Anybody who really thinks that T-Mobile is behind the new “Web’n’Walk” offering it trotted out last week, has really not being paying attention. It’s Google Talk, a VoIP service normally available for PC users, now sneakily able to go out over 3G data services.
The question to ask is: if Web’n’Walk is all T-Mobile’s doing, why is Google the Home Page of the new service?
Answer: the system is seen, inside Google, as a Trojan Horse to hook the mobile phone companies on VoIP and other Google Web services – and it is really part of the fierce rivalry building up between Skype (eBay) Yahoo (France Telecom) and Google (T-Mobile) to control the nascent “presence” business, with Instant Messenger and voice as the lever.
Exactly why all these people want to be in the presence business is another story – but anybody who knows what is really happening in the advertising business won’t need an explanation. The question, as far as the mobile phone operators is concerned, is whether they will actually end up with the slightest profit.
Officially, the new service gives you the Web in your pocket. This is not new; the Opera press release went out announcing Web’n’Walk back in June! it would only have been in any sense new last month, if we were discussing the “3” Internet service was being leaked, since Hutchison had previously been resolutely adamant that its users would have access only to the “3” web in a walled garden. That news was known to NewsWireless readers back in broke in early September: Hutchison will be opening up its 3G phones to full Internet browsing shortly.
Indeed, the only real surprise in today’s announcement is the discovery that the Danger-designed HipTop phone, which achieved such fame as the Sidekick in the North American market, will be one of the 3G announcements from T-Mobile later this year (according to Silicon.com).
But 3G phones that can access the Internet are not a T-Mobile invention. There’s no sudden change in the way people use the Internet, and 40 megabytes of data per month isn’t worth £30 of anybody’s money, even with 100 minutes of talk time. As Tim Richardson reported on The Register, it’s hype: “Hyping up the launch of its new service T-Mobile said it believes Web’n’Walk will lead to a considerable growth in total internet usage and, ultimately, more internet traffic being carried by mobile than by fixed line.”
It will do no such thing. What it does, is open up the mobile companies to a cuckoo’s egg; Google Talk, Yahoo! Messengerwith Voice, or even MSN Messenger – not to mention Skype- all on an IP backbone.
The idea that UMTS is a suitable IP backbone will be exposed in due course. Some of the gilt will flake off as soon as next week, when the first nationwide Flash-OFDM technology network will be rolled out by Flarion in a major European capital.
UMTS will work – sort of – but it adds latency to voice which rival systems won’t suffer from – rivals like IP Wireless, like Flash-OFDM, like WiMAX-WiFi mesh networks. Effectively, it turns the expensive mobile data networks into bit pipes, fit for carrying Internet Protocol traffic – at several times the price of rival systems.
Can UMTS really compete?
T-Mobile group CEO Rene Oberman [right] either knows nothing about home broadband, or this is an attempt to bamboozle the market. “T-Mobile will turn on a High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) network next year that will provide download rates of up to 1.8Mbps” he told Iain Thomson, who reported that T-Mobile appears to believe that the average download speed for home fixed line broadband ranges from under 264KB to 1MB.
In fact, by the time T-Mobile gets HSDPA working for a minority of its 3G users (a tiny fraction of its market) typical cable modem speeds will be ten megabits in the UK, and ADSL2 will be matching that.
Costs of home broadband, however, will continue to be flat rate, not £30 and upwards for no more data than will allow you to transmit a couple of dozen five megapixel photos. And you will only ever get 1.8 megabits out of a 3G HSDPA wireless mast if you are right next to it, and nobody else is trying to use the same cell for mobile data. Let’s not even mention the fact that the upload speed will remain below 64 kilobits per second – slow modem speeds.
What T-Mobile gets out of this deal, is some breathing space. It is making forward-looking pronouncements, and allowing investors to imagine that this will mean “jam tomorrow” after all.