3G for Consumer Gadgets?

The Journal had an article today titled, “Sprint Looks to Power Gadgets Beyond Cellphones” where it is reported that Sprint is talking to companies such as GPS device maker Garmin Ltd., Eastman Kodak Co. and SanDisk Corp. about delivering 3G/EV-DO service for their products. This won’t be the first time – if you have not been living in another planet, you probably know that Amazon is leasing Sprint’s 3G network as an MVNO to provide connectivity to its popular ebook, the Kindle. 

There are some interesting statistics in the article: 

Wholesale currently makes up about 3% of Sprint’s revenue and 16% of its total subscriber base of 49.3 million. While Sprint’s overall subscribers have declined nearly four million since 2006, its number of wholesale subscribers has risen 27% to 8.1 million in the same period.

I am assuming the subscriber count includes voice subscribers as well. Virgin Mobile (Sprint’s biggest MVNO) has roughly 5.8 million subscribers. The numbers seem to indicate that a Sprint retail subscriber has an ARPU that is ~13 times that of a Sprint wholesale subscriber – somewhat consistent with the fact that it apparently it takes about 11 — yes, eleven — Virgin customers to equal the revenue generated from just one Sprint customer.But according to the article, while wireless wholesaling generates lower revenue than retail sales, carriers can hold down costs and maintain good profit margins. But all these numbers may be valid only for voice subscribers – data wholesaling charges may not be that bad. 

Looks like the first salvo is Sprint’s press release yesterday touting its agreement with the Ford Motor Company. From the press release:

Beginning this spring, 2009 Ford F-Series and E-Series vehicles – and later in 2009, Transit Connect vehicles – will offer an in-dashboard PC with internet connectivity via the Sprint Nationwide Mobile Broadband Network. This capability provides the opportunity to leverage productivity application solutions via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network, including real-time labor and material-cost capture, inventory updates, invoice generation and work-order edits and completion.

The interesting aspect of these arrangements is that the application is not web browsing – instead, it is book and newspaper downloads in the case of Kindle and vertical workflow applications in the case of Ford. I am sure Amazon is paying Sprint based on the amount of bytes downloaded in addition to a per-subscriber fixed charge. Probably the reason why Amazon makes it difficult to use the Kindle as a browsing device!

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Sony’s New Embedded 3G ‘NetBook’

I guess it was just a matter of time before Sony introduced its ‘netbook’ offering – though it insists that its new Sony Vaio P is not a netbook. Walter Mossberg reviews it on the Journal:

I love the look and feel and boldness of the design, but can’t recommend this sleek machine for most users because it is very slow and has poor battery life. Oh, and it sells for double or triple the price of other small laptops, commonly called netbooks. 

He advises waiting for the version that supports Windows 7. But, man, it does look great!

sony_vaio_p5The interesting part about this ‘netbook’ is that it has embedded 3G capability – with Qualcomm’s Gobi chipset which supports both HSPA as well as EV-DO connecticity. Thus far, only Verizon Wireless is offering a $200 rebate as part of its Mobile Broadband offering – I expect many European 3G carriers to jump on the bandwagon. 

And for folks who really cannot wait to start surfing on their carrier’s HSPA network, read this to get you through. With Nokia making noises in this area, are “netbooks” the new frontier?

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Filed under HSPA, mobile broadband, netbooks

Carnival of the Mobilists #159

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I haven’t blogged in a while so what could be a better way to get back than posting a summary of the best mobile blogs of the week from the mobile ‘A’ list bloggers and industry thought leaders. This is my first time as the host of the Carnival and it has been a fun experience. 

Let’s dig into it. 

Post of the Week

Don’t walk, run to read Ofir Leitner’s post on “Top 8 rules for mobile entrepreneurs” where he has penned a detailed and extremely valuable piece on what it takes to be successful in the mobile application space. One of the best posts I have read in a long time. Thanks, Ofir.

“Smart” Phones

Steve Litchfield discusses the two-device solution (iPhone Touch + Nokia N82) that fits all his mobile needs quite well but is still looking for the perfect one-box solution. A look at this chart shows that a iPhone housing a better camera with video capture and navigation capabilities may come close.

