Category Archives: Mobile Networks

It’s Infrastructure, Stupid

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It’s Infrastructure, Stupid

I recently interviewed Bob Frankston to add his expert view to my coverage of the FCC NOI on the National Broadband Plan, but what I got instead was an offer to take the Red Pill. So I did.

We started with my outline of what I thought were salient points.  ”How many times will we, the people, pay to build this network that is refereneced in the National Broadband Plan?” I asked. We built it 100 years ago, the military built a piece in the 1970s, various educationals initiatives built pieces in 1980s & 90s, the National Science Foundation unified and operated the military and higher-ed backbones, and then in 1991 the National Information Infrastructure offered tax breaks and incentives to Telcos to deliver fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) for 86% of American homes by 2010 at a cost of $200 billion to the taxpayer.  It sounded to me like a good start.

But Frankston quickly turned my attention, when he started talking about the transition from steam engines to diesel engines in the railroad industry.  He pointed out,

…not one of the steam engines companies survived the transition to diesel engines. It wasn’t because the engineers couldn’t build diesel engines, but because steam engines were one off designs with each engine requiring a different number of wheels and the ability to negotiate a grade or severe curves or longer distances, the DNA of marketing and customer relationship for steam engines was just different than diesel engines. Had the railroads realized that they were in the transporation business, they would have built airplanes.

He continued,

…they wouldn’t have built roads as there was no business model in roads.

Why is the railroad a good model for the telecommunications business as described by the National Broadband Plan?

First, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) was modeled on the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) who regulated railroads and sold rights for a price.

This is similar to the FCC’s revenue generating activity in auctioning spectrum to wireless carriers. Just as rights for railroads were treated as private property, so is spectrum.  In fact, spectrum allocations are specified in acre units.  It is counterintuitive to think of signal frequencies in the sky as acres of land, but that is the current process of transferring our national airwaves into property sold to carriers.

The steam engine versus diesel engine analogy is directly relatable to the battles between so called Bell heads (those specialized in circuit-switched networks that comprised the telephone network and long time employees of telcos) versus Net heads (those specialized in packet-switched networks that comprise the Internet and the newer engineers on the block in carrier staffs).  For cable companies, the conflict is between Broadcast heads versus Net heads.  The evidence for cable company dysfunction is Time Warner Cable’s inability to realize the opportunity of delivering TV as an application across AOL infrastructure resulting in lower costs and greater audience reach.

Back to railroads.

Modern railroads in the US have these companies reinvesting their profits into infrastructure.  European railroads separate the rails business and the by-rail-transportation business. They are two different businesses.  And yet, the Internet is more like driving, and you can’t just bend the railroad business and make it a road. With the Internet we create our own solutions.

Bob’s discussion on unneeded and even incompetent complexity in the effort to assure scarcity is best presented in his own article titled, Assuring Scarcity.

The analogy of telcos as railroads and the Internet as roads started to rattle around in my head.  Today’s service providers, telecommunications and cable companies, are trying to sell Internet service through artificial billing events. Sending messages is a good example. Why do we pay – at worst – 20 cents per text, but 75 cents per picture message.  Both are composed of bits. Once you have the ability to transfer bits, you can transfer more bits.

What would our use of roads be like if today’s telco and cable cos (ISPs) were in charge of roads?

Roads are built by city, county, state and the federal governments. Let’s say that those are the service providers in this case. If these road provdiers were like ISPs and potential broadband providers they might be telcos, cable cos and fiber cos.  Each of these companies strings a wire to my house. So,  to ensure my “access” to roads the city, county, and state would have to extend their roads to every house to provide access to their brand of transportation service.  That’s at least three roads running out to every house.

Each time I drove up on the road, I’d need a way to show that I’ve paid for access to the road.  For simplicity sake let’s say that I have an “E-ZPass” to present my crendentials to a reader that would allow me access. And to get the E-ZPass I pay a monthly subscription to either the city and would therefore be restricted to driving only on city roadways.  Or if I paid a monthly subscription to both the city and the county, I could drive on both city and county roads, but not on state roads.

