The Power Socket at Each Train Seat

According to the ‘DB
Mobile’ magazine 9/2006, the Deutsche Bahn (German railways) is about to retrofit their
high speed trains with power sockets at each seat. Great news for people like
me and others who prefer the train and who previously had to struggle for seats
near power sockets to get some work done while on the go. All high speed trains
are also already equipped with GSM repeaters so coverage inside the train for the
mobile Internet is usually excellent. So Deutsche Bahn, when you do the
retrofit, don’t forget to add UMTS repeaters.

My Take on the Ultimate Landline Replacement Offer

In some countries like Germany, where mobile ownership has now gone beyond the 100% mark, mobile operators are looking for ways to continue their growth. Thus, mobile operators are now starting to develop offers to animate people to ditch their landlines in favor of a ‘mobile only’ lifestyle.

Telephony replacement only: Replacing a landline for people who do not have a computer and Internet access at home is pretty simple. Have a reasonable offer for both originating and terminating calls and people can’t wait to drop their monthly fixed line charge. O2 began to do this already many years ago in Germany with a product they called ‘Genion’. With that offer, mobile subscribers get both a mobile and a fixed line phone number. While being in their "homezone", cheaper tariffs apply for outbound calls. For incoming calls, people can use either the fixed line or the mobile number. The advantage of using the fixed line number is the fact that the caller only pays for a fixed line call which is much cheaper then calling a mobile phone. The model has been quite a success and since landline replacement has become the strategy of the day, T-Mobile and Vodafone have started to develop and market similar offers.

Telephony and Internet Replacement: Replacing both fixed line telephony and Internet at home is somewhat more difficult. But again, competition in the market brings some innovative ideas to get to those customers as well. Again, O2 was the first to start offering a surf box for the home. The surf box is basically a wireless lan access point with a built in UMTS phone or PCMCIA card. While prices for wireless Internet access where pretty high at the beginning they’ve come down quite a bit recently as Vodafone and T-Mobile have also started to make similar offers. Vodafone for example offers a surf box and 5 GB of data traffic for around 40 Euros a month. The catch: The use of the surf box with the included traffic is limited to a home zone. If location bound wireless Internet access solutions will persist in the market is not sure. Since T-Mobile has started their "web’n’walk" program, similar offers are now available without being restricted to a single physical location. With HSDPA now available in some networks, expect to see new versions of these surf boxes to match speeds of current DSL lines. While prices are not yet competitive enough to trigger a landslide victory for fixed Internet access replacement, wireless access has one big advantage: Ease of installation. In the majority of cases, DSL installation is a nightmare and takes weeks in the best case and many calls to service centers and sleepless nights in the worst case. When getting wireless Internet access, however, you can take your notebook to the sales point, get a surf box and contract, try it out in the shop and then take it home. That’s it! In my opinion, operators have so far not capitalized this tremendous advantage.

The ultimate replacement offer: Apart of the easy installation process, wireless networks have another big advantage over fixed line networks: Video telephony. Agreed, it’s still not much used today but things are changing quickly as I discovered in a previous blog entry. This is the one service fixed line networks can’t offer. Once UMTS terminal ownership reaches a point where your friends suddenly also have video phones, a competitive bundle of voice telephony, video telephony and wireless Internet access could make more people ditch their landlines. We are not quite there yet, but I expect that in another 12 to 24 months the critical element, UMTS phones in the hands of more than 25% of the population, should be in place in many countries.

1000 New Mobile Phone Users per Minute

Some incredible facts: The GSM Association has stated in a press release that 1000 new GSM subscribers are added around the globe every minute. They further say that it took GSM 12 years to reach 1 billion subscribers but only two and a half years to reach the second billion. Almost 30% of the earth’s population is now in possession of a mobile phone.

These days the phenomenal growth is mostly coming from countries like China, India and Africa. I guess the second billion is especially challenging to serve as monthly revenues in these countries per subscriber is probably very low. But wireless networks have come a long way since GSM was launched in 1992 and both networks and mobile phones today only cost a fraction of the prices 10 years ago.

While voice undoubtedly is still the main application for wireless networks in both rich and poor countries, the mobile Internet is catching up. Take a recent BBC article for example in which they state that a third of all WAP pages served to users outside the U.K. are requested from Nigeria. They state that their  WAP page access has now accumulated to over 58 million pages per month. A staggering number, just as the 1000 new users a minute.

Carnival of the Mobilists 42 at

Another week, another Carnival of the Mobilists. This week, the Carnival is hosted over at As always, the Carnival contains a great roundup of the latest ideas and thoughs of the people behind the major wireless blogs on the web. I very much agree to this’s weeks pick of Scott Shaffers blog entry on Google, China Mobile and 2D barcodes as post of the week. So don’t wait and head over to the Carnival.

