Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Ted Shelton at IP Inferno has written a couple of interesting posts, speculating that some of the telco-apologist comments he's been getting in response to a piece on net neutrality may actually be a coordinated effort by astroturf (i.e., fake "grass roots") lobbyists. He may be on to something, he may be mistaken, he may be paranoid, but it raises an interesting question: how do industry lobbyists reach people in the age of the Long Tail? Seems obvious enough to me that anonymous/pseudonymous blog comments and participation in online forums would be an ideal strategy.


Last Friday, the folks at and goo Research put out another intriguing bit of research, this time an update in their ongoing (since April '04) look at the blogging phenomenon in Japan. A total of 1,068 respondents 10 - 70 years old were asked a number of questions, and the key findings were:

  • 96.9% were aware of the existence of blogs;
  • 77.3% had read a blog;
  • 67.3% stated that they had found genuinely useful information through reading blogs;
  • 36.8% had created their own blog, and another 25.9% expressed an interest in doing so;

Key motivations in starting a blog, in order of popularity, were:

  1. To leave behind personal memoirs
  2. To share received information with others
  3. To get others to understand one's opinions

Somewhat curiously, only 6.6% of respondents with blogs said they publish under their real names. Key inhibitors are "fear of publication of my real identity" and "not wanting those close to me to find out."

Being self-effacing is a major part of Japanese culture traditionally (I can genuinely recall colleagues in Japan years ago saying things like "my children are stupid" and "my wife is ugly and can't cook"), so I guess this isn't particularly surprising. I would be curious to see some sort of comparative ethnological research in this area. This report on China last year contained a few fragments on blogging motivation, but it would be nice to see how/if cultural attitudes and values translate to the blogosphere.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The march of internet time

The Internet World Stats newsletter points to a nice Flash population clock created by AMD for its "50 x 15" campaign to get 50% of the world's population online by 2015 (and obviously a lot more AMD chips in circulation).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Activist mash-up time

I receive updates from the NO2ID campaign in the UK, just because I'm curious as to how this exceptionally controversial issue is going to pan out, politically and technologically. Today's newsletter contains a link to a nice Google Maps mash-up of all the local chapters of this apparently rapidly expanding movement. There is also some very silly video, which may be somewhat dated, but still brought a tear to my eye.

All mapped out

A couple of interesting things I have stumbled across here and there recently which might be of interest:

SKMap, a Japanese project which maps Skype presence icons onto Google Maps (I can see two users in Antarctica!);

Worldmapper, an amazing project which rescales the world map to specific themes - this adds a lot of perspective to certain issues, such as the concentration of intellectual property in a few hands (look how big the UK is). A communication map is forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stoking the Weed

Weedshare is something I've returned to occasionally as one example (there are others) of how it might be possible to monetize viral distribution, and this seems to be happening in an ad-hoc sort of way in communities like MySpace. This announcement caught my eye, however, as a pretty interesting endorsement of the concept, which also involves the kind of compelling content which might get a more mass-market audience into the loop. I will be intrigued to see how this unfolds.

Peeling the onion

Check out this interesting page at MediaPost, devoted to top product placements, which itself appears to be mainly... a product placement for the iTVX Player, a diagnostic tool for calculating the impact of product placements. Take some time and watch it in action (I tried the Outback Steakhouse segment from The Apprentice).

Skype usage: Incremental, not substitutional?

I think one of the many lessons for the telecom industry from the advent of Skype has been the need to redefine our understanding of user motivation. Obviously, the industry was right to be alarmed (when it would admit to being alarmed, that is) at Skype's potential to drive simple price arbitrage opportunities, but there was clearly a lot more going on than this alone. Ease-of-use, audio quality, presence, multi-chat, file transfer, etc., all came together to form a "killer cocktail" experience for the user, resulting in something not necessarily recognisable to the industry as a competing "voice service". It was/is something else, another behavior - purple minutes vs. grey minutes, as JP might say.

