Archive for April, 2009

Euro Parliament approves lower SMS tariffs

Yesterday afternoon, the European Parliament has almost unanimously approved the lowering of a European maximum on international voice calls and the inrtoduction of a maximum on the price of a SMS and surfing.

As of July 2009, sending a SMS from a foreign country (within the Union) should cost maximum 11 eurocent.  Today, this is on average 28 eurocent and sometimes up to 80 eurocent!

By 2011, the maximum tariff for outgoing international calls should have diminished to 0.35 euro per minute.  Incoming calls should be charged at a maximum of 0.11 euro per minute.  This summer, we can’t profit from these limits just yet.  So when you’re calling a friend from the beach in Barcelona, remember you’ll still be charged up to 0.43 euro/minute.  When that friend calls you, your part of the bill can be a maximum of 0.19 euro/minute.

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Mobile music: from ringtones to full MP3

I’ve discussed it before: the ring tone industry is no longer what it used to be.  With today’s mobile devices, we no longer have to endure those irritating polyphonic  ring tones, but we can instead download full MP3 of our favorite songs onto our mobile, use them as tones or simple use our phone as a music player when we’re on the bus.

As I recently read on Digimedia, research by Strategy Analytics has shown that the sale of (mono, polyphonic & hifi) ring tones still represents 50% of mobile music sales, while the download of singles is gaining popularity.   Another agency Informa Telecoms & Media points out that for listening to music, most people still use a separate device (such as an iPod or a pre-historical CD player).  But with hybrid mobile devices and smartphones becoming more wide spread, this trend might soon change. 

A good stimulation is the launch of new mobile music services, such as PlayNow Plus, which is automatically available with the phones from the Sony Ericsson Walkman series, and Come With Music, which Comes With the Nokia XpressMusic devices.  Both services offer free music downloads for a first period of time, after which the (optional) service is monthly charged with the mobile subscription.   Another example is of course the Apple iPhone, which syncs with the iTunes Store. 

mobile_music

BBC launches beta version of Mobile TV

The BBC unveiled a beta version of its Live TV streaming television service optimized for mobile handsets including the Nokia N96 and Nokia 5800.

The mobile TV trial nevertheless faces some serious limitations.  Content is broadcast at a resolution of  just 176×144 to guarantee compatibility across a wide range of handsets. Moreover, the service is currently accessible solely via WiFi-enabled devices.

Read more at IT Pro Portal.

Mobile websites grow sevenfold in 1 year

The amount of mobile internet websites has increased times 7 in just one year time, according to the mobile web domain registry dotMobi.  Scanning the largest Top Level Domains (.mobi, .com, .net, .uk and .de), it found about 1,1 million mobile sites, compared to only 150.000 a year ago.

Unfortunately, there’s still no standard to identify a mobile site.  While dotMobi stimulates the use of the domain extension .mobi, there are mobile sites using the subdomains m., mobile. or wap., while others extend their URL with /wap, /m, /mobile, /pda or something similar.

MobileWeb.be encourages the use of the m. subdomain, which means a short URL (no need to type a long URL on a mobile keypad) and no need to register an additional domain extension.  Good examples of its use are m.standaard.be, m.nieuwsblad.be, m.jobat.be, m.vdab.be and of course m.mobileweb.be 🙂

Skype available on mobile phones

“Fantastic!”, my colleague Olivier exclaimed after having installed Skype on his iPhone.  As he is using the company’s WIFI network, he can call other Skypers for free.  And after a few tests, the quality turned out to be pretty good.

This evolution is worrysome for telecom operators.  When Skype was introduced years ago, they were reassured that most people were used to their mobile phone and wouldn’t limit themselves to sitting at their PC to make their phone calls.  Now that the Internet has become more mobile, the threat is back.

Of course, it is still a limited service.  You can only call to other Skype users for free.  You can also call another phone number, but then a telecom network is used at the receiver’s end, so it’s paying.  Another limitation is that you need a Wifi network, which are not as widespread here as they are in the United States.  Without the Wifi, you’re surfing on the telecom network… and paying for data.
UPDATE: Turns out that Skype only works on Wifi, not on 3G because of contractual agreements.

Nonetheless, it’s obvious that the telecoms should start rethinking their strategy.

skype-mobile-phone

Voicemail: the end is near

“Didn’t you hear my voicemail message?!”
I’m sure you have asked this question before, after noticing that your communication partner didn’t reply to the message you left on his voicemail.  These days, people don’t take the time to listen to their voicemail anymore.  They’ll reply much faster when you send them a sms message or call them back later. 
With modern messaging technologies, it looks like the days of the classic voicemail are numbered.

Several mobile services are offering a good laternative.  One of them is Google Voice, which translates a voicemail message into text and sends it to a specified e-mail address.  The text message can also be shared among other Google Voice users.  Google Voice will soon be launched on the US market.

A similar service Visual Voicemail, made for smartphones such as iPhone and Blackberry Storm, lists the voicemail messages in a visual inbox, where the users can select and listen to each message in random order. Much more similar to the e-mail interface.

Visa launches mobile payment system

Two weeks ago, we reported that Belgacom’s new service Ping.Ping will be using the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow contact-less payments.

Today, Visa has launched a mobile payment service, using NFC-technology as well.  This NFC project, that first will be tested in Malaysia, “will be a turning point for the payment industry”, according to Elizabeth Buse, head of product at Visa.   For the realisation, they collaborated with the Maybank Bank, with Maxis, Malaysia’s largest telecom operator, and with Nokia.  The latter hopes to sell some 3000 Nokia 6214 NFC-enabled devices in a month time.  
Purpose of the NFC-technology is to allow a mobile payment by just waving the mobile phone over a reader terminal.