BBC TV & Radio Trial On UK 3G

The BBC are going to start of a trial to syndicate a range of its television channels and radio networks via 3G to mobile phones within the month.

BBC TV & Radio Trial On UK 3GThree UK operators will be taking part, Orange, Vodafone and 3 giving subscribers to the trial the ability to watch BBC One, BBC News 24 and BBC Three streamed on their mobiles. Beyond some sports programmes and programmes where they don’t have the necessary rights.

As well as the TV channels, eight radio stations will also be included – Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, 6 Music, BBC 7 and Asian Network.

Appropriately enough the announcement by Richard Halton, BBC Controller of Business Strategy, was made at the Broadcast Mobile TV Congress.

The BBC haven’t done a great deal of content on mobiles, not that they’re not keen on it, as you’ll be able to tell from the comments of Richard Halton, “The BBC believes that mobile content is an important part of the broadcasting landscape and is looking at ways in which mobile devices will shape services of the future for licence fee payers.”

They hope to learn lots from this trial, as Ashley Highfield, Director of Future Media and Technology at the BBC said, “The findings, combined with quantitative and qualitative consumer research, will inform the BBC’s future mobile strategy.”

We’ll keep our eyes on this.

Vodafone To Offer Europe-wide Daily Flat Data Rate

The practicality of using cellular data service while you’re abroad hasn’t been high, unless your company doesn’t mind paying the crazy rates that has been data-roaming.

Vodafone To Offer Europe-wide Daily Flat Data RateSanity appears to have been reached by Vodafone, as they announce a flat-rate of €12/day for data in Europe – but only if accessed from “mobile-enable laptops” from 1 July 2007. It will replace their current per Megabyte service, giving what they say is “practically unlimited data usage,” which is actually up to 50Mb/day.

We asked Vodafone for clarification as to what “mobile-enable laptops” were and they said the service would be open to any laptop user who has a datacard, or a mobile phone with modem – as long as they opted-in to the service. The opt-in is free of charge.

Back in June 2005, Vodafone offered a months worth of data roaming for €75, but only included 100Mb in the service – the equivalent of two days data limit for the new service.

Vodafone have been running a voice equivalent roaming service, Vodafone Passport, for two years now, which they claim has 12m users. They tell us that they’ve yet to come up with a swish name for the equivalent data service.

The EU has been on at mobile phone companies to make their European voice roaming charges more reasonable for a while – in fact Vodafone pre-empted any action by the EU, by announcing a dropping their prices a year before they were going to do it.

Vodafone Mobile Services Expansion: The Why

Vodafone has made three days of surprising announcements. Three of them for Web services soon to be accessible over their mobile network (MySpace, eBay and YouTube) and the other relating to the building out of their 3G networks in the future (analysis).

Vodafone Mobile Services Expansion: The WhyWe thought it would be worthwhile taking a look as to why this might be happening and why it’s come at this time.

Why the push?
Well, lots of other companies are moving in to tread on Vodafone’s toes – example – Virgin Mobile now with NTL/Telewest TV/broadband/telephone service – as all forms of communication converge.

Vodafone is pretty much a mobile only company. They’re trying to change this, through deals with BT to offer fixed-line broadband and similar offerings in Italy and Germany. In the converged game, they’re pretty weak.

This weakness is leaving their previous highly-profitable dominance of the mobile space threatened.

They’ve been aware of the benefit of differentiating their service through providing access to content for a while, but these recent moves mark a serious step forward.

Previously it’s been about them providing the means of accessing content from third parties, games, music, etc. These most recent deals are about access to services.

I know content is being accessed, a la YouTube, but they’re actually providing access to the service … one that happens to be providing content.

What’s the benefit?
There’s many advantages to Vodafone on this.

Short term it’s about making people associate Vodafone with being on the leading-edge – “Wow, they’ve got MySpace and YouTube!”

It’s unclear how far this benefit will extend into the future, as more phones become easier to browse the Web, where these services live.

eBay, MySpace and YouTube all have fanatical following. When people become embroiled in them, they _must_ find out what has _just_ happened. They’re a modern day replacement for TV soap-operas.

Obsessions like these drive people to choose mobile phones that enable them to get access – and Vodafone will be shouting this from the roof tops to encourage people to switch to them.

