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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SK Telecom to Create Retail Centers for Pