About this weblog

What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Friday, March 29, 2013

BlackBerry Ships Six Million Smartphones

BlackBerry said its revenue in the quarter ending March 2nd was approximately 2.7 billion U.S. dollars, down 36% year-on-year.  It said it shipped six million smartphones in the quarter, including one million running its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, compared with 11.1 million handsets in the equivalent quarter a year ago.

BlackBerry said its global subscriber base at the end of the quarter was approximately 76 million, slightly down from 77 million a year earlier.  The smartphone maker added that it "will be increasing its marketing investment in the first quarter of fiscal 2014 in support of the global launch of BlackBerry 10." source: BlackBerry statement

Friday, March 22, 2013

3G Drives Growth for Unicom

China Unicom said that its operating revenue grew by 19% in 2012 to 248.9 billion yuan (40.05 billion US dollars), driven by a 22% increase in mobile service revenue. However, Unicom remains the smallest of the big three telcos in China. In 2013, it is aiming for "industry-leading revenue growth...lowered capex...maintained network advantages and further enhanced informatization capability." source China Unicom presentation

China Telecom Outpaces China Mobile

China Telecom said that its revenue in 2012 grew by 15.5% to 283.1 billion Chinese yuan (45.55 billion U.S. dollars), driven by a 36% increase in mobile service revenue. source: China Telecom presentation

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry

Fixed mobile convergence is happening right across telecoms - in the service layer, the enterprise market and the network

A decade from now, the term "mobile industry" may be a quaint anachronism. At the Mobile World Congress in February, it was clear that mobile and fixed-line telecoms are fast converging in multiple ways.

For a long time, there was something special, almost magical, about mobile - it stood apart from ageing copper lines and clunky fixed-line phones.  But, with the rise of Wi-Fi,  that notion seems to be fading. Both consumers and employees just want to connect to their contacts, their cloud-based services and their files regardless of whether they are on a "mobile device", a PC, a mobile network or Wi-Fi.  

Perhaps the most striking example of this broader thinking at the Congress was Telefonica Digital's launch of TU Go in the UK, which enables O2 postpaid customers to make and receive calls on a PC or tablet using their mobile phone number.  “To date a customer’s phone number has been fixed to one particular device," said Jamie Finn, director of communications products. "TU Go changes this, turning the mobile phone into an app.” A harbinger of things to come, TU Go uses cloud-based authentication to break the umbilical chord between the mobile number and the SIM card. 

And it won't be long before any device with a web browser and an Internet connection will be able to make phone calls - At the Congress, Ericsson, Mozilla and AT&T demonstrated a Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) proof of concept to show how a web browser can be used to make voice and video calls or send SMS and MMS messages.  

Mobile device management or multi-device management?
In the enterprise mobility market, a different kind of fixed mobile convergence is also underway: MDM may soon stand for multi-device management (rather than mobile device management) as IT departments look to keep tabs on employees' PCs, tablets and smartphones through a single dashboard. Talk of a post-PC era is premature. Despite the proliferation of bring your own device programmes, few employees are ditching their corporate PCs. Meanwhile, mainstream IT vendors are moving aggressively into the mobile sector: IBM said at the Congress it has made 10 mobile-related acquisitions in the past four years alone.  

Enterprises are increasingly likely to buy IT, mobile connectivity and fixed-line connectivity together.  Following its acquisition of fixed-line telco Cable & Wireless Worldwide, in July 2012, mobile operator Vodafone noted "it has become clear that there is strong customer demand [among enterprises] for combined products and services." 

Mobilising Wi-Fi
At another level, mobile networks and Wi-Fi networks (connected to fiber-optic cables) are becoming increasingly integrated. At the Congress, Telef√≥nica showed "technology which enables smartphone and tablet users to move seamlessly between different wireless access technologies without losing coverage."

Seeking to fully integrate Wi-Fi with 3GPP-based mobile technologies, the Madrid-based telco said the "evolved Wi-Fi technology to be used in the deployment of cellular networks has moved to carrier grade, meaning that it implements the latest advances and functionalities and offers a performance similar to LTE, plus it allows roaming between operators and countries."