This view seems to be borne out by a
survey just out in Japan (Japanese only, ご免ね、外人さん). and goo Research interviewed 1,011 internet users aged 20 - 59, and found that just over 11% of them (113 people) had downloaded and installed Skype, and 42% had heard of it. Of those who hadn't used Skype, once the application was explained to them, just over 42% expressed some degree of interest in using it. What I find most interesting and relevant is that, of those who had installed Skype, only 14% said that their use of fixed line and mobile phones had declined as a result, in contrast to 74% who said that their phone usage patterns remained unchanged. This is consistent with a similar survey carried out among Skype users last year, which found that 20% said their conventional phone usage had declined, while 78% cited no change.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hi-Fiber Seattle

Well, this is what I alluded to earlier today, Seattle goes for an FTTH muni network. Check out the goals section (page 5): affordable, true broadband; increased transparency and efficiency for local government; job creation; increased consumer choice; stimulation of investment and enhancement of Seattle's position as leader in the ICT industry. Note also the section starting on the bottom of page 3: "It is vital to the future of the Internet that network owners not discriminate in terms of bit transport or unnecessarily mediate between users and content or application providers...We believe that preferential treatment by network owners or operators of data streams will distort the evolutionary path of the Internet, stifle creativity and innovation, and ultimately abridge the ability of the Internet to be a medium for the free dissemanation of diverse thought and opinion." Whew!

Fibrous growth

If my sources are correct, a major US city will today issue an RFI for a municipal fiber project. Stay tuned.

無線 2.0

A couple of interesting tidbits out of Japan for wireless web watchers. Firstly, an updated survey (alas, Japanese only) of PC users from shows that over 90% of respondents claim to use a laptop/notebook PC either at home, at work, or both. The top usage scenario (55%) was in personal travel or on business trips, though the number two scenario (26%) was at home or in the office. The article's authors interpret the results as pointing to signs of a break with desktop computing. If so, then the various NTT units' decision to pull together in WiFi connectivity is well-timed.

TV, I remember that

Last week at VON, I spent a good portion of my presentation actually talking about media, and specifically about how "old media" has been making some interesting and dramatic moves to embrace "Whatever 2.0." On a breakout panel, Martin Geddes alluded to an alarming statistic, and now he has kindly provided a link - only 25% of US 12 - 34 year-olds can name all four national free-to-air broadcast networks.

IMS doesn't kill the internet, people do

The always insightful and engaging Richard Stastny has a nice post on the IMS debate from VON last week, including a link to his entertaining presentation. Both are highly deserving of your time. Richard and Martin both point to the KPN presentation on Thursday (unfortunately I was back in London by then), citing it as an outbreak of sanity, and indeed this does seem to represent a glimmer of hope in the suspicious mind of a pessimist like me. I have to question, however, how much KPN's stance relates to its respect for the end-to-end principle, and how much is down to simple market dynamics - cable is, afterall, alive and well in the Netherlands, and capable of absorbing a lot of disgruntled customers. I wonder if the dominant players in some of Europe's less competitive markets will be as reasonable?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Le EuroSearch

Interesting and pretty balanced BBC story on Quaero, worth a listen.

Rockers and holy rollers

I have been somewhat concerned that the campaign to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the Net Neutrality debate might fade into the din which is the American mass media landscape. However, these advocates obviously know their PR 2.0 - roping in both R.E.M. and Moby, as well as the Christian Coalition. This could get extremely serious. I think we should escalate, drafting in Oprah (she got America interested in books, right?) and the cast of Friends, reunited for a "webisode" entitled, "The One Where They Tried to Steal Our Internet." I'm only half joking.

M&A is the new HR

AOL is taking Lightningcast from supplier/partner to full-fledged part of the family, yet another dynamic ad insertion acquisition.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Placeshift pimp my open source PVR

Gary Lerhaupt, the brains and brawn behind Prodigem (one of my favorite things in this whole "Whatever 2.0" phenomenon), has a fascinating post on his work to enable place-shifting using Torrentocracy (which I first wrote about here). Slingbox may be great, but do you need it?


