Operators angered by Apple mistreatment

Mobile operators across the world are angered by the way Apple treats them, and are hoping Nokia can help curb the firm’s stronghold in the smartphone space, according to industry consultant Bengt Nordström.

Nordström’s management consultancy Northstream works with carriers worldwide and he explained that in the firm’s discussions with operators, Apple’s attitude towards them is often cited as a point of discontent.

“When we hear about operators and how Apple treats them – they’ve never seen anything like that before in the industry,” he said  “It’s always been a buyer’s market.

“[Carriers] have been the kings of the hill; they have been ruling everything, and when somebody comes around and begins to dictate the situation, questioning whether operators should be approved for selling iPhones and asking: “Are you good enough to sell our products?” – that conflicts with the view operators have of themselves.”

He said that mobile operators have been taken aback by having to jump through hoops for Apple: signing large numbers of NDAs and satisfying Apple’s complex criteria in order to gain the right to sell its products.

Beyond that, there are also technical problems associated with iPhones that makes users’ perception of the network quality negative, he said.

“Many of those problems are caused by Apple – it’s their technical solutions, such as their poor radio antennae. But when operators try to bring that to Apple’s attention, they get ignored.”

It is for these reasons that there is a resounding desire from the operator community to see Nokia meet with success in the smartphone space with its Windows Phone handsets, said Nordström. Nokia’s Windows-based Lumia 800 handset has recently been launched in some European markets, with more markets to follow, while the Lumia 710 has been launched in some Asian markets.

“[Nokia] would be much more operator-friendly, they would have revenue share with the operators and they will listen to operator requirements,” said Nordström.

“But the fact is, it’s the customer that decides. The end user doesn’t have the same opinion of Apple – it’s the opposite – people love Apple. So whatever operators think, they will still have to support Apple and accept its way of doing business.”

Nordström believes that operators would also like to see Nokia challenge Google’s dominance as well. However, breaking Apple and Google’s supremacy will be a tall order for Nokia, he admits.

“It all depends on the consumer. And I’m not certain at all that what Nokia is doing is good enough,” he said. “The focus is too strong on the operating system, but there are so many other things with Nokia that don’t work well, particularly the management aspects. It has a complicated organisational structure and it has long lead time for making decisions, with those problems, it doesn’t matter what OS they use.”

He added that he doesn’t see anything with Nokia’s new handsets that stands out above competitors’ offerings.

“It’s really just on par with what is already out there. They have come in at this stage, and price is now low, because Nokia has already lost its premium tag. There was a time that people wanted to be seen with Nokia, but that time has gone.”

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  1. Avatar tim deluca-smith 25/11/2011 @ 5:55 pm

    Apple almost certainly has its customer service faults (and is predisposed to deflecting problems onto others), but you can understand the rationale.

    It works hard to maintain a consistent customer experience (controlling its hardware and software ecosystem tightly), and the network is inherently part of this experience.

    The iPhone may be hailed as a great ‘experience’ but connect it to a congested cell out of its control and that experience is broken. For Apple, ensuring cell density / speed / traffic optimization is on par with iPhone requirements is sensible.

    Operators have always positioned themselves at the center of the mobile universe but are now struggling to come to terms with the fact that it’s very difficult to build customer loyalty to a network – something a piece of [tangible] hardware is able to do with far more ease.

    I’m sure if they could, Apple would try and limit the ISPs onto which their iPads, desktops, Apple TVs etc are connected!! Impossible of course given the highly deregulated and decentralised internet market.

    But as operators remain the single point of entry onto a network, it’s seen by Apple (rightly or wrongly) as a control point.

  2. Avatar Jose M Bescos 28/11/2011 @ 2:23 pm

    It is very simple,who owns the consumer owns the business, and that is Apple. If Operators are scared or angry about Apple and the iPhone, it is very simple, if they subsidise the phone a bit less reflecting to consumers its real price, then it won´t be that expensive for Operators.

  3. Avatar Cyclop9 28/11/2011 @ 2:24 pm

    Look at those bogus TelCo managers. When an industry has been stabilized, management always put everything on automatic and start sleeping on their laurels until a small and nimble challenger shows up and disrupt everything sending many into bankruptcy. Instead of complaining about apple, they may start thinking fast about what apple and google are planning ahead. It may be uglier than what they are complaining about right now and I believe it’ll be so. When you have achieved such dominance, all things become possible unto you!
    So bogus managers, stop whining and start thinking and fast.

    • Avatar Charles Tran 28/11/2011 @ 6:40 pm

      Nokia is a great company and has many many strength to leverage but need to have a small entrepreneurial team on the side to foster the new ideas and turn into reality. New ideas require a lot of work and sometime against the mainstream at Nokia. New ideas do not work within Nokia. Current management do not want to take calculated risks and comfortable within their offices. Same old ways of thinking at Nokia Siemens Networks.

  4. Avatar Anderson 29/11/2011 @ 3:42 pm

    Can GSM networks survive without Apple? Probably… can Apple iPhone survive without the GSM networks?… Probably not….

    Apple need to grow up a little and realise that everything is not about them and that collaboration is the way forward…

    Quality and control can be achieved as long as all parties are on the same page…

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