This description isn’t different from paying for DSL and Cable TV. Or paying for Cable TV, phone and Internet Access commonly known as a triple play.

Now in this analogy, I’d need the right vehicle to drive on asphalt which wouldn’t work on conceret roads.  Concrete roads would require a different set of specs for the vehicle. A choice would require that one decide to drive on the more plentiful asphalt roads or the less plentiful but more stable concrete roads.

Roads have special features. Each time a bridge is crossed, or a tunnel driven through would be an event for a new charge.  In addition, if I wanted to take advantage of higher speed limits on the roads I’d be charged each time I increased my speed to a higher level. On city and county roads it might be one charge for 25 to 35 mph and then a fee increase for 45 to 55 mph.

And of course my monthly road subscription would limit the total number of miles I could travel on the road. Any additional mileage would result in a higher monthly subscription or a per mile charge 10x to 40x greater than the montly allotment.

To replicate the cable model, I’d be limited to mass transit. My road experience would need to be shared with a group.  The more subscribers on the bus or train, the more stops and therefore the slower my transportation.

If I wanted to use roads during rush hour, an addition charge would then allow me to use roads during those peak periods.  I would not be allowed to roam onto roadways even for short periods built by a provider with which I didn’t have a monthly contract.

Using road side attractions would each require it’s own fee.  Public restrooms, emergency lanes, emergency call boxes, and rest areas would each read my E-ZPass and transfer the appropriate charge to my bill.

Each trip on roads would require an assessment of which providers I needed to pay to complete my transportation goal.  That’s right. Transportation is the service I want, but instead I’m paying for arbitrary road events that are artifically and inconsistently assigned some price.

Telecommunications is an application. This abstraction has been successfully demonstrated byTruphone, Skype and Vonage.  TV is an application successfully demonstrated by Hulu  They are not magically integrated into a physical cable.

We should be asking many more questions as we consider the FCC’s new national strategy.  Bob Frankston having thought about these issues since his work at Microsoft and creating “Home Networking” which freed consumers from the carriers owning the network in their house.  Sound far fetched?  Cable cos and DSL providers in the early days charged for the number of computers one connected to their network – not unlike charging for multiple cable boxes when such equipment was required just to watch broadcast video.

We must the consider this next question carefully.  Frankston asks,

Why do we tolerate the claim that fungible infrastructure is a telecom service?  

Roads are infrastructure and although they enable one mode of transportation we do not fund them with a service model.

Eric Schmidt confirms Google 700 MHz bid

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While speaking at The Progress and Freedom Foundation Aspen Summit on August 21, 2007, Eric Schmidt states that Google plans to make good on their 700 MHz bid of 4.6 Billion with a caveat. He explains that the FCC’s final language will be “important.” The principles that the FCC embraced need to be reflected in the actual rules when they are published. At about 30 minutes, you’ll hear the confirmation. In addition, Schmidt seems to indicate Google is collaborating with others on their bid.


He also explains the power of the same features highlighted by John Stratton, CMO of Verizon Wireless that the combination of phone, camera, data network and GPS makes the advertising delivered to mobile subscribers enormously valuable.

Orange rewrites the Nokia Narrative over Music Service

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The Independent reported that Orange is at odds with Nokia over its new music service which is scheduled for launch today.  The paper claims to have “seen” a memo from Orange to Nokia that threatens to derange an 8GB device to be debuted today. Orange insists that if Nokia doesn’t agree to a trial measuring the performance of Nokia’s music service against Orange’s own music service their handset business will go elsewhere.  The operator set a deadline of 31 August for Nokia’s reply.

The memo said: “We are still to see a working demo of the music store; we would expect a significant level of customer confusion and increased calls to customer services as a result of housing both players on a device and our data tariffs would be negatively impacted as they were not designed to deal with such large individual music files. In short, if this was an Orange service, we would definitely not launch yet to protect our customer experience.”