SMSisthenewblack injects a dose of reality into the current excitement around smartphones. Check out what he is complaining about!

Megapixel Microscopy – Another visual post from Steve Litchfield at AllAboutSymbian.com. Who needs cameras when phones can shoot pictures like these? Check out the quite amazing pictures shot by a camera-phone and find out what Megapixel Microscopy actually means!

Mobile phones to help in relieving traffic congestion! Read this post from Smart Mobs to find out how Nokia is experimenting with GPS-enabled phones to reduce traffic congestion in the Bay Area. 

Mobile Applications 

Antoine has an interesting post on how Contacts on Ovi from Nokia comes close to a good IM application on mobile. He also has some pretty nifty suggestions for the Ovi team to improve their offering. 

Tsahi Levent-Levi makes his case in Radvision blog that Skype, having conquered the PC world, has set its sights on the mobile and embedded consumer electronic device platforms – all alone. 

WIPJam discusses how the current excitement around mobile applications stemming from the success of Apple’s AppStore could quickly lead to confusion in customer’s minds and answers the question: Who would be the winner of the most important API of 2009?

Mobile 2.0

James from mjelly.com blogs on Mobamingle – an international version of the most successful mobile social network in Japan, which is doing $200m in revenue. According to James, Mobamingle heralds a new wave of Japanese mobile businesses expanding internationally.

Aaron Chua has an interesting post up on his blog on startup ideas for the mobile ebook reader. There are some pretty interesting ideas here on how to interact with the content you are reading on your ebook. 

Volker argues in his post that games do not really need to be connected to have a social component to them.

Mobile Broadband

Given my interest in mobile broadband, I am always on the lookout for new platforms and infrastructure that showcase innovative mobile broadband deployments. Martin describes exactly such a deployment - 2G/3G  repeaters in this case – in a spa nonetheless. I love ubiquitious mobile broadband but browsing in a spa?

Mobile Marketing

Mobienthusiast.mobi blogs about how Anheuser-Busch has integrated a mobile website and SMS to connect with it’s prospects during the SuperBowl – the annual Bud Bowl now has a mobile component. Despite the hiccups with the video and the sign-in process, mobiEnthusiast.mobi puts this superbowl mobile marketing campaign in the “win” column.

Sticking with the Super Bowl theme, mGive and the Mobile Giving Foundation are launching (would have launched by the time you read this post) mobile donation campaigns during Super Bowl XLIII on behalf  of United Way and the American Urological Association. 

Dennis Bournique at WAP Review interviews the CEO of mKhoj - a mobile ad network based out of India. Looks like Dennis uses mKhoj as a backfill for AdMob to increase his ad fill rate. I was surprised to find out that there is no noticeable increase in page load time. Check it out!

Mobile Extras

Barbara Ballard who has been involved in mobile design for ten years is kind enough to share her experiences with everyone through her Mobile Design podcast series – here is the first one in that series. 

This post is more social commentary than mobile : Tam Hanna looks at why researchers keep producing horror  stories about gamers and mobile phone users.

A fascinating post by Judy Breck that discusses how eighth-graders in 1900 learned much more in schools than kids today – she includes an eighth-grade test from 1895 (Saline County, Kansas). Come on, take the test and see how you score. You may be surprised!

Mobile Industry Events

Chetan Sharma summarizes the Pacific Wireless Northwest Summit he attended this month – I found his observation that the three dominant mobile operators in China are all planning to implement three different technologies – all better have a nationwide network! 

Rudy is inviting us all to CLUB MIX to attend the Mobile Sunday Barcelona event – on the eve of Mobile World Congress.  Looks like it is the place to be if you want to mingle with fellow mobile bloggers – Don’t miss it if you are going to attend MWC.  Register here for the event. Also, don’t forget to attend the MobileMonday Mobile Peer Awards Event – the point of reference in mobile startup innovation. 

Hope you had as much fun reading this week’s best mobile blog posts as I had. 

Next week the carnival will be held at All About iPhone. Until then be safe!