Om had the scoop yesterday on the move of GTalkr founders Wes and Dudley Carr into Googleland. My first encounter with Wes and Dudley was over two years ago, in the early days of their fantastic Gush client, and I have often used them in my presentations as examples of what the future might look like, long before (this photo is from VON London 2004) people were talking about Web 2.0. Though they might be better known for the GTalkr client, these men are (in my opinion) Grandmasters of Flash and Jabber, and they will be another great asset for Google's efforts in this area.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Imitation is the sincerest form of...

An eagle-eyed mega-uber value reader points out that CNet has a what's hot application that dynamically displays story headlines by the interest level they generate. Wow, that's a great idea, and it's even better because it's a tried and true concept. I have contacted the Marumushi folks to see if they are involved, or if this is a bit of, ahem, imitation.

In space, everyone can hear you scream

I just got a press release saying that Eve Online, published by CCP Games in Iceland, is going to be integrating voice from Vivox. The quote from CCP's CEO says it all: “Players of EVE are attracted by its unique role playing and space simulation features, but when players unite to form corporations and alliances, the game’s dynamic, immersive experience really comes alive. Now users will be able to talk, strategize, plot and negotiate naturally with each other."

My slides for VON contain this view:

  • This (the voice game) is ultimately not a battle for minutes of traffic (packetized or otherwise)
  • It’s not even really about voice as a service
  • It’s about voice as a feature, and your share of the consumer’s attention
I think the gaming crowd has understood this for a long time, and adding voice enhances the total experience of the game. What experience can telcos offer users to enhance the voice?

UPDATE: I spoke about this deal at VON, and following my presentation, Jeff Pulver walked up and broke the news that Vivox is his baby!


eBay has won the backing of the advertising elite to put together and run the "Nasdaq" of the media buying world, apparently over Google and unnamed others.

Gimme that old time broadband religion

NewsCorp's got it, that's for sure. I just saw a story on Reuters in Italian saying that Sky Italia has struck a deal with Tiscali for a broadband product offering apparently to be called "Tiscali for Sky," offering speeds of 4, 8 and 12Mbps. We could see this move coming a mile away, though I had suspected the Italian strategy would involve acquisition rather than partnership - still I guess it's early in the process. If any Italian mega-uber value readers have any further insight please let me know.

BBC at Googleplex

Some short videos from the press day:

A brief tour with commentary

Interview with Larry Page

Exclusive with Eric Schmidt

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Last week, in writing to clients about the Telenor results, I included a comment to the effect that I was concerned the complicated solution proposed for the row with Alfa Group over control of Kyivstar (Ukraine) and Vimpelcom (number two in Russia) could get a lot more complicated if a financially stronger and larger player (say one which might be on the verge of being handed $45bn or so) were to emerge as a partner with Alfa. Damned if today we don't see a story about MTS (the leading player in the Russian market). Is this genuine, a typical market rumor, or a head-fake by Vodafone M&A strategists?

Hello, goodbye

Telcos, life sure is getting more complicated. DT said today that line loss (which I make out at 5.7% annualized) was unexpectedly high in Q1, though this is tame compared to KPN's 15.5% in consumer, Telia Sweden's 10%, or Telenor's 16%. The company cut its revenue outlook for the Broadband and Fixed division by EUR600m based on this first quarter, and it looks as though the likes of Freenet and United Internet are really starting to bite.