Interestingly, those three services are also used by a great deal of people who don’t have a strong technical understanding. People who don’t know that the whole Internet is available through the Web Browser on their mobile phone. This changing is just a matter of time.

Another short-term benefit for them is the amount of revenue they’ll end up generating. We imagine that it’s cost Vodafone a pretty penny to get exclusives from all three services, but this will be made up by the seriously boosted data charges that they’ll be clawing in.

MySpace is pretty rich with bandwidth hungry media – lots of photos, and many many pages to check. Same for eBay.

The real earner for them will be YouTube. You’ll struggle to find an application that uses as much data as video and with the ability to pass links to favourite videos, subscribers will be helping their friends run up big data charges too.

Vodafone Now Have YouTube

Vodafone Now Have YouTubeIs this now getting boring? Vodafone have announced another content access deal, this time with YouTube.

Well they certainly have the set in their hands now don’t they? – First MySpace on Tuesday, then eBay yesterday, and today YouTube.

What can you do with the service? Well, watch YouTube videos really. But it won’t be all of the videos, just “a daily selection of new videos,” chosen by YouTube and accessed through Vodafone Live! True, these can be very entertaining, but one of the delights of YouTube is the wide access to all of the content. The process of near-unlimited discovery, down some very strange rabbit-holes, will be lost through editorialised content.

To encourage the viral effect, subscribers will be able to forward links of their favourite videos to friends. No shock there.

One big benefit for YouTube will be Vodafone making it easy for mobile phone users to upload films that they’ve shot on their mobiles, up to YouTube.

The most interesting part of this lies in the following statement, “Vodafone and YouTube will continue to explore ways to enhance this offering and cooperate closely in the coming months.” The potential in this is considerable.

Vodafone will be rubbing their hands thinking about all of the extra potential income from the data charges of delivering videos to mobile handsets.

Vodafone And Orange 3G RAN Share: Examined

As has been mentioned on Digital-Lifestyles, Orange and Vodafone have entered into an agreement to share their 3G Radio Access Network (or RAN). We thought you’d appreciate some more depth … and who better to give it than Steve Kennedy, our telco guru.

Currently Vodafone have a bigger network than Orange, so Orange would gain more than Vodafone from the deal, but in future it means that new cell sites will be used by both operators.

The agreement could have covered 2G (GSM) too, but as Vodafone use 900MHz systems and Orange use different systems operating in the 1800MHz band, it just not possible. That said, it’s likely future technology would allow both sets of frequencies to operate within the same radio equipment.

There will still be interesting problems to sort out for 3G sharing, as Vodafone exclusively use equipment from Ericsson, while Orange use equipment from Nortel, Siemens, Nokia and Alcatel.

Once the network is in place, each network will be responsible for enabling their own network services and ensuring quality of service, etc. As competition for customers increases this is a sensible way for operators to reduce cost, share the infrastructure and compete on service. It’s a shame the fixed networks don’t take this view, as has been pointed out before, the LLU operators could join forces and build a joint LLU network and then compete on service. This might give them a larger network, which would be of a size and scale to compete with BT’s upcoming 21CN.

Why the rush to build?
With a 3G license comes obligations and one of these was to reach 80% of the population by the 1st Dec, 2007. Though the GSM network coverage hit that a while ago, 3G expansion has been slower with few customers really wanting 3G services so the operators have built 3G networks in densely populated areas where they can make revenue from those customers. That means big cities have been covered, but elsewhere 3G coverage is patchy to say the least.

Hutchinson 3G (or 3 the new entrant into the mobile world) has been rapidly building its customer base and building a network to match. In June 2004, Ofcom tried rules that 3 had SMP (significant market power) in the 3G world, which meant it would be regulated by Ofcom much in the same way BT is for fixed networks. The other 3G operators happily supported Ofcom in this view. 3 didn’t want the increased regulatory burden and disagreed with Ofcom’s ruling, so appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. They won their appeal in November 2005. This was the first time any network has successfully appealed against a SMP designation.

3 wasn’t happy about having SMP forced upon it and therefore made noises to Ofcom about coverage obligations, which the other networks weren’t meeting. They’ve got 10 months to hit that 80% figure.

Though city centres might have a demand for 3G (for data services, no one cares about 3G voice – a voice call sounds the same whether it’s 3G or GSM), as you leave dense urban areas the appeal of 3G is less. Well maybe not less, but there are less people to use it and less of a reason for the networks to install 3G infrastructure and sites.

