 player

8% use the GPS (damn kid…it’s a phone, call if you’re lost!)

Less than 2% use them for TV service

Figure 3 – Revenues Rising – Once the consumer is paying the base cost for basic calling service to pay for their infrastructure access, incremental service offerings bring big dollars to the bottomline. In addition, ads are more effective (and more expensive) because they are more targeted to specific customer profiles. Source — NYTimes

No wonder our phone bill weighs 10 lbs each month!

Doesn’t seem to hurt too much because folks are still signing up, snapping up phones.

Figure 4 – Callers Rising – Mobile service provides can’t wait for 2009 when about half of the global population will have a device of one type or another. Service dollars will just keep ringing and ringing. Unfortunately the number of new subscribers is already declining which means fewer new instrument sales for manufacturers without new features, new capabilities, new pricing structures. Source — iSuppli

ABI Research estimated 263.8 million handsets were sold in Q2 2007.

By 2009 it is estimated there will be 3 billion mobile subscribers…half of the world’s population will be connected!

That’s encouraging for the service providers.

Not for device manufacturers since penetration growth is dropping from 19.3% to 3%.

Worse yet, 25% of the phones are going to cost less than $20 by 2011.

But a cheap unit wasn’t at the top of our list for switching (stuff we want never seems to be on sale anyway!).

Neither was MP3 play, TV on the phone, video playback, GPS. Didn’t want all the bells, whistles.

Figure 5 – Everything Phone – Device manufacturers have only a few choices as the number of new mobile subscribers decline. They can focus on the high-volume, low-price throw-away units or they can add more capabilities and more cost to their units. The latter approach is designed to encourage people to upgrade/replace their devices more frequently.

Focus on the Basics

Needs were simple – call performance/reliability; decent customer service; “reasonable cost.”

We also wanted 3G and Bluetooth that worked with our car (who knew all Bluetooth wasn’t the same?).

We’d like smartphone capabilities like email but there are a couple of hurdles:

1. has to mesh perfectly (without my having to think about it/work at it) with my email solution – no, not Outlook or Mac)
2. our wife barely tolerates our bringing a notebook along on holidays. 24×7 reading/responding wouldn’t be treated very kindly!

To make an intelligent decision we polled people we respect on the available services.

Consensus wasn’t too good. Sorta like Herr Kuhn said…”If you escape again, and are captured, you will be SHOT!

Turns out, they all suck!

It’s just a matter of degrees…trade-offs.

It’s all a matter of network control…their network control!

Unlike your ability to move around the Internet, providers not the user rule.
Dollars from Airwaves

They leverage, control, manage all of the new and emerging services – radio, TV, web surfing, gaming, gambling, email, video download/viewing.

So device manufacturers shoehorn in all of the attributes and capabilities they possibly can into their units to warrant a higher price.

Figure 6 – Growth Curve – As service providers expand their infrastructure to support higher performance, higher speed 3G solutions, call quality and reliability will not only increase but the added headroom will make it possible to add and sell new higher profit services to consumers. Source — IDC

You simply choose which “walled garden” you want to enter.

After that…you’re theirs baby.

Only problem is, as Steve McQueen said…”You’re twenty feet short of the woods. The hole is right here in open. The guard is between us and the lights.”

If the providers can remember back to why we all bought mobile devices – you know security, productivity – and did that really well churn might go way down. Then they could focus on adding all the other gotta have features our kids want.

Figure 7 – Enhanced Productivity – The initial promise of the mobile phone was increased personal productivity for business people. It was suddenly easy for them to stay in touch with staff members and business partners all the time. But it’s apparent that the mobile phone has quickly evolved from a communications tool to a personal entertainment device. One that is almost indispensable by males/females, young/old.

Over the Fence – It’s not easy getting out of the mobile service walled garden. Even when you jump the wire, your option is to either go silent or choose a walled garden that best meets your personal wants/needs…and hope for the best. Photo – Universal Artists

When our provider asked why we were switching, we told them what Steve McQueen said…”Well, like I told Max… I was trying to cut my way through your wire because I want to get out.”

It’s still a walled garden but at least we can call out and folks can call us.

That’s what people expect with their mobile provider!