As Nokia prepares to launch an iTunes competitor today, Orange wants to ensure that their handset provider doesn’t cannibalize the operator’s revenue from its own music service.  One has to wonder if the “trial” will infact result in the trottling of Nokia’s service to ensure a better subscriber experience for Orange.  So, perhaps when it comes to Nokia’s internal narrative, We have 800 million customers outside the US and only 4 customers inside the US, Orange seems to be rewriting that statement.   The network owner is still in charge regardless of what Nokia think.

The Attention Economy and Mobile Web 2.0

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Pay attention! This phrase takes on a whole new meaning in the context of information overload from our modern day communications choices. The 24 hour news day, 500+ channels of TV on cable and dish networks, radio, XM, Sirius, and the web along with one of it’s offspring, the blogosphere, are producing an unprecedented amount of media all vying for our attention. Attention economics is here and beginning to be realized and leveraged by companies large and small. Individual attention is a scarce commodity; scarcity creates value. The primary function of company involvement in the Attention Economy has been focused on advertising, and “paying attention” hints what some hope are the dynamics of Long Tail participation in this market.

Media is the dominant delivery mechanism of advertising and by necessity locked in fierce competition to capture and hold your attention primarily for the purposes of securing ad revenue for the profitable development of their creative products and services. Whether one watches Lost on ABC, listens to All Things Considered on NPR, or reads Robert Scoble’s blog, advertisers or sponsors are funding that experience to gain access to the media consumer’s attention. In the realm of media, the producer acts as the owner of your attention. You pay attention to their media properties. Producers collect information on what and when you pay attention, and in turn, sell your attention to advertisers who wish to deliver their marketing messages.

Who owns your attention

When you use Google or Yahoo! for web search or visit blogs that partner with Adsense or Yahoo! Publisher, it is the search engine that acts as owner of your attention. Stored on Google and Yahoo! servers are the clickstreams of millions. Whether you click through the results of a web search or on an ad placed on a blog, the search engines sell your attention and gestures to advertisers who pay for the increased likelihood that they will get your attention long enough or at the right time to convert you into a customer for themselves or their client companies.

Social networks like MySpace, Facebook, Beebo, Flickr etc. act as the owners of your attention. As you participate in building your profile, interacting with objects in the network (e.g., applications, media, other users) and/or publish your own original content an overwhelming amount of information is available on where and to what you are paying attention. This treasure trove of data is combed on both the front-end and back-end of these networks by advertisers eager to get their message into your view and attention.

John Stratton, CMO of Verizon Wireless (VZW), dramatically declared to big media and advertisers that they own the attention of their subscribers. The following audio excerpt is from John Stratton’s speech at AdAge’s 2006 Madison & Vine Conference bringing together Hollywood and Madison Avenue. In his speech, Stratton explains the value of Verizon’s subscriber attention by describing how his company sold 10,000 concert tickets in one hour.


Stratton sees Verizon Wireless as the owner of your attention to be sold to both Hollywood and Madison Avenue and likely anyone willing to pay Verizon Wireless for ad delivery. Did you download a hip hop ringtone last month? Are you a mobile gamer? Do you live in Los Angeles? Is your name Stacy? VZW’s view into your clickstream is even more powerful than the view of Google, or Yahoo! Web companies have mastered the collection of to what and when you’re paying attention, but VZW can add the layers of where and who you are (identity).

The US government mandated E911 regulation requires carriers to build the infrastructure to accurately determine your location and provide that information to public safety organizations for emergency services. As a result, GPS equipped devices are widely deployed and in use (e.g., personal navigation is one of the breakthrough applications on the carriers’ data networks). Further, your mobile phone number identifies you just as surely as your driver’s license or your passport. Credit checks and state issued identification are requirements for the process of purchasing a mobile phone.

