Archive for July, 2008

Mobile TV makes waiting fun

Dutch mobile operator KPN is promoting their Mobile TV service with a funny campaign, showing consumers the possibilities if the medium.  In the TV commercial, you can see a guy waiting in a train station, entertaining himself with mobile TV broadcasts.  The campaign should give a positive perception to Mobile TV.  Studies have shown that people don’t show much interest in this mobile service, expecting the price to be too high and the quality too low.  According to KPN, the campaign is already showing positive results.

Watch the commercial here:

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Mobile Internet use: on the rise but mostly men

Let it be clear: Mobile Internet is hot!  With the iPhone and other smartphones gaining popularity, more and more advertisers are realizing the opportunities given by the Mobile Internet.   As major players are jumping the band wagon (such as De Standaard recently), this platform will become more interesting for the end user and visitor rates will go up.  Already, there are many studies on the use of Mobile Internet in the present and the future.

Juniper Research is predicting that the amount of Mobile Internet users will grow from the current 577 million to 1,7 billion by 2013.  The growth will be stimulated by the proliferation of web 2.0 applications, such as social networking, user-generated content, location based services and instant messaging.  The Far East & China will represent the largest market for mobile web use, while South America has the greatest potential for mobile web adoption.  A number of mobile Web 2.0 applications will use flat-data or even free pricing, meaning industry players must seek new revenue streams.

A Dutch research by OMI² says the slow ‘early-adopters phase’ is now over and that Mobile Internet use is now growing rapidly.  They estimate that The Netherlands counts about 1,6 million active users (= surfing at least once a month). As a cause for the rise, OMI² points at the availability of better and faster mobile devices, more flat-free mobile subscriptions, and the upcoming of mobile search engines.  As for the offer in Mobile Internet sites, they see that websites in the categories news (60% has a mobile site), portals (50%) and audiovisual (35%) are well represented.  On the other hand, entertainment, non-profit and governmental are remarkably absent from the mobile platform.  

Lastly, there’s a study by Opera Software, pointing out that the Mobile Internet is dominated by men: nearly 9 out of 10 users are male.   A majority of Opera Mini users are between 18 and 27 years old. 

on the rise but mostly men

Belgacom buys SMS parking company Mobile-for

Belgacom is taking over Mobile-for, the company specialized in mobile payments for parking services. Mobile-for offers SMS payment solutions in 7 Belgian cities, allowing people to pay for their parking spot with a simple SMS message. The company was established in June 2006 by parking exploiter Apcoa Belgium and the Estonian NOW! Innovations. A few months later, it teamed up with Proximus to offer SMS parking in Antwerp. Today, 30% of parking places in Antwerp are paid by SMS. Other cities followed Hasselt, Tienen, Lokeren, Wetteren, Turnhout, Diest and soon also Bruges. In december, Mobile-for hopes to activate the SMS parking system also in other locations in Brussels and Wallonia. Mobile-for will become a separate entity within the Belgacom group. The take-over won’t affect the existing Mobile-for customers, communicated Belgacom. A price for the acquisition wasn’t announced.

Mobile payment: with chip or by sms

Pay by mobile chipEarlier this month, European mobile operators (represented by the GSM Association) and European banks (represented by the European Payments Council) have reached an agreement to collaborate on mobile payments.  Together they want to look for an easy way to link a mobile phone to a bank account. 

Mobile payments would be made possible with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which means the mobile phone has an integrated NFC-chip which can be scanned to make a payment.
The collaboration is an effort to create a standard for mobile payments, which now knows many different technologies and services.  But first banks and operators have to come to an agreement on the financing of NFC-networks.  Second obstacle is that all consumers need a mobile phone with the NFC-chip.

Personally, I don’t think a hardware solution should be used for mobile payments.  Of all current mobile payment solutions, SMS payment still seems the easiest and most effective one.  Mostly because sending SMS messages is so easy, common and popular.  Everyone can do it and everyone does.