Meanwhile, over on the Viacom call, management said XFire's user base is growing at 8 - 10% per month, and that one million of its four million users (heavy hitters) are on the service for an average of 91 hours a month. 91 hours a month! Two years ago at VON in London I put up some usage statistics from Social Networking 1.0 poster child, Friendster, which was hot sh^t at the time, and made the point that the time spent in the site was way ahead of time spent on any other "dating site" and more than on the PSTN typically. I made the point that communities of interest could generate this level of intensity of usage, provided they were tied to a compelling experience - and this made them fertile ground for IM and VoIP. I thought it was a no-brainer, but I think some people disagreed with me, and I'm not convinced the telecom industry has yet really grasped this, but old media seems to have gotten hip very quickly.

UK, vice capital of the world?

The UK gets a bad rap, but is it undeserved? Take a few minutes to play around with Google Trends, as I have. The results might look different when you check it out, as the data will change over time, but at this point it says a lot about the British "database of intentions." When I search for "booze," I get Portsmouth and Manchester as numbers one and two, "bondage" brings up Birmingham and Manchester in the top two slots, "Viagra" also returns Manchester as number one, "smoking" is a big hit with the people of Edinburgh, "crossdressing" seems to be popular in Milton Keynes (well, it is a very dull place afterall) and Manchester comes tops under "hooliganism." Spooky.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Neil 2.0

I first met Neil Fairbrother when he was at Neos Networks, before it was sold to Scottish and Southern Energy. He's now running Thames Valley Pod, which is currently in beta and within a few days of going live. This is independently-produced content (video, spoken word, music) with a highly localized focus, and as a result it has had buy-in from local sponsors. There's a lot more to go into the archive ahead of launch, and I'm intrigued to see what the numbers start to look like once its live. Apparently, even in stealth mode, the site gets about 100 downloads per week. (Hell, that's more viewers than BBC News 24 has...)

Betting on the carriers?

One of my mega-uber value readers put me in touch with Richard Marshall of Rapid Mobile, and he paid a visit to my office today to give me a demonstration of the betting solution and some other projects which aren't public yet. I was blown away. Keep your eyes open for some news from this company. One thing Richard conveyed to me, which was not particularly surprising, is that the company has found the process of trying to get carriers onboard frustrating - so they've given up. The subscription betting model they have been running has processed a staggering amount of bets to date (I'm not sure if I should state the number, so I won't), and you would think that any carrier would be eager to enter into a revenue share or at least be a transaction agent for this and whatever else it might evolve into (banking, lottery, stock trading all spring to mind, just for starters). Alas, the only upside for the carriers is incremental data revenues.

Tags: missed opportunities, dumb pipe

Finland's nuclear winter

Finland's going to get a lot colder. A Platinum Club mega-uber value reader there points me to the new pricing plans of Saunalahti's Nettipuhelin (netphone). Salient points:

Startup costs 0
Monthly fee 0
On net calls 0

PSTN minutes 1 cent per minute + 10 cent set up (international calls are very competitively priced)
GSM calls 7 cents per minute + 10 cent set up
Calls to Saunalahti GSM network 5 cents per minute + 10 cent set up
Bring your own ATA or use softphone
Port your PSTN number or pick a new one in any area code
Use any Internet connection (i.e. service not limited to Saunalahti ADSL)

This is incredibly aggressive, to say the least, and as he points out you can barely get local minutes in Finland for 1 cent, let alone international. But check out the
3G tariffs:

Unlimited on-net minutes start at EUR20 per month
Unbundled minutes are 7 cents or 500 minutes for EUR18
Bundled, unlimited minutes on all GSM networks is EUR50 per month
3G data is EUR10 for 128 kbps, EUR30 for 384 kbps and EUR40 for 1 Mbps
Sign a two-year contract, get a 128kbps datacard for EUR10

What's the Finnish for "ouch"?