The cost of a 3G cell is probably not much different in terms of equipment from that of a 2G cell, one major difference is the amount of bandwidth needed for the cell, as data volumes are significantly higher (maybe 40Kb/s using GPRS data compared to maybe 2Mb/s for 3G, multiply that by 10 users and it’s 400Kb/s compared to 200Mb/s).

UK backhaul (i.e. the pipes used to connect cells) are expensive. The more rural the cell site is. the less chance there is that anyone (except maybe BT) has got any kind of high bandwidth connectivity. Therefore, the costs of the backhaul may well exceed that of the cell site itself.

Sharing makes economic sense
Orange and Vodafone have to hit that 80% figure or Ofcom can impose fines which could be significant. Therefore the build out of a shared new network makes economic sense. It’s half of what they’d each have to pay.

In this climate of everyone’s customers wanting everything for nothing, being able to reduce your build costs may well be the straw that doesn’t break the camel’s back.

Orange And Vodafone Propose Sharing 3G Aerials In UK

There’s a lot of radical thinking going on in the mobile business these days and here’s the latest. Vodafone and Orange have signed a non-binding agreement to let each other to use the others 3G infrastructure.

Orange and Vodafone Propose Sharing 3G Networks in UKIt’s all about their RANs – Radio Access Networks, which connect customers mobiles to the operators networks.

Until now they’ve gone around installing their own, but are now realising that this is a mighty expensive business, seeing as the cost is several £100k per base station. In rural areas these may only service a handful of people, thus rending their investment uneconomic.

The core of the proposal is to

  • Continue managing their own traffic independently
  • Retain full responsibility for the quality of service they offer their respective customers
  • Remain competitors in the UK mobile wholesale and retail markets

The summary – share infrastructure, but compete on service.

What’s forcing this?
When the mobile companies bid for the 3G licenses, not only did they pay over a huge amount of money, but they also took on obligations to provider 3G services to a certain percentage of the UK population.

As not many people have signed up for 3G, the mobile companies haven’t wanted to spend the money on servicing a population that isn’t giving them money with subscriptions and they’ve let their obligations slip. Until now Ofcom hasn’t been pursing them on this.

Three, the largest 3G provider in the UK, has recently been saddled with three little letters by Ofcom – SMP – Significant Market Power. They’re not too happy with the restrictions that this imposes on them, so have been pointing out to Ofcom that the other 3G license holders aren’t fulfilling their coverage obligations.

To ensure that they don’t get saddled with substantial fines by Ofcom, the other 3G holders will need to expand their infrastructure. By sharing costs on this, they save money.

More details of this will be provided by Steve Kennedy, an expert in this area, in an article later today tomorrow.

MySpace Mobile Vodafone Deal: Further Details And Opinion

You may have seen the announcement of the tie up between Vodafone Europe and MySpace Mobile we ran a short while ago.

MySpace Mobile Vodafone Deal: Further Details And OpinionWe think this is a pretty big story, so we’ve been chatting to Vodafone and Myspace to get further details and thought we’d fill you in.

The UK will be the first market in Europe that Vodafone will release it in. The dates of the release are being very closely guarded. We tickled and cajouled in an attempt to get it tied down further, which resulted in us finding out it will be the second half of the year. Perhaps later, rather than sooner.

There will be a subscription fee, as is the case in the MySpace Mobile deal with Cingular in the US. The details of costs are currently unannounced.

MySpace Mobile runs on its own application, not through standard Web access. We’re not aware that this has been seen in the wild, so the completion of it may account for the yet-undisclosed release date for the Vodafone service.

Access to the app will be via the yet unannounced ‘selected handsets’ and it will be available for download from Vodafone Live!

While it might initially appear to be a great deal for Vodafone to capture the youth as customers, there may be clouds on the horizon. In a recent visit to a youth club, it was surprisng to see all of the collected 13-16 year olds using BeBo, with not one on MySpace. When asked why, they replied that they just found setting up and running BeBo a lot easier than MySpace. We can only assume that Vodafone did some decent research on who actually uses it, rather than what MySpace told them … didn’t they?