Attention Trust & Root Vault

Your attention has value. It is scarce. Businesses are using technology and services to act as owners of your attention. In 2005, the Attention Trust was formed by Steve Gillmor and Seth Goldstein in an attempt to conceptually create property rights around attention and ensure the ownership of that property resided with it’s originator, you.

Attention Trust

Beyond providing consumer protection and the creation of property rights, Attention Trust seeks to enable individuals to capture their own clickstreams and bring them to market just as your many service providers do. The Attention Recorder is a browser plugin that enables an individual to collect their own clickstream and store it. Individuals may choose to store their clickstream on a local hard drive or on one the services authorized by Attention Trust.

Attention data stored on a service can be bought, sold or traded. Third party investors may purchase attention data and act as arbiters. Advertisers might bid on clickstreams or purchase them outright. The originator of the clickstream owns their data and can chose who is allowed to purchase the data and who is not. It remains to be seem if these initial efforts and services can sustain themselves until the market can be educated.

Attention Economy Leverage

Some companies are getting wise to the fact that the byproducts of Attention Economy also have value. A blogger swarm on any given topic can generate millions of page views; a rapid worldwide spread of a technology, story, event or concept (i.e., a network effect); and the energy drink of all web site owners – google juice. Google juice and related mechanisms for driving an Idea Virus into mainstream consciousness, generally occurring through the leap from the blogosphere into the mainstream media, results in economic value not only in the context of attention, but also, monetarily.

An early example of leverage applied to the attention economy is the phrase Web 2.0. The phrase was coined in 2003, by O’Reilly Media to name a conference held in October, 2004, and instantly popularized by the technology blogosphere. O’Reilly had partnered with CMP to produce the series of Web 2.0 conferences. A blog swarm formed across technology bloggers around the first conference and it’s central theme of “the web as a platform.” In November, 2004, CMP applied for a service mark on the phrase Web 2.0. A service mark is a type of trademark that is used to mark services instead of products.

It is notable that the Web 2.0 service mark application was filed not when the term was coined in 2003 or even over the next year during conference preparation. It was applied for after the conference in November once the term had been popularized among technology bloggers. The existence of the service mark was largely unknown until a small not-for-profit conference in Ireland chose to use the phrase Web 2.0 in the title of it’s conference in 2006. CMP sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that IT@Cork discontinue the use of it’s service mark. However, according to trademark law a mark loses protection when it becomes a generic term. According to the Harvard School of Law’s documentation on trademark law, Web 2.0 not only “lost” it’s protection via genericity,

A word will be considered generic when, in the minds of a substantial majority of the public, the word denotes a broad genus or type of product and not a specific source or manufacturer. So, for example, the term “thermos” has become a generic term and is no longer entitled to trademark protection. Although it once denoted a specific manufacturer, the term now stands for the general type of product. Similarly, both “aspirin” and “cellophane” have been held to be generic. In deciding whether a term is generic, courts will often look to dictionary definitions, the use of the term in newspapers and magazines, and any evidence of attempts by the trademark owner to police its mark.

but the clearly generic nature of “web” should have prevented the mark from becoming registered at all.

Finally, a generic mark is a mark that describes the general category to which the underlying product belongs. For example, the term “Computer” is a generic term for computer equipment. Generic marks are entitled to no protection under trademark law. Thus, a manufacturer selling “Computer” brand computers (or “Apple” brand apples, etc.) would have no exclusive right to use that term with respect to that product. Generic terms are not protected by trademark law because they are simply too useful for identifying a particular product. Giving a single manufacturer control over use of the term would give that manufacturer too great a competitive advantage.

CMP leveraged the attention network effect created by the swarm of technology bloggers writing and commenting on the Web 2.0 concept. They captured the term’s accrued value by securing a service mark. Whether these events have a direct relationship to the next case is unknown, but a precedent for business and leveraging the Attention Economy was set.