Know your limits

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has an interesting definition of the word "unlimited," as demonstrated in this complaint against Vodafone's laptop card advertising. It's apparently acceptable to use the word "unlimited" if you make it clear that this actually means 1GB, and as long as you haven't levied additional charges or churned off violators. I find several things strange here. Average usage on the datacard product is apparently "a small fraction" of the 1GB limit, but I find this hard to imagine, or maybe the average user has "your father's" internet habits - mark my words that will change. I also find it strange that the industry regards 1GB as a generous limit, because for a product so far taken up mostly by corporate road-warrior types I don't think that's very much - my slides for VON San Jose alone were 45MB, and if I were to do Skype file transfers to ten other people, I'd eat up a huge chunk of my monthly limit, risking intervention - except that it appears that not many people have crossed that line and that Vodafone apparently doesn't enforce its own rules very vigorously.

Egocasting 2.0

Apparently it's been really hot in Scandinavia recently, but now they're expecting snow by the weekend, just in time for my arrival in the region. I will be presenting and doing two panels (regrettably I have had to drop out of a third due to commitments at my day gig) at VON Stockholm. Bring a sweater. Some time back I half-jokingly predicted that we might soon see a perpetual VoIP conference on a cruise ship, and I had VON in mind, given its increasingly global coverage, and also the priceless opportunity to call it "VON Voyage." Now it seems that some the folks at Teleavisen, the leading industry news portal in Norway, have hit on the same idea, and the ship should be leaving the dock sometime soon for a two schmooze cruise with Norway's telecoms elite.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Absolutely Fabchannel

A Palladium Club mega-uber value reader points out that our old friends Justin and the gang at Fabchannel in Amsterdam have won a Webby (you have to read well into the release, where they get around to mentioning people who are doing interesting things in the part of Cyberspace which is not designated American territory). Congratulations!

Vodafone's oyster?

There's trouble in Ken Livingstone's transport paradise. Transport for London say they don't know where to turn next to expand the service, though they're "still interested in getting it up and running." As I stated here, I can think of a couple of people who might be able to help.

John Lennon was wrong...

...when he said this, but then again he'd never met Steve Jobs. One day he kicks butt on the Beatles, the next day he's won over Rupert Murdoch to the iPod vision - iTunes to carry Fox programming.

It's getting hard for a paperboy to make ends meet

Read all about it!

Going with the FLO

An eagle-eyed Titanium Club mega-uber value reader spotted this, which at this writing is not on the Qualcomm website. Qualcomm and Sky to trial MediaFLO in the UK. Is that frowning I can hear in Finland?

Polar bears, or arctic monkeys?

I'm happy to say that my friend and longstanding mega-uber value reader, Paul Sijben, has started a blog and has a rather downbeat assessment of telco prospects as his first post. My favorite quote:

"I like to compare the old telcos to Polar Bears, strong and all-powerful in
their domain of frozen polar wasteland. However the ice-caps are melting and this leaves them with an ever shrinking domain while the rest of the world is taken over by the competition. This goes on until the ice sheet has melted completely and the bears drown."

Wish I'd written that.

Paul's message mirrors some conversations I've had with clients recently (the gist of which is generally reflected
here), regarding telcos' ability to innovate and think outside the box, and the lack of confidence evident in the sectors' huge underperformance in the stock market. On every occasion, I see the ghost of Juan Villalonga sitting in the corner - okay, he was waaaay too early and maybe execution wasn't all it could have been, but maybe he was on to something. Whatever the ultimate answer is, I think what investors are looking to see is whether telcos are in fact polar bears on a shrinking sheet of ice, or Arctic Monkeys (for those unfamiliar with them, this is a group from Sheffield who have attained record-setting levels of success despite [or perhaps because of] their tendency to break every rule of conventional music business strategy).

Q1 trivia time again

The conference call season is in full swing again, and this morning we were treated to a decent set of numbers from KPN. As usual, from a telco disruption point of view, the fixed line KPIs hold some interesting datapoints. Consumer line loss in Q1 of 194k equates to a run-rate of 15.5% on an annualized basis, which is three times the level seen in Q1 last year, and the loss of discount PSTN call packages was also noteworthy. Against this, the company added 60k "InternetPlusBellen" (its voluntary naked DSL offering with VoIP bundled in) subs out of a total of 179k DSL net adds. Consumer EBITDA margin contracted 3.9 percentage points YoY, however, though the company's share of the retail broadband market looks to have risen again. I think it was Jack Welch who coined the phrase "destroy your business before someone else does it for you."