It’s not clear how much of a market there will be for this. As mobile phones handle Web browsing increasingly better, the need for a dedicated application drops away, as people simply use their Browser on any network. It’s been seen that a well-written dedicated mobile apps can still maintain an advantage – like Google’s mobile email client – due to the restricted interface intrinsic with mobile keyboards.

What will the features be?
The details of what MySpace-ers will be able to do …

MySpace Mobile Features:

* Upload and View Photos
MySpace Mobile allows Vodafone customers to select photos stored on their mobile device and upload them to their MySpace profile. They can also view photos already uploaded on any MySpace profile.

* Respond to Mail
Vodafone customers don’t have to wait to log on to a computer to read and reply to their MySpace messages. From their mobiles, they have the ability to send messages to their MySpace friends, read and reply to messages sent to them.

* Manage Your Community of Friends

MySpace Mobile allows customers view and manage friend requests. They can also perform basic friend searches giving users the opportunity to “click-to-add “friends into their network. They simply locate a MySpace profile they wish to add as a friend, and then select to add this user as a friend.

* Post Comments or Blog Entries
Update your blog live throughout the day by posting new entries on the move, or make comments to other users’ blogs or MySpace profile pages. To post a blog or comment, people simply view the appropriate section and click “Post” to create the entry. Users can save their work at any time, and any information entered will update both the mobile service and the online MySpace profile page.

* View Friends
Customers have the ability to view the friend list of any MySpace profile. The friend list contains a text listing of the friends, which when selected would show the profile picture along with a link to that user’s MySpace page, and the ability to add the friend to your MySpace contact list for quick bookmarking.

Vodafone Europe Gets MySpace Mobile

Vodafone Europe Get MySpace MobileVodafone Europe has signed an exclusive deal with MySpace to get MySpace Mobile on their service.

Although currently exclusive, MySpace are remaining elusive as to the length of the agreement. When we asked, they declined to be drawn on how long the exclusivity with Vodafone would last, preferring to tantalise with “our ambition is to get MySpace on as many platforms as possible.”

MySpace addicts will be able to feed their cravings when not glued to the computers.

To tantalise potential subscribers further, Vodafone will pre-load it on to ‘selected handsets.’

Vodafone Europe Gets MySpace MobileMySpace did a similar deal in the US with Cingular back in December 2006. In that deal Cingular charged their subscribers an extra $2.99/month, plus data charges for the privilege.

At the time of going to press it is unclear if there will be a similar charging scheme with Vodafone.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

More details shortly.

Carphone Warehouse Shares Drop On Vodafone News

The Herald is reporting that the shares in Carphone Warehouse took a bashing on the news that Vodafone is switching away from them, to sell their mobile phone contracts through Phones 4U instead.

The shares dropped 13.9%

Vodafone cited that Phones 4U charging Vodafone a lower commission was the reason for the change. We suspect that doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

Carphone (as those in the industry call it) is becoming a major threat to Vodafone as they both move into other areas of communication – in the big communications convergence rush.

Carphone has been building up its bought AOL UK two days ago.

Vodafone themselves have recently moved into broadband, in a deal with BT. With Carphone effectively becoming a competitor, we assume that Vodafone don’t want to carry on giving them money.

If Vodafone’s choice to dump Carphone hurts them more will be revealed in the future. As Roger Taylor, FD for Carphone points out, “Every Vodafone customer that walks into our stores now will not walk out on a Vodafone contract.”

Extreme Sports Channel Added to Sky Mobile TV

Extreme Sports Channel Added to Sky Mobile OfferingUK satellite operator, Sky is building on their video offerings on the Sky Mobile service, by adding the Extreme Sports Channel.

Sky and Vodafone have been offering video content on their 3G network since October last year.

The latest addition will offer made-for-mobile content including a series covering the best and worst slams and profiles on the ultimate extreme sports legends as well as existing content such as the acclaimed Tips & Tricks series.

Sports has been popular content on Sky Mobile TV, so as Stephen Nuttall, Director of Business Development at Sky says, “we’re giving customers even more of what they enjoy.”

We suspect that Sky is adding the extreme sports to attract a different sort of subscriber to the service, which they’re not increasing the price of, leaving it at £5/month for unlimited access.

All of this content is currently only available to Vodafone 3G subscribers, but it is expected that other networks are in discussions with Sky and it’s expected that they may offer it on their networks.

Sky Mobile TV