S60 Phone Software Update Utility – List of Bug Fixes

By now you’ve probably seen on some other blogs that Nokia now offers a Phone Software Update program to let people update their S60 phones such as the 6630, 6680, N70 and others themselves. So I wondered what bugs an update of my N70 would fix. I came up with the following links which list the fixes done by each software version for a variety of phones:

The lists of bug fixes are quite extensive. Quite interesting, I never encountered 95% of them with my usage pattern. Unfortunately, the web sites do not mention where they’ve got the information from. I wished Nokia would officially post such lists.

What will the US do with the money of the spectrum auction?

Just read a report about the ongoing spectrum auction in the US. T-Mobile is already willing to pay over 3 billion dollars to get a nation wide spectrum allotme nt. Observers expect the total revenue generated by the auction from all companies involved to be over 15 billion dollars. It kind of reminds me of what happend
in Germany a couple of years ago when the total sum for 3G licenses was about 50 billion euros or about 70 billion dollars.

So what will happen to the money? Will the US be as short sighted as Germany and just use the money to reduce the national debt or will they reinvest at least a
part of the money into the wireless industry? Just imagine what 10% of this sum would do when invested into wireless projects and new services…

Anyone aware what will happen to the money?

Mobile Web Sponsoring

Wapreview recently ran an interesting article on Yelp Mobile, a service featuring user reviews of everything from restaurants to services and businesses. What I find particularly interesting is that they are sponsored by Palm. To me sponsoring web sites, particularly in the wireless domain, seems to be a win-win situation for the site, the sponsor and the mobile web in general.

On the one hand it’s obviously a win for the sponsored site. On the other hand it’s also a win for the sponsor in several ways. Big web companies like Yahoo and Google and also hardware manufacturers like Palm, Nokia and others live from their image. In my opinion this is one of the reasons why they offer so many services for free.

Sure, they do advertising on those sites in many cases. Nevertheless, I think many services might not be sustainable simply from the advertisement money they generate directly. I rather suspect that the main revenue stream of those companies is the advertising included in some of their other products which are loosely coupled to their services like search or sold ads on other web sites (e.g. Adwords). Free services get additional attention for profitable services which in turn generate more money which in turn again generates revenue to sponsor free services. A nice ecosystem.

Yahoo’s mobile activities around the recent Football world cup is another good example. They surely invested a lot of money into the mobile site for the event. At the same time they also advertised their involvement and thus generated attention for themselves and the mobile web. So a lot of people did not only become aware of Yahoo but also of the mobile web.

Many companies want to expand into the mobile space. So their sponsoring and advertising does not only help their brand but also helps to expand a market which is still in its infancy.

Wind’s got EDGE in Northern Italy!

Agreed, the Lago di Garda is not really a remote area in Northern Italy. However, it is just remote enough that none of the four Italian operators (TIM, Vodafone, Wind and Tre (H3G)) does yet have UMTS coverage in the small village up in the mountains where we have chosen to spend the final week of our vacation. Two surprises though: TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) does not have EDGE coverage here. Very strange as they use EDGE in areas where their UMTS coverage is o.k.!? The positive surprise is WIND: I checked on the web and found no trace of this. Nevertheless, they’ve definitely got their network at the Lago di Garda equipped with EDGE. Great stuff, accessing the Internet is just smooth. Happy holidays 😉

3G Video Calls are now in the Wild

It’s incredible but true: For two years I knew nobody but myself who was using 3G Video Telephony in a real network. But yesterday, I finally saw the first 3G video call "in the wild" between three persons unknown to me.

It was interesting to watch the person casually holding the phone while wandering through the supermarket, joking with the person on the other side, showing him some stuff he discovered and showing his girlfriend who was with him what was going on at the other side. It was good to see the practicality of the whole setup. They didn’t use a headset but used the hands-free mode of their Sony Ericsson V800. The audio quality must have been o.k. since they had no problem communicating.

I am more convinced than ever now that once 3G phones become more widespread and a critical mass is reached mobile video telephony will become a mass market application. 3G coverage is now widely in place in most countries in Europe and video telephony has a major advantage over many other advanced services: It is as easy to use as voice telephony!

24 Aug. 2006 – Update: While in Verona the other day, I’ve seen another peroson engaged in a video call. Once again no headset was used. The person, a man in his best years was hardly in the age group that is known to try out freaky new things. So it looks like video telephony is slowly entering the mass market of the ‘non geeks’, too.