Who’s afraid of free mobile data?

Mark Zuckerberg, in his MWC 2014 keynote, said he wanted to prove the business model of free mobile internet access in emerging markets. Yet a growing number of operators seem already persuaded that giving away mobile data can reap financial rewards in the long run. The Facebook CEO may well be pushing against an open door.

Avea, the third-largest mobile operator in Turkey, announced only last month it would give away a free week of internet access to 100,000 subscribers, but it’s hardly the first to hand out freebies.

DiGi (Malaysia), Globe (Philippines), Idea Cellular (India), Mobilink (Pakistan), RCom (India), Tigo (Paraguay) and VimpelCom (in Russia and developing markets) are among those that have either zero-rated certain applications, given away ‘full’ internet access for limited periods, or charged nominal sums for special promotions. (more…)

VoLTE farce? No, not really

A recent spate of VoLTE launches has put the technology under the spotlight, but its lengthy absence on any meaningful scale – with the possible exception of South Korea – may seem troubling to some industry watchers.

When the original LTE specifications were drawn up, the circuit-switched (CS) domain used in 2G and 3G was dispensed with in favour of an all-IP environment. All well and good, but no provision was made as to how voice and texting – still the two mainstays of a mobile operator’s business – would be delivered over a spanking new all-IP data network.

Circuit-switched fallback (CSFB) is a possible ‘interim’ solution that WCDMA operators can deploy, but it’s hardly ideal. Lengthier call set-up times of around 1-2 seconds probably won’t upset high-spending LTE customers, but call-set up times may be longer if there’s no 3G signal and the call is then directed onto 2G. The 4G voice experience, in such scenarios, is worse than 3G. (more…)

Nokia kits up

First published on Industry Briefing, Economist Intelligence Unit, 25 July

When Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) published its first annual report in March, it seemed the parent companies of the Finnish-German joint venture were stepping up their efforts for either a private equity sale or a listing. Siemens had made little secret of its desire to exit the loss-making manufacturer of mobile broadband equipment. That Nokia ended up buying out Siemens shows both firms ran out of patience. There’s also an air of desperation about the deal. (more…)

Time to talk up HD voice

First published on Mobile World Live, 18 March 2013

There are signs that high-definition voice, at long last, is gaining momentum. According to some reports, over 60 networks are now supporting W-AMR (wideband-adaptive multi rate) technology for HD voice. More than 160 different handset models – from 16 suppliers – are HD-voice ready. The old chicken-and-egg stumbling block about which should come first – network or devices – looks to be coming down.

The arguments for HD voice seem compelling. By using wideband codecs, as well as noise cancellation techniques, operators can offer a differentiated service. It’s a no-brainer that mobile customers, given the chance, would prefer not to have their conversations drowned out by background noise. There are plenty of online demos, too, showing that the claim of HD voice enthusiasts – of being able speak to people ‘as if they were in the same room’ – is not unfounded. (more…)