a week in wireless

Beggars can’t be choosers

It’s a truism of the cutthroat world of human romance that there are few more effective turn-offs than desperation. It’s not absolutely the least appealing trait one can exhibit, of course. You could show yourself to be bigoted, selfish, arrogant or miserly, for example. They’re probably worse. Or you could just be butt-ugly. But on the list of characteristics that set the warning lights a-flashing, desperation is right up there.

Which is why it seems so strange that 3 Australia should not at least make an effort to conceal its neediness. This week the firm urged its own customers to sign a petition beseeching Apple to bestow upon it the distribution rights for the iPhone that it so pitifully craves. Optus, Telstra and Vodafone will all have the product on offer later this month; 3 alone is deemed unworthy.

So it posted a petition on its website, where its customers could signal their desire to Apple. What monkey thought this one up? A whole campaign dedicated to telling your customers that you don’t have the one thing that they all want, but your competitors do.? It’s either so far out of the box that it’s stone cold genius, or it’s just stupid. Which isn’t far behind desperate in the romancing no-nos department.

Still, it’s no fun being the one who’s left behind. It reminds the Informer of another story this week – nothing to do with wireless – about a Swedish eight year-old boy who had a birthday party and opted not to invite two of his classmates. The kid’s school complained to the Swedish Parliament, claiming that the uninvited pair’s rights had been violated. Eh? If that’s the case then the Informer’s rights were violated repeatedly during his childhood – a trend that’s shown no sign of slowing down as he’s matured. But then, the Informer’s not well liked.

While we’re talking about marketing exercises, France Telecom’s Orange has launched a new brand campaign with the following clumsy slogan: ‘Together we can do more’. It’s the France Telecom group’s first globally integrated campaign, which is perhaps why its central message sounds like a translation when read in English.

Sometimes the lofty ideals of marketing speak get right on the Informer’s tits. “Bringing people together is why Orange is here in the first place. Orange deals with and empowers relationships; they define who we are today and what we can become and achieve in the future,” gushed the press release. Really? The Informer always thought Orange was here in the first place to make money. Maybe he’s just tired and emotional today, and ill-disposed towards this kind of evangelism.

Once, just once, he’d like some plain speaking. “Cellco launches a new international brand campaign today with the slogan: ‘Confused and frustrated? You will be!’ Don’t understand your tariff? Nope, you’re not supposed to. Want to leave our network because your contract’s up? You can speak to a member of our team; a person of such colossally limited intelligence that they don’t even understand the concept of departure, making it impossible for you ever to escape.

“And if by some miracle you do find your way out of the Maze of the Incompetents, we’ll take FIVE DAYS to post your port authorisation code to you on the grounds that we’re not allowed to give it to you over the phone. Then, when it doesn’t arrive at your house – as we promised – we’ll begrudgingly give it to you over the phone, as you requested in the first place. We hope you feel empowered.”

It’s more likely you’ll end up feeling like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

In other Orange news, it emerged this week that the firm’s bid to gobble up TeliaSonera has failed, with the Nordic outfit clearly gratified by the outcome.

“As the terms and conditions [of the offer] have not been significantly improved, the Board of TeliaSonera maintains its view that the proposal substantially undervalues the company,” the firm said in a statement.

There was damning criticism of the bid from one Michael Kovacoy, European telecoms analyst at Daiwa SMBC, who said the deal “lacked compelling industrial logic from the outset,” before adding that: “France Telecom has a major task ahead of itself to regain credibility – which will be neither easy to do, nor will it come quickly.”

Recently Orange has also signalled an interest in Ghana Telecom, which has been moving towards a partial privatisation. This too was not to be, however, and on Thursday this week, Vodafone announced that it had secured 70 per cent of the business, with the Ghanaian Government retaining 30 per cent.

Telecom is the third-placed mobile player and the leading fixed operator in Ghana, where subscriber growth is running at 55 per cent annually. Penetration sits at just 35 per cent. The cost to Vodafone is $900m and Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin commented: “Our extensive operating experience together with our portfolio of products and services position us well to deliver a superior mobile experience to Ghanaian customers and significantly improve financial performance. I expect that our investment will generate substantial benefits for Vodafone and for the Ghanaian economy and we are delighted that we will be working in partnership with the Government of Ghana.”

Isn’t he supposed to be leaving? It seems to always be “just one more thing” with him, doesn’t it. He’s like Columbo.

Elsewhere, Vodafone’s been cosying up to social networking outfit Myspace, with the two firms collaborating on a new interactive music service called Vodafone Music Reporter. The service will allow music content to be shared internationally, including festivals with which the firm is involved this summer. It will also feature user generated material.

Talking of international sharing, the GSM Association has responded in familiar fashion to EU telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding’s latest plan to drive down data roaming charges in Europe. The Association argues that price caps already introduced by the EC are forcing operators to pull back on network investment. “Europe’s mobile industry is cutting back spending on new networks and services as a growing regulatory burden from the European Union puts profitability under pressure,” the group said this week.

It cites figures showing that the EU mobile industry’s capital spending has slipped from 13 per cent of revenue in 2005 to 12 per cent in 2006 and 11 per cent in 2007 and argues that the boom in roaming voice calls predicted by the EU as the logical outcome of its pricing regulation has not happened. Quoting AT Kearney, the GSMA says that voice roaming call volumes have swollen by just 11 per cent in the year to July 2008, while operators’ voice roaming revenues have decreased by 26 per cent.