Verzion Wireless announces Mobile Web 2.0(SM)

Verizon Wireless authored and distributed a press release that no doubt many have read as it was reported across the blogosphere, trade press and the mainstream press earlier this week. The press release was titled: Now It Is Even Easier to Get the Info You Want With Mobile Web 2.0 From Verizon Wireless. On seeing the document I immediately took note of the (SM) following mentions of Verizon Wireless’ Mobile Web 2.0 product, as in the following example.

VZW Mobile Web 2.0 SM

In addition, VZW’s press kit (pdf) dated 08/17/07, also, carries the service mark on it’s new product name, Mobile Web 2.0. I phoned Jim Gerace at VZW for comment to verify the service mark application and the date of application, but my call was not returned in time for this article.

VZW is capitalizing on the existing high attention valuation for the phrase Mobile Web 2.0 and it’s forerunner Web 2.0 which has clearly reached mainstream awareness and has become part of the technology vernacular globally. Applying the concepts of Web 2.0 to mobile data applications began at least 2 years ago as evidenced by a book titled Mobile Web 2.0 published in 2006, 272 mil search results at Google, and 3,164 blog posts as indicated by Google Blogsearch. The company can leverage this attention valuation to save on marketing spend, and equally prevent competitors from sharing in that value by using a service mark to proclaim ownership.

Does Verizon Wireless plan to defend this mark? If not, why apply for a mark at all?

Mobile is a generic term. Web is a generic term. The practice of versioning originally used in software parlance has produced gems such, “Al Qaeda 2.0″ from CNN, and “Al Gore 2.0″ from Fox News. Further, the application of Mobile Web 2.0 to VZW’s mobile web service is the very definition of a generic mark in trademark law.

Generic Mark Defense by Payola

One of the more sensational instances of a company defending a generic mark was the case ofMicrosoft v. Lindows, Inc. Microsoft claimed that the name Lindows infringed it’s trademark on Windows. In this case, Michael Robertson founder of Lindows, Inc. and previously, was well armed to demonstrate that Windows was a generic mark. The term “windows” was used extensively in a generic sense by the Unix community and in early documents from research at Xerox Parc to describe UI design elements.

Lindows, Inc. had Microsoft in an awkward position and the company’s choices became increasingly limited. They could bring Lindows, Inc. to court for infringement and risk invalidation of their Windows trademark, or allow Lindows to dillute the trademark and lose it that way. The only way that Microsoft could save its Windows trademark in the end was to pay Lindows, Inc. $10 mil to change their name. So, Lindows, Inc. became Linspire, Inc.

Paying Attention to Verizon Wireless

Shouldn’t VZW’s move to Mobile Web 2.0 be celebrated? Afterall, the carrier is willing to embrace the principles of Mobile Web 2.0, like open APIs, open standards, the full web browser interface, the internet as platform, and the power of indy content. This is great news for subscribers and developers. Finally, carriers will lift their heavy boot from the stream of innovation that open APIs represent for developers and restore that direct relationship loop between user and developer that has propelled WWW innovation.

Similarly, Vodafone’s move to open up the full web experience to their customers this summer was met with praise across the blogosphere, mainstream press, analysts and from their subscribers in the UK. Carriers and operators are at long last understanding the value of taking down their walled gardens of content. Acceptance of Mobile Web 2.0 from VZW means the subscriber is in control and true choice is at long last possible.

Recall that the Stratton speech focused on VZW as a media company. The full embrace of Mobile Web 2.0 means that VZW would compete for ad revenue against the Internet media giants like Yahoo!, Google, MSN, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. What a huge change this new openness represents over the carrier’s attempt of being an application company and the “Mobile Internet” (which became known to users as WAP is Crap) initiatives of the past.

VZW’s Mobile Web 2.0 is…

an updated version of their portal with space for advertising. To VZW Mobile Web 2.0 is a walled garden. Access to the walled garden costs $5.00 per month plus air time (VZW charges it’s subs for the minutes an application is open on a handset along with the monthly subscription for application access) AND comes with advertising on every page. There are, also, featured links which is code forpaid placement. So then, Mobile Web 2.0 is a maximized revenue instance of a walled garden. Who knew?