Failure to communicate

NTL has confirmed what everyone in the UK (including its employees) seemed to know already - that consolidation and product convergence means that the customer care function takes a hit. The union is not happy, and struck first yesterday with a pithy press release (though they undershot the number of cuts by 1,000). NTL added 191k net new broadband customers in the quarter (90k for legacy Telewest, 101k for the much larger legacy NTL footprint) - hope they have what it takes to keep them.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Advertising on demand

I can't imagine anything more unpleasant personally, but now TiVo owners can turn on, opt in, and zone out.

Spending time and money

An AP-AOL survey out today claims to have found that online gamers in the US are disproportionately urban (maybe that's to do with the uncertain availability of rural broadband), 17% of them claimed to have spent $500 or more on gaming-related items and services in the past year, and that 10% play at least 10 hours a week. What I like is that this proportion is even higher (14%) for the over-65's. To hell with Regis and Kelly, let's spend our retirement on Kalimdor.

The naked truth

Disruptive Dean has a nice post on what he's termed "Naked SIP" applications in handsets, and he determines that over the next five years, we're looking at one billion devices capable of running parasitic (non-carrier) applications.

Here comes the VON surge

One week ahead of the VON kick-off, and interestingly on the same day that Vodafone announces cuts to roaming charges, along comes Truphone, which just sent me a press release laying claim to being the "world's first 4G network operator." Truphone has developed a client in Symbian which runs on Nokia E Series phones, as well as a SIP architecture built entirely from open-source components. As I understand it, the company is also working on a client for Windows smartphones. I guess this sort of thing must prompt some level of debate within Nokia, along the lines of: are we an arms merchant for telcos, or are we a technology platform which enables innovation at the expense of our legacy customers?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More power to whom?

I expect UK comic Marcus Brigstocke may be getting a call on Monday from the BT PR department, following a very funny and extended rant on The Now Show on Friday evening.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mobile IP Terminator

My friend Thomas Anglero has poison-penned a brilliant piece on Mobile IP which you, and I mean you, should read - particularly if you are bullish on the issue.

Flash telly

Old media (CBS) keeps up the momentum, this time it's innertube. At least this seems to work in Europe. When I tried to play around with AOL's In2TV, I got prompted to download WMP10, which I did, only to be told that the service was not available in my part of the world.

Supersize my downsizing

I really like this one. A company called Trio Teknologies has laid off 30% of its headcount (I wonder if the Chief Speller got the chop?), including three Verizon Wireless channel managers, one of whom has taken the opportunity to announce the job cuts - and his own availability for work - in his very own press release. This demonstrates marketing savvy, imagination, and initiative. Good luck in the search, Bob.

Building bridges

I've written about Bridgeport Networks so many times it almost hurts, but now they've gone and landed a global agreement with Siemens Communications which puts their NomadicONE solution deeply into the mix - which I guess puts them pretty deeply into some cable offerings. Not to detract or distract from this important deal, but there has been an awful lot of speculation regarding the future of Siemens Com, which could take Bridgeport to a lot of other interesting places.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

You've been gamed!

While TV and motion picture studios are concerned that immersive persistent virtual worlds and MMORPGS are draining the lifeblood from their audiences, Clickable Culture has a story about how film-makers are taking up the cause of documenting just this phenomenon. Only last week I heard a story on Radio 4's PM show about the growth of VoIP, which was pitched at an extremely mainstream level and illustrates just how far we've come - I don't know how Little Britain will react to a film about WOW-addicted freakazoids on prime time a year from now.