So I’d rather encourage initiatives like the one of Rabobank, who introduced their service RaboSmsBetalen.nl

With this service, everyone can open a mobile wallet which can be credited with a certain amount of money.  To make a SMS payment, you just send a SMS to the shortcode 6689, including the mobile phone number of the recipient, the amount you wish to transfer and a description.  The recipient can use the transferred money to create his own mobile wallet or he can transfer it to his own bank account (though a fee is asked here).

The recipient can be a web shop but also an other individual.  And Rabobank especially wants to target the latter.  A practical exemple are friends in a bar: one of them pays the bill and instead of having to count their coins, the others can pay him back by SMS.  This way, the need to have enough cash in your pocket disappears.  So maybe we can finally get rid of those annoying bronze eurocents…

10 million downloads in iPhone App Store

Last Thursday, a day before the iPhone 3G took the world by storm, Apple introduced the iPhone App Store, where iPhone users can download “applications in every category, from games to business, education to entertainment, finance to health and fitness, productivity to social networking.”   Check the Apple site for more info.

After the first weekend, Apple announced it sold 1 million iPhone devices
At the same time, the App Store counted more than 10 million downloads.  

In other iPhone news: Mobistar has launched a mobile site for iPhone users: http://iphone.mobistar.be
The portal contains a search function and links to mobile internet sites.  The amount of offered services is still low, but Mobistar promises to add more soon.

European Commission wants lower SMS tariffs

In February 2008, European Commissioner Viviane Reading urged the mobile operators in Europe to lower their roaming tariffs for international SMS messages. Between October 2007 and March 2008, the average cost of a roaming text message was 0,29 euro.  Since Reading’s call, it has lowered only to 0,28 euro.  Still too much for Reading, so she’s taking the lead herself now. 

She is following the advise of the European Group of Regulators (ERG), which proposes an average price between 0,11 and 0,15 euro per SMS, and will make a proposal in October to submit SMS tariffs to European regulation.  The European Commission will also examine whether measures have to be taken concerning data roaming costs, which are still too high as well. 

The ERG itself hopes regulation won’t be necessary and urges the sector to be ‘attentive’ towards data roaming prices.

The iPhone hype in Belgium

As of today, July 11th, the iPhone 3G is available in stores worldwide.  Also in Belgium, where the subscription-free iPhone is the most expensive of all Europe.  But nonetheless, the ‘internet communication device’ (as Steve Jobs likes to describe it) is selling like hotcakes.  When you walk into a Mobistar store tomorrow, you’ll likely have to put your name on a long waiting list.

The new iPhone 3G has created an incredible media hype in Belgium, being (officially) available for the first time.  Several media have tested out the product; check out an extended review of all the product features at ZDnet and De Standaard.  Interestingly, De Standaard, in collaboration with MobileWeb, has recently launched a mobile news site, just browse to m.standaard.be with your brand new iPhone to read the latest news.

The most controversial feature of the Belgian iPhone is its high price tag.  While the default price (for a subscription-linked iPhone) worldwide is $199 (about €125) for a 8Gb version, you pay €525 in Belgium.  Mobistar blames the high price to the fact that the Belgian law doesn’t allow the product to be linked to a required subscription (the infamous ‘koppelverkoop’). This is how you make Proximus compatibel for the iPhone 3G
As a result, the discussion on ‘koppelverkoop’/’vente conjointe’ has been re-opened.  Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne has proposed to lift the ban.  Consumers organisation Test-Aankoop has backed up the proposal, but only under certain conditions.  To be continued…

Meanwhile, Mobistar’s competitors aren’t watching from the sidelines.  Base has ‘congratulated’ Mobistar with the launch of the iPhone and invites all iPhone users to buy the device and then profit from the low calling rates of Base.  As spokesperson Bart Vandesompele puts it: “With our low rates, subscribers can save money which then allows them to buy the over-priced iPhone at Mobistar”. He adds “And we won’t hesitate to communicate this to all our clients in the coming weeks!”

Proximus is even promoting the iPhone on its homepage, provocatively titled “The iPhone on the Proximus 3G-network”.  They explain to their subscribers how the iPhone can be used on the Proximus network (basically just insert the Proximus SIM card; check on the right) and they stress how Proximus has a larger 3G coverage.