Similarly, China Mobile, which plans to lift its capital spending in 2013 by almost 50%, is pursuing a "four network strategy" - 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi (see slide below). The giant Chinese telco said, in its March financial results presentation, that it now runs 3.83 million Wi-Fi access points around the country and these carry half of its handset data traffic. It noted that an automatic authentication system has increased usage of these Wi-Fi hotspots.

A hybrid box of the future
In time, mobile and fixed networks are likely to work hand-in-glove, sharing the traffic load as appropriate. This is the vision behind what Deutsche Telekom claims will be "the most modern integrated network possible" in Germany. DT's annual report says: "We want to combine optical fiber and LTE in a hybrid box in the future, which will enable download rates of up to 200 Mbps and upload rates of up to 90 Mbps.... an innovative hybrid technology will bundle the transmission capacities of the fixed and mobile networks intelligently, allowing additive use to be made of the maximum available bandwidth."

These trends mean that in Europe, Japan, China, North America and other developed markets, it will soon be hard to draw a clear line around the mobile industry.  That will be a good thing. In an increasingly complex world, both enterprises and consumers cherish simplicity: They want services that will work across devices and networks, regardless of whether they are mobile, portable or hard-wired into the surrounding infrastructure. They shouldn't need to make a distinction between mobile and fixed.

Rather than simply deploying and managing SIM cards, forward-looking mobile operators and their partners are now looking at customers more holistically and deliver a package of connectivity and cloud-based services.

It has been a long time coming, but fixed mobile convergence may finally be here.

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry

Friday, March 15, 2013

Super Sharp Display on Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Electronics announced its Galaxy S4 handset will be available from the second quarter of 2013 globally. The handset features "the world’s first full HD Super AMOLED display" - a 5-inch screen with a resolution of 441 pixels per inch (PPI), compared with the iPhone 5's 326 PPI. The Galaxy S4 has also been designed to support HSPA+42 Mbps and LTE across up to six different spectrum bands. Samsung said a TDD/FDD LTE dual mode version will be introduced later this year. 

Samsung also said the new handset can "detect your face, voice and motions to enable screen control with no need for finger touch activation.... when you are watching a video [for example], the video pauses when you look away then it starts right up again when you are back." source: Samsung statement

Thursday, March 14, 2013

China Mobile Capex to Climb Sharply

China Mobile said its operating revenues rose 6.1% in 2012 to 560.4 billion Chinese yuan (90 billion US dollars), as revenue from wireless data traffic soared almost 54%, prompting it to invest heavily in network capacity. China Mobile noted that it has "maintained its competitive advantage in terms of scale by expanding its total customer base to 710 million, including 88 million 3G customers." 

Within China Mobile's applications and information services business, its "mobile reading" revenues rose 74% and its mobile video revenues 64%. However, the giant telco saw its SMS and MMS revenue decline by 5% in 2013. It warned that it faces "intense challenges and development pressures, including greater penetration in mobile communications and a more complex competitive landscape. The emergence of new technologies and businesses, particularly in Internet, magnified the impact and substitution effect on the traditional communications sector."

China Mobile said its network utilisation has risen by 10.8 percentage points and it now has a total of 280,000 3G base stations of which 65,000 have been newly built. Still, it plans to increase capital spending by 49% in 2013 to 190.2 billion yuan (31 billion US dollars), as it rolls out a commercial TD-LTE network. source: China Mobile presentation

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ericsson Signals Market Share Slip

Ericsson said its share of the global mobile equipment (infrastructure) market fell to 35% in 2012 from 38% in 2011. It blamed the fall on "the ongoing technology shift in China where investments are moving from GSM to other technology areas where Ericsson has limited presence." However, the Stockholm-based firm said it maintained its share of the global installed base of radio base stations at 40%.
Ericsson also claimed its market share for LTE is twice as big as its largest competitor, measured in shipments in 2012. "In telecom services, internal market data indicates that the company increased its market share to 13% making it larger than any competitor in a fragmented market," Ericsson added. "After the acquisition of Telcordia, consolidated as of January 2012, Ericsson also has a leading position in the OSS and BSS market." source: Ericsson statement

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

VimpelCom Held Back by Italy

VimpelCom said its revenues in the fourth quarter of 2012 rose 3% year-on-year on an organic basis to 6 billion US dollars. That is slightly slower than the 4% growth recorded across 2012. In the fourth quarter, VimpelCom revenues rose 4% in Russia and the Ukraine, 21% in the CIS and 11% in Africa and Asia, but fell 4% in Italy, thanks to a mandated decline in mobile termination rates. source: VimpelCom presentation 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Enterprise Data: The Final Frontier?