Notes from overhead

I see from its Q1 results release that Golden Telecom in Russia has completed 750 of its planned 5,000 node WiFi network in central Moscow, and plans to increase that to 1,300 by the end of May. If any mega-bolshoi value readers out there (I do have a few in Moscow) have any firsthand insights or experiences to share I'd love to hear them.

Stick that in your pipes and smoke it

AOL and Clearwire team up - I'm not saying that proto Wimax beats fiber or coax, but it sure makes things more interesting in a duopoly market.

Getting naked in Norway

Now listening to the Telenor conference call, where CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas has just stated that 25% of Telenor's retail DSL base is on naked DSL. That's 128k at the end of Q1, or 14% of the total DSL market. However, another 254k in the market are on unbundled loops, and I would assume that a significant number of those are also without PSTN subscriptions. Traditional voice line loss (annualized) was up to 16.3% in the quarter, from 14% in Q4, and there was a sharp drop in wholesale voice lines, leading me to suspect that VoIP migration is really moving into high gear.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

FON Japanized

Nice coverage of NeufCegetel's mobile initiative and tie-up with FON by Paris-based Japanese blogger Sueoka Yoko (in Japanese, I'm afraid). She seems to have taken a shine to Martin Varsavsky, whom she describes as "a cool old guy" (かっこういいおじさん), and who apparently looks good in a pair of sneakers.

Any takers?

This is a genuine Vonage baseball cap, circa 2003, which was sent to me personally by CFO John Rego. I am trying to jettison some of my telco memorabilia (I also have a piece of granite from Swisscom, but that's another story), and am happy to part with it - for a price. Reserve price is $2.6bn, but I may consider other offers.

Pimp my persistent virtual world

Interesting press release about a tie-up between Rivers Run Red (involved with Second Life) and Anshechung to create persistent virtual worlds for branded content.

Back Channel on Verizon UK

Fans of primary research should head over to Back Channel, where the good folks there have used their special sauce to analyze (registration required) an impending shift in the market position of Verizon and BT in the UK business space.

The product is the content

Another corporate attempt to break through the participatory culture barrier and blur the lines between content and sponsorship. I get worried about my children's future when I see this sort of thing, particularly in light of the apparently increasing difficulty of some audience members to distinguish fact from fiction/fantasy.

UPDATE: Volkswagen is getting in on the act. Hey, I know, how about a feature length film built around a lovable VW car with some wacky friends and a vague love interest sub-plot?

An alternative channel

I hadn't clocked this before, but the UK's pre-eminent market disruptor, Charles Dunstone has started a blog. I like the idea that the ad campaign's signature tune is in line to also become a purchaseable item - now that's marketing for you!

Who's on the pipe?

Arbitron has produced an interesting survey of cable subs in the US, showing attitudes towards VOD and other indicators, as well as a clear preference for a la carte channel plans.

Spread spectrum

More on the 12 new low-power GSM licensing process in the UK, hot off the presses. OFCOM has now disclosed the amounts bid, and there is a fantastically wide range (spread) - from GBP50k up to GBP 1.5m. Two bidders alone account for 2/3 of the money raised.

De-militarizing access

FTTH Blog points to an interesting article on the Utopia project in Utah, something I investigated and wrote about for clients back in my pre-blog days. I would also highlight the following quote, and note that this applies even moreso to the European case, though substituting "DSLAMs" for "set of wires":

"It would be absurd for each airline to build its own airport. But that’s just what we’ve been doing for telecommunications. Qwest has its set of wires in the ground, and Comcast has its own. We think it makes sense for a city or a region to build the airport, have someone operate it, and let as many airlines provide service as want to."