So the joke is on everyone. Not only does VZW trademark a term popularized by indy media, and countless conferences where hands are held across the divide between web development and mobile development, but in a kind of one finger salute, VZW applies the term for ultimate mobile openness to their walled garden.

It’s time to pay attention to Verizon Wireless. Those who write, speak and evangelize independently may not have legal standing or individually the legal resources to follow the USPTO’s trademark application objection process, but this is the Attention Economy. We can create a negative incentive on VZW’s misappropriation of our attention. A different precedent is needed.

Perhaps a mobile startup will want to play the role of Lindows, Inc. A $10 mil settlement would be a nice round of funding with no term sheet attached.

You might be paying $1,000 per MB for SMS

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Many mobile prepaid service plans in the US still require a per SMS charge. Most charge for sending and receiving and include a premium charge for sending to other countries. Have you ever sat down to figure out how much you’re really paying for this frictionless and convenient mode of communication?

The Plans


  • $.15 send & $.15 receive – domestic
  • $.20 send & $.15 receive – international
  • $4.99 200 message bundle
  • $19.99 unlimited messages

  • $.10 send & $.10 receive domestic to other Verizon phone
  • $.15 send & $.15 receive domestic to other carrier
  • $.25 send & $.10 receive international
  • no bundles
    Sprint/Nextel by Boost Mobile

  • $.10 send & $0 receive
  • $5.00 unlimited messages
    Virgin Mobile MVNO via Sprint

  • $.05 send & $.05 receive
  • $4.99 200 message bundle
  • $1.99 50 message bundle

A Bit of Math

SMS max message size is 160 characters. One character equals one byte. There are 1024 x 1024 or 1,048,576 bytes in 1MB.

So there are 1,048,576 / 160 or 6553.6 SMS messages in 1MB of data.

NOTE: this assumes you use all the characters available in every message which none of us do. Some examples of really short messages show up on my phone frequently like “Ready?” “You home?” “Let’s go.” For illustration purposes and easier math, I’m assuming all 160 characters per message are used.

Calculating message traffic per MB these prepaid subscribers are paying the following rates.

Fun Facts


    • $983.04 per 1MB of message data – domestic
    • $1310.72 per 1MB of message data – international
    • $163.84 per 1MB of message data – 200 message bundle

Note the unlimited amount depends on how many are sent, but for illustration lets’s say you sent and received 1000 SMS. You’re per MB charge is $131.07.


  • $655.36 per 1MB of message data – domestic to other Verizon phone
  • $983.04 per 1MB of message data – domestic to other carrier
  • $1638.40 per 1MB of message data – international
  • no bundles
    Sprint/Nextel by Boost Mobile

  • $655.36 per 1MB of message data
  • $32.77 per 1MB of message data (assuming 1000 messages per month)
    Virgin Mobile MVNO via Sprint

  • $327.68 per 1MB of message data
  • $163.84 per 1MB of message data – 200 message bundle
  • $260.83 per 1MB of message data – 50 message bundle

No wonder the Internet is jealous of mobile data! Oh! and Happy 15th to SMS.

Here Comes Everyone Offering Wireless Services

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MVNOs have been tried by major brands like ESPN and Disney.  ISPs have attempted to extend into wireless service like Earthlink and Time Warner.  All these efforts meeting with eventual or dazzling failure.

Then there are the regional carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket who attract subscribers with low cost unlimited talk time.  But what about a utility holding company?  Can a group of power companies be successful where major brands and ISPs have failed?

Southern Linc began as an operation to by wholesale wireless service to support the employees of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power using the iDen network (Nextel) and it’s two-way radio communications also known as chirp and push-to-talk.  In the mid1990sSouthern Company who owns these electric companies established it’s own wireless service as a move to create profit in what is for many companies a cost center: employee communications services.