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Filed under Carnival of the Mobilists

Interesting Report on Mobile Broadband Pricing in Europe

Tariff Consultancy has released an interesting new report on Mobile Broadband Pricing – an analysis  of current mobile broadband pricing in 33 countries across Eastern and Western Europe.  There are some interesting, yet not completely surprising, findings from the report:

  • The average flat rate package bundle provided has doubled over the last 12 months to almost 4GB (based on the analysis of 100 mobile operators). The most common monthly user allowance price point on offer across Europe is now 5GB and 10GB, closely followed by 1GB and 500MB allowances. 
  • Pricing in 2008 has fallen by an average of 4% across all countries when compared with the previous year – even though average user allowances have more than doubled.  In some countries,  mobile broadband pricing has fallen even steeper – as much as 53%, 43% and 35% in Latvia, Austria and the UK respectively over the past year.
  •  In Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Spain average mobile broadband prices are now significantly lower than the most popular fixed line DSL broadband service, which is driving customers to the mobile broadband offer. I have pointed out this phenomenon earlier in here and here. Ireland and Sweden have always been mobile broadband leaders. Looks like Spain and Germany are following their lead as well.

The most striking feature has been the continued increase in monthly user allowances which have more than doubled last year while pricing has continued to decline. The implication is that the Euro/MB has fallen by more than half – not a very good sign for the operators. Clearly, the key challenge for the operators is to translate the explosion in user growth into profitability. The report also finds that flexible tariff structures that allow for per day and per week pricing (also called pay-as-you-go plans such as O2’s recent offerings) are now available in the market place.

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Filed under fixed broadband, mobile broadband

Verizon Wireless DayPass – Xohm’s Selling Points Weaken!

One of the supposedly big selling points of Xohm – Sprint Nextel (now Clearwire) – WIMAX service was the availability of  flexible pricing models that does not tie the customer for an entire month. For example, it looks like they have a Daily On-the-Go service that provides 24 hours of continuous Internet service. They have a $5 per day  special offer that lasts until the end of the year (after which it goes back to its regular rate of $10 per day). 

3 in  UK has been offering Pay-As-You-Go pre-paid plans for a while now, though they are not strictly what you would call day plans.  Out here in the US, Verizon Wireless has upped the ante with its BroadbandAccess DayPass plan which allows you to experience the Internet continuously for 24 hours for $9.99 per day. 


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According to the website, it can be used on select notebooks from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, and OQO, or with a Verizon Wireless USB modem or ExpressCard. Self-activation is possible and additional sessions can be purchased via the connection manager. 

There have been complaints that claim that Verizon forces you to sign up for their cell phone plans and it is really not that simple as the website makes it out to be. In any case, I hope that Verizon Wireless has fixed those issues for this is truly a product that will have an adverse impact on Sprint’s Xohm service.

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Filed under mobile broadband

How Does 900MHz Spectrum Re-farming Impact the Femtocell Business Case?

I have not heard a lot of chatter on how the various 900MHz spectrum re-farming proposals impact the femtocell business case. The thought crossed my mind when I was reading the update to the UMTS900 Global Status Information Paper published by the GSA, the Global mobile Suppliers Association. This paper reports on network deployments, launches, trials, regulatory developments and devices availability.

GSA recently published an operator case study on Elisa, Finland showing significant cost and coverage benefits of deploying 3G services with UMTS900.  Elisa confirmed that 3G coverage with UMTS900 can save 50 – 70% of mobile network costs versus UMTS2100, for CapEx and OpEx. Elisa also indicated indoor coverage as another key benefit of UMTS900. Continue reading

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Femtocell Deployments – How Are They Doing?

While Europe is the center of all the femtocell mania, operators in the good old US of A are either quietly rolling out or planning actual deployments. As expected, most of these deployments are mainly to address the voice coverage problem like Sprint’s Airave product. According to an FCC filing, Verizon Wireless is all set to introduce the Samsung Ubicell (albeit in a new dark suit).

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OK. How is the Airave product and service doing? It certainly looks like the product achieves its goal of improved voice coverage – its raison d’être! However, there are several complaints about the service, some of them appear pretty serious: Continue reading

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