From the front

Currently listening to the Sky quarterly conference call, where there have been a couple of datapoints for TV bulls. James Murdoch has said that 45% or so of TV sales (>21-inch) in the UK currently are HD-ready sets, and he is expecting that the addressable HD footprint for the 2006 Christmas season will be around 2.7m sets. The company has 40k pre-orders for its HD offering, which is more than Sky+ did in the first year on the market. He also said that Sky By Broadband (the Kontiki-powered download service) has 250k registered users and has served 1m downloads since launch a couple of months back. Sky is currently unbundling 12 exchanges a week and expects to have 30% population coverage in the UK by the end of June.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If it ain't broke...

...go ahead and break it. Interesting timing for de-hipsterizing your brand.

More of the same

I have read that one definition of mental illness is to repeat the same steps over and over and expect a different outcome. At my panel last week at Total Telecom's World Telecommunications Congress in Geneva, one of the issues we were asked to address was how carriers can break out of their presumed death-spiral, and I raised the issue of cultural and organizational structure as impediments.

Part of this was illustrated when I did my usual schtick of asking the telco-centric audience for a show of hands about their online behavior, something I have tried to do at every event I have participated in over the past two years. "How many have used BitTorrent or eDonkey?" Two hands. (I find this particularly alarming given the amazing amount of newsflow and innovation around P2P.) Later, in passing I mentioned Flickr! and asked for a show of hands of people who had heard of it - four. Still later, in talking about out-of-the-box thinking in telco history, I mentioned the development process of i-mode as well as SK Telecom's Cyworld acquisition, but no one had ever heard of Cyworld. To be honest, I didn't even see any delegates using laptops in the venue (hardly surprising given that there was only extortionately-priced hotel WiFi available). My summary point to the audience was that I suspected there was a major disconnect between the behavior of their customers and themselves, and that this is how telcos can get bitten on the backside.

Maybe I'm being too harsh, but given all the chaos of the past two years, it's strange to be getting the same responses in mid-2006 as in early 2004, when the industry was still wasting its time laughing at Skype. Maybe my audience was not representative of the industry as a whole (yet again)? A reader within a European telco recently wrote in to say that he believes the issue is not awareness, but rather implementation, due to organizational complexity. He's probably right, and I suspect it's also related to communications flows and learning curves within different levels of management and strategy/planning functions. I also know from firsthand experience that top-notch strategy people can simply be completely ignored by management who think they know better, to their eventual detriment.

Whatever the mix of ingredients, the clock is ticking, and 7% EuroTelco underperformance relative to STOXX 600 this year puts the sector in last place by a significant margin. I interpret this as a continuing vote of no confidence from investors that EuroTelco has what it takes to change its DNA and learn to deal with/benefit from innovation at the edge.

テレビ 2.0

Monetizing the upsurge in decentralized media is becoming a worldwide obsession for old media. Fuji Television and Team Labo Business Development have set up a JV to create a platform called WatchMe! TV (Japanese), in an attempt to tap into user-generated content. This looks pretty clearly like a reaction to being broadsided by YouTube, which reportedly (Japanese) had 2.12m unique visitors in March, for a reach of 5.2%, on a par with YouTube's reach in the States, despite having no Japanese UI.

Here comes your customer

Interesting and somewhat alarming stats from OFCOM on media literacy among children.
High: 20% of 12 - 15 year-olds claim to have set up their own website
Low: 33% of 12 - 15 year-olds believe that content on reality TV shows is entirely true or mostly true.

A silver lining?

Another black cloud for UK mobile players to contend with...

Wheels on fire

Back from the long weekend, I see that things are accelerating in the Voice 2.0 world. First, iotum and PhoneGnome are getting some great coverage of their tie-up. I like Alec Saunders' comments in the O'Reilly article about continental drift moving faster than telco feature evolution, maybe going it alone and trying to peer with as many others as possible is indeed the best way to speed things up - at least it should get someone's attention. I also see that my good friend Thomas Anglero is starting to take the wrapping off an idea he discussed with me some time back - Nuclei Networks. Stand by for more on this interesting story.

UPDATE: I spoke with Thomas this morning and there indeed is some exciting news in the pipeline with Nuclei Networks.