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry

The enterprise mobility market is seeing a gold rush

Mobilising the enterprise wasn’t one of the big themes at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But maybe it should have been.

In the consumer market, particularly in Europe, mobile operators are experiencing price deflation and intense downward pressure on the top line. But they may find some salvation in the enterprise market: There were clear signs at the Congress that businesses are now spending significant sums mobilising their IT systems, as they go in hot pursuit of big data.

Enterprise mobility management provider AirWatch had one of the largest stands at the show, perhaps reflecting the fact that the decade-old Atlanta firm has just raised $200 million in Series A funding led by Insight Venture Partners.

And AirWatch isn’t the only player in a bullish mood. “Things have moved on quite rapidly over [the past] 12 months,” said Nick McQuire, VP, mobile enterprise strategies EMEA at research firm IDC, in a conference session, entitled Can mobility transform the business? “Most significantly we have seen a mindset shift [in enterprises] around mobile technology.” Whereas corporate IT departments used to have a “defensive posture” to mobile devices, McQuire believes CIOs have woken up to the fact that mobile technologies can “enable and transform the business.” Instead of obsessing about “mobile data leakage”, CIOs now want to use mobile technologies to get new valuable data – the gold rush is on.

Stewards and guardians
Jose Luis Gamo, CEO Telefonica Multinational Solutions, argued that the role of corporate IT departments is shifting from that of “an architect and a designer for every device and every platform and every architecture …..to a kind of steward or guardian whose role is to ensure the full security, interoperability and availability of the IT platform.” He claimed this transition is in full swing in many enterprises. “It has already happened, so wake up,” Gamo said. “My personal view of BYOD (bring your own device) is it is an ever-increasing, unstoppable trend. We will have to live with it…end users are emotionally attached to their devices…and they are more productive.” 

Advocating the use of mobile technologies to redesign core business processes or find new business models, Gamo noted how ABB has used a remotely-controlled irrigation service in Spain to save 30% on employee costs. Building on this theme, John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, outlined how United Airlines has equipped its pilots with iPads, containing maps, charts and other flight info, in place of the 45lb bags they used to carry on board the plane.  Marshall also described bow AirWatch is “extending BYOD to theme park operators,” which can now use mobile apps to inform staff about where they are needed each day, “as opposed to 40,000 people calling in when its inclement weather, and saying do I come to work today?”  

SAP's Nick Brown - focus on the user
Taking a different angle, Nick Brown, SVP, mobile strategy & solution management at SAP, contended that the momentum in the enterprise mobility market is being driven by IT departments’ desire to broaden the reach of the enterprise systems they have deployed over their past 20 years.

However, Brown said it is crucial that enterprise mobile apps are designed first and foremost for the end-user (rather than the IT department). “Focus on the user…. that is the only thing you really need to do to drive mobility to the next level in your enterprise,” he said.

Fellow speaker Tarun Nimmagadda, co-founder & COO of Mutual Mobile, echoed Brown’s call for usability. He described how Audi has deployed iPads, which can be used by both customers and sales reps, in their car dealerships across the U.S.  Nimmagadda said such apps need a “beautifully” simple front-end to encourage “non-technical sales people to give up their PC and switch over to an iPad.”

Toe-to-toe with SAP
Behind each and every clean simple user interface, there may well be a messy and complex value chain. As the enterprise mobility market expands, business software gorillas, such as SAP, cloud specialists, such as VMWare, and big telcos, such as Telefonica, and their partners are piling in.  Jim Somers, CMO of Antenna Software, noted the “ecosystem is one of co-opetition….we will go out and go toe-to-toe with SAP on any given day, but we also actually extend SAP software. We work with all the carriers and we work with AirWatch as well and a lot of agencies,” he said.

Describing it “as race to the middle”, Somer said the value lies in providing the solutions that connect an enterprise’s data to its employees’ devices. In the next few years, mobility may well be taken for granted and subsumed into the big data phenomena. “We are not going to be talking about mobile for much longer here, we will be talking about data,” Somer concluded.

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and Blackberry