Archive for June, 2005

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June 23rd, 2005

On Vacation

I’ll be on vacation for the next couple of weeks so postings will be lighter than usual.

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June 23rd, 2005

Free Wi-Fi Works in Multi-Purpose Environments

Some of the first press around the realities of free Wi-Fi was online today. The city of Orlando decided to shut down their free service because they didn’t feel that the level of use justified the cost.

This should neither come as a surprise nor as bad news for the public hotspot industry. Only a handful of online consumers are using the service at all today, and the majority are not willing to pay. That said, we’ve seen consumer interest nearly double from 2004 to 2005. Paid models such as that of T-mobile have experienced a similar uptake. Anyone or any municipality deploying public Wi-Fi should have realistic expectations around adoption and willingness to pay.

Also, according to our research, a small minority of municipal deployments have the exclusive goal of providing access to downtown visitors. Most of the networks are providing connectivity to government agencies and businesses, offering advertising opportunities to local businesses, allowing field workers to be more productive, etc. – they are multi-use networks which do not rely on one benefit stream alone to justify their cost. One of the difficulties, however, in justifying capital outlays and operational costs is that many of the benefits are difficult to quantify.

Orlando would likely find the return on their investment positive if there were more entities leveraging the services. Also, free trials are a great way to develop consumer interest in the services – and willingness to pay for the service longer term.

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June 15th, 2005

Does Use of Cell Phones While Driving Cause Crashes?

Virginia Tech just released a report (see coverage) providing evidence that cell phones distract drivers and are the cause of accidents, near accidents, etc.

Our new report “Mobile Phone Headsets: Consumers Seek Comfort and Safety” discusses the extent to which consumers use headsets, what features they seek, and why they use headsets. Bottom line, only 13 percent of consumers are regular users. Safety while driving is the primary reason for doing so.

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June 13th, 2005

Coverage in Antarctica, but Not Palo Alto

I received a press release from Altobridge in my Inbox this afternoon – there is now GSM coverage in Antarctica. I don’t even have cell coverage driving from San Francisco to Palo Alto – the last time I tried to do a conference call from 280S, my call was dropped five times.

Australian Antarctic Station ‘Casey’ Goes Live with
Altobridge Remote GSM Solution

Singapore, 14 June 2005 – Leading maritime, aeronautical and remote communications solutions company, Altobridge, (CommunicAsia, Stand 6F3-01), has installed a Remote GSM Solution at Australia’s Antarctic station for its resident scientific team at ‘Casey’ on the continent’s Bailey Peninsula.
The Altobridge solution can operate as a standard GSM service and is specifically designed for remote, cost-effective, community communication. The system consists of a standard GSM BTS (Base Transceiver System) and a remote server running Altobridge’s patented AM Gateway Platform™. This server interfaces to the BTS and manages the local GSM handsets and also interfaces with the available satellite link, in this case the ANARESAT (an Intelsat service) network connecting back to Hobart, Tasmania.
This trial service will enable the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to experience the benefits of remote wireless communications and provides vital feedback to the Altobridge R&D team in Ireland, answering some important questions, including:
· The range of coverage of the system;
· Radio Frequency penetration into buildings and vehicles;
· The system’s potential to send out alerts, alarms, etc. – a key requirement for AAD and a vital component of Altobridge’s maritime systems offering, i.e. remote device monitoring;
· The suitability of externally-mounted components for extreme weather conditions, e.g. winter operation (-30°C).

CEO of Altobridge, Mike Fitzgerald, said, “This implementation of the Altobridge AM Gateway Platform in the Antarctic demonstrates that there is no site too remote, no conditions too extreme and most importantly no ROI outside the reach of our solution. Viable small-community communication for subscribers of less than 100 is now available to operators.”
The system was installed at Casey by the station personnel; it configures automatically and has a special operation and maintenance capability for remote support. In this case, support came from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) based in Hobart, Tasmania and the Altobridge support team based in Ireland.
The Altobridge system has now been launched successfully in each of its three main markets; aeronautical, maritime and remote community.

Ok, they didn’t put a cost per minute of providing that coverage, but it’s still an interesting fact.

And I would have linked to the press release, but it wasn’t up on their site. Go figure.

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June 13th, 2005

Hotspots – Not Ubiquitous, But Beginning to Seem That Way

T-mobile made a number of announcements today one of which is the near doubling of their current footprint. They are also adding hotels and other venues where mobile professionals may find themselves. (I wanted to add a link, but it somehow is not on their site.) In any case, it’s good news and confirms some of the trends that we are seeing in our research. We are also seeing increased interest in usage as well as willingness to pay. 3G service providers will always be able to claim more ubiquity, but Wi-Fi service providers like T-Mobile are getting ever so much closer to having networks that mobile professionals will perceive as being ubquitous to them.

A piece on T-mobile from the San Jose Mercury News.

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June 9th, 2005

Why Wireless Carriers Fear Unlimited Anything

My colleague Gary Stein forwarded this article to me a couple of days ago. A gentleman sent 182K text messages in one month and received a 1400 page phone bill.