The suggestion is that roaming tariff regulation is spanking operator revenues so much that they will not be able to build out sufficient network capacity and coverage to support the growth of a meaningful data roaming environment.

The problem with this is that the GSMA has always argued that competition will bring pricing down by as much if not more than regulation. In which case, revenues were bound for a drop anyway and the market economy would leave operators in much the same position. And, while a one per cent per year decrease in capital investment may well be a reality, it’s by no means a given that this is a direct result of falling roaming revenues. Simply, it may not be necessary as further upgrades to 3G technologies require less substantial investment than the build out of radio networks.

Anyway, in other regulator/industry clash news this week, Swedish vendor Ericsson has had a pop at UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom, over the body’s plans for 2.6MHz spectrum auctions. As part of its technology- and service-neutral approach, Ofcom will allow successful bidders to chose whether they use the TDD or FDD profiles in the spectrum they secure. Ericsson’s director of government and industry relations, Mikael Halen, warned this week that this could lead to interference between TDD and FDD solutions, resulting in “a poorer customer experience.”

Ericsson isn’t the only firm to have raised issues with the auction. O2 and T-Mobile have taken legal action against Ofcom to delay the auction, because they say the UK regulator has not yet made it clear how much of the spectrum they currently use for 2G can be used for 3G. By not knowing this, say the two operators, they cannot properly value the spectrum in the 2.6GHz band.

Ericsson’s handset JV, Sony Ericsson, was down in the doldrums this week, with the news that it will only break even for the second quarter of 2008. The company said that its net sales and net income before taxes would continue to be negatively affected by poor sales of its mid to high end handsets, in combination with a delay of new products.

This is the second profit warning this year, after the company took a knock that sent its net income down to Eur133m, from Eur254m in the same period last year during the first quarter.

T-Mobile claimed this week to be the first among UK operators to deploy HSUPA nationwide, offering upload speeds of up to 1.4Mbps. That’s nice, but over in T-Mobile’s German homeland, Nokia’s being well and truly hauled over the coals by the town of Bochum, where the Finnish vendor closed a factory earlier this year, relieving 2,300 locals of gainful employment. You can never discount the Germans, of course, and boy-oh-boy are they getting their pound of Finnish flesh.

Nokia agreed to a Eur200m package for the 2,300 workers it axed from its device manufacturing plant. But this has been deemed insufficient by the spurned Germans, who have hewn a “Growth for Bochum” cross for Nokia to bear.

Under the deal, Nokia will embark upon a proactive, international campaign to attract investors to Bochum in order to create long term employment opportunities; it will help establish an “Entrepreneur Centre” to develop and grow new companies; a Chair will be created at the Bochum University to ensure the commercialisation of scientific research; the firm must find a suitable buyer or investor for the Nokia facilities in Bochum; and will give financial support for the surrounding region of Bochum. As part of the deal, Nokia will also contribute Eur20m plus the net proceeds from the sale of the production facility and property in Bochum.

For the love of God! These people know how to turn the screws, don’t they? How easy do you think it’s going to be for Nokia to attract investors to Bochum? As soon as these potential investors get wind of what happened to Nokia when it decided to move on you won’t see them for dust. Cue a manic, bedraggled Nokia clutching at the sleeves of the newcomers:

“Where d’you think you’re going? Don’t you see? You’re in Bochum, now. This is your home. You mustn’t ever leave. You can’t leave. NOBODY LEAVES ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”

It’ll be like trying to sell a haunted house when the current inhabitants have been driven insane with fear.

“We said in January that, as a responsible company, we would work together with the employee representatives, unions, NRW Government and City of Bochum to find ways to support employees and Bochum’s future growth both during and after the difficult process of closing the factory,” said Nokia chief financial officer and executive vice president Rick Simonson, presumably after being forced to perform Michael Flatley’s Riverdance, naked but for a jester’s hat, for the amusement of the Town Fathers. “We are pleased to now announce this important milestone,” he added, through clenched teeth.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere, the Informer’s sure. You may think Nokia is getting a hard time of it but that’s nothing compared to what suspected terrorist detainees have to go through at the hands of the US intelligence services. Apparently, the Yanks have taken to blasting their prisoners with high volume recordings of David Gray’s hit single Babylon.

The Informer’s got no problem with torture. Water-boarding, fine. Pins down the fingernails, fine. Pliers, teeth, electrodes, bamboo, whatever you want – knock yourself out. But David Gray? If we turn a blind eye to this kind of thing, there’s no way of knowing what they’ll do next. God forbid they should get hold of a James Blunt album.

Happy Independence Day.

Take care

The Informer

One comment

  1. Avatar I. M. Young 07/07/2008 @ 2:29 pm

    Dear editors or whoever wrote the above piece,

    You conveniently neglected to mention that the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) granted Nokia huge subsidies with the understanding that Nokia not leave Bochum whenever they please as NRW tried to create jobs for the many unemployed in the Ruhr region negatively affected by closures in the coal and steel industries.

    None of your reports mentions the subsidy Nokia received from the German NRW government. Why?

    You can do better than that! A more balanced presentation would be greatly appreciated.

    The Informer says:
    Indeed, telecoms.com has covered the subsidies issue in previous articles:

    And it is understood that the Eur60m or so handed out in subsidies by NRW, is to be repayed as part of the Eur200m package previously agreed to:

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