Southern Linc supported its own employees and also made the service available to other businesses starting in 1996.  Recently, the company has extended its  service beyond push-to-talk plans to include cell phone and texting for consumers.  The company plans to grow its 260,000 subscriber base covering southeast Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle by offering service to rural areas not serviced by the Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers.

Regional coverage has been one focus for wireless carriers meeting with more mixed results than the disasters of ESPN, Amp’d and Disney.  Southern Linc provides all the basic wireless service plans one would find from any other carrier including, Family Plans,  post-paid plans, pre-paid plans and business plans.

A group of electric companies offering an additional utility service has a logic to it.  And their ability to provide service in areas where the economics for larger carriers are weak due to limited subscriber base makes Southern Linc look like a strong contender as a different approach to an MVNO.

New Rules? 700 MHz Auction set for 2008

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FCC Chairman pledges open access for part of 700 Mhz auction.

“Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide … truly open broadband network — one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers,” Martin said in an interview Monday.

What this would mean in practice: “You can use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions,” Martin explained. The only exceptions would be software that is illegal or could harm a network.


Insider scoop here.

And here.

The opposition:

Verizon Wireless – We don’t need no stinkin’ open access

The doubters:

Mobile Web – Just Say No!

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Mmetrics have released an interesting little data snack from their smartphone user panels. The chart shows the top “mobile web” destinations in the US versus in the UK.

Top Mobile Web Sites

What’s interesting here is that five of the top ten web sites accessed from mobiles in the UK are carrier/operator sites, while the US list more closely resembles the top www sites list. There are the very consistant top three, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft (MSN) and only two carrier/operator sites in the US top ten list. I’ve asked this question of a number of people in the mobile applications, infrastructure and operator businesses, “Is the US consumers’ entry to mobile data services impacted by the very high PC peneration rate and previous web experience in the US versus Europe?” The answers have varied and granted one should not draw conclusions from this one data point, but it validates asking the question.

The label “mobile web” creates cognitive dissonance and confusion in the marketplace. Is there a separate web? The real answer should be no, and in fact, as one observes the growth and evolution of mobile data services in the US what strikes the chord of recognition and apparently adoption are those services familiar from our web experience which add a mobile specific UI and uniquely mobile VAS (value added service) to existing behaviors.

For example, Alltel’s award winning Celltop application ties web services into a UI which works on handsets and tiny screens. Note: Celltop awards are both industry and user bestowed.

Celltop Business View Celltop Sports View Celltop Consumer View

Weather, news, sports scores, stocks and new ringtones/callback tones are services combined from the web and/or the carrier/operator presented in a handset specific UI. Alltel are also running polls to ask their users which web service they’d like to see offered next through Celltop. The options include a digg feed, Gmail, NASCAR updates or horoscopes. Sounds webilicious, no?

Another example is a personal favorite, Sprint Navigation by Telenav. I love this application.

Sprint Navigation Menu View Sprint Navigation Turn-by-turn Sprint Navigation Traffic

Most of you have used Mapquest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps or some combination of web based mapping and navigation applications. Telenav brings web services behind maps and navigation along traffic information together with GPS and voice capabilities from the handset and mobile network. The result is a powerful personal navigation solution.

First, your actual location is determined via GPS, then you have the option to type or speak the address of your destination. This is where Telenav have done a superior job of integrating with native handset strength in functionality. Screen viewing to observe navigation instructions is supremely difficult at 80 mph on a California freeway. (This is an illustration not an admission of guilt in case the CHPS are listening.) So, Sprint Navigation allows placing a call from inside the application to an automated voice search facility which locates and confirms your destination address, then returns the handset to application state on completion of the call. Your route is calculated and finally the application checks a web traffic conditions service and either reports traffic is good or reroutes to your destination, if possible.

So great! You’ve got a route, traffic considered, and now to get there you need to view the directions. Well, not nessarily. The application repeats turn-by-turn instructions periodically via voice. Using your headset or speakerphone (safety first people) you will hear updated instructions until the turn is reached or you bypass it. If a turn is missed, the application automatically informs you and recalculates the directions. That’s user fault tolerant which I often need give I suffer BADD (blogger attention deficit disorder) which is far shorter and more easily distracted than ADD or ADHD.

Here are two excellent and well adopted applications which do all the things that we’ve been told at countless events and conferences are essential to a successful application, and more importantly, they are implemented extremely well.

  1. web functionality
  2. augment with handset mobile network strengths
  3. mobile specific UI – this might require multiple modalities (don’t ignore voice)
  4. user centric design and fault tolerant

Okay, maybe the list wasn’t presented exactly this way, but it should’ve been. To all those evangelizing “the mobile web,” please stop. And reset to evangelize web services on mobile devices.

I’ll continue to try and persuade you on this logic. Stayed tuned for the next article of the series: .mobi winners and losers.

Back to the Mmetrics findings.   Well over half of the web browsing activity by smartphone users in the UK occurs on operator portals.  Well over half of the web surfing activity by smartphone users in the US is through Google.  It would be helpful to have a breakdown of the Google activity.  Is that all search?  How much is attributable to Gmail access?  Data always raises more questions.

These findings also highlight another consideration when combined with the illustrations of web services in this article.  What does it now mean to access the web from a mobile device?  Are web services through thick clients merely a interim step on the path to fully functioning web browsers on mobile devices?  I think not.  Again, with the example of Sprint Navigation, it takes a handset application to weave handset functionality into a complete solution.

And finally what does it mean that smartphoners in the UK rely upon their operator portals for web browsing?  Are the services offered by operators superior to those on the web?  Is it habit?   Or perhaps, the walled garden is simply more persistent in the UK than it is in the US.

Data Goldmine from Mobile and Social Networks

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The BBC reports on how real time data on mobile phone use in Rome is being used by MIT researchers to observe how people move around the city through the day.

Map of mobile usage in Rome

Anyone who has ever driven in Rome or any city in Italy knows the chaos which results from traffic congestion.  Researchers are looking to the mobile networks for real time data on the movement of people through the city.  Mobile networks must track phones to execute handoffs between towers as one moves in through space to ensure optimal signal strength.

There is little doubt that the mountains of data we generate when using our phones for talking, texting surfing the web or engaging with our social networks offers astonishing opportunities for new applications, targeted marketing, and new lines of business for those who house and store our data.

In Rome, one possible application for all this real-time information is its use by traffic planners to expand roads or increase public transportation resources in obviously high traffic areas.   The article extends this idea.

…in future sic buses might not stick to a fixed timetable or even route.

Sending busses to where the people are rather than vice-versa could mean fewer wasted journeys, so Real Time Rome might ultimately be good for the environment.

Better route planning for buses and cars could mean less time standing in traffic, pumping out noxious fumes.

Another example of how this data might be put to use was a demonstration by Verizon Wireless for the AdAge’s Madison+Vine event in LA last year.  Verizon wanted to show Madison Avenue the power of data mining its users to generate targeted advertising.  The demo consisted of a list of Verizon users in the LA area who had downloaded a hiphop ringtone during the previous 30 days.  A group of 10,000 of these identified subscribers were offered concert tickets for a same day outdoor concert and all of the 10,000 tickets were purchased in the span of one hour, according to John Stratton, chief marketing officer, Verizon Wireless.

And finally, consider MySpace’s move to launch a record label, and now, it’s own TV network.  These new lines of business are enabled and assured by the knowledge of what music and media (think YouTube) that MySpacers are consuming and promoting to their networks.  Further, the company knows much personal information about the demographics they can target with new media services.

The backend data from social networks, mobile phone networks and of course, mobile social networks and social media is a treasure chest for the data miners, researchers and marketeers wishing to understand or monetize your interactions.