It reminded me of a phone bill that a friend of mine gave to me once. I haven’t counted the pages, but it’s probably a 12″ stack of paper – I use it as a foot rest at the office. It is so big that it was delivered in a box by UPS. Also, no charges. There wasn’t even COD on the bill itself.

My friend’s SMS’s were generated by a machine. I’m not sure how this gentleman generated 182K messages – or by his estimates 6000 per day. His goal is 10,000 per day. 31 days per month x 24 hours per day x 60 minutes per hour … he was busy and that assumes he didn’t sleep.

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June 8th, 2005

Digital (Virtual?) Asset (Out)Laws

Yesterday, my colleagues Michael Gartenberg, Nate Elliot and I did a Juptel on portable media players and digital media. Our primary focus was music, photos and video.

A friend of mine forwarded this article to me yesterday. I don’t usually blog about games or digital assets of this nature as they are not in the wireless domain, but I thought it was an interesting article. Less extreme, but well known examples of digital assets being stolen have popped up here in the United States – Paris Hilton’s contact list, the rockstar’s video, etc.

Qui Chengwei stabbed Zhu Caoyuan in the chest when he found out he had sold his virtual sword for 7,200 Yuan (£473).

The sword, which Mr Qui had lent to Mr Zhu, was won in the popular online game Legend of Mir 3.

Attempts to take the dispute to the police failed because there is currently no law in China to protect virtual property.

Appeal plea

Buying and selling gaming artefacts such as imaginary weapons is a booming business on the web.

The internet games section of Ebay saw more than $9m (£5m) in trades in 2003.

While China has no laws to deal with the theft of virtual property, South Korea has a section of its police force that investigates in-game crime. (BBC)

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June 7th, 2005

New Wi-Fi Business Models

A lot of the discussion around the financial viability of public hotspots has centered on consumer access fees – which to date have not been as high as hoped due to lack of consumer interest and the availability of free public access. Not much press attention has focused on the other uses of the network.

I just recently saw this news story again in the press and it is one that intrigues me more than some of the other business models we’ve evaluated.

Nintendo Plans Wi-Fi Launch
Nintendo announced it will establish 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan by the end of 2005 where owners of its DS portable game machines can play games with others online for free. The company is planning similar services for overseas markets, aiming to expand sales of the DS and protect its leading position in the handheld game console industry. (Source: Reuters)

It reminds us that Wi-Fi will show up in a lot more consumer electronics products than just laptops. And, there will be a lot more ways that venues can make money from Wi-Fi than by simply offering connectivity. Kodak and T-mobile announced the Wi-Fi-enabled camera and integrated T-mobile set-up/connection to T-mobile services at CES this past winter.

We’ll be publishing a piece that explores this topic futher towards teh end of the month.

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June 7th, 2005

CPG Company Sells Mobile Content Online

I was reading a press release from Versaly Entertainment today regarding their support of SoBe’s mobile content portal. At first, I thought it would be free ring tones and wallpaper associated with the SoBe brand. As it turns out, there are a few free items associated with the SoBe brand, but most of the content is for sale for $2.00. I’m not sure what the business model is, but I plan to follow-up with Versaly to find out. I’m equally intrigued by a CPG company marketing a third party’s content and content showing up at what could be an unlimited number of online sites. I understand both sides. On one hand, SoBe is providing attractive content that will drive traffic to their site and assist in developing a community. Content providers get additional traffic. I’m unclear in terms of how SoBe will drive traffic to that portion of their site or how it will translate into more beverage sales – or if that is at all relevant. The content is not as explicitly tied to their brand as I would expect.

In terms of the site and the buying/browsing experience, I liked it. The web site leads consumers through a decision tree – country, carrier, phone type, etc. to ensure compatibility and a good experience. Pricing is also simple – free or $2.00 for most items. I have Verizon so I wasn’t able to download anything to try the service.

Mobile content on a site like SoBe is also a good sign and trend for the mobile content industry. It shows that the carriers are opening up in terms of what content their consumers can download. I think that will be one of the key factors in driving growth in this – mobile content and entertainment – market.

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June 1st, 2005

Games on Cell Phones – Classics Still Top the Charts

Verizon announced their top selling games today … I had to keep flipping to the front page of the release to see if the date said June 1, 2005 or October 26, 2004. Aside from the total number of downloads as well as the selection (500 now available), the press releases look similar.

In October 2004, Verizon was announcing more than 100 million downloads. They had 34 million downloads alone in Q1 2005.

Here’s the top 5:

1. Tetris by JAMDAT Mobile (also #1 in 10/04)
2. Downtown Texas Hold’em by JAMDAT Mobile (#2 in 10/04)
3. JAMDAT Bowling/JAMDAT Bowling 2 (#6 previously)
4. PAC-MAN by Namco (#3)
5. Ms. PAC-MAN by Namco (#5)

Only Driv3r by Sorrent has been displaced from the top 5 overall even though it remains the top selling action game.

Seeing the same set of top sellers on the list as six months ago despite the introduction of a plethora of new games raises a lot of questions around the need – or lack thereof – for 3D and more sophisticated hand sets to drive this market. For now, consumers seem content with fairly straightforward, easy to play, well known games from online.

Despite the recent interest in movie titles, only Shrek 2 survives among the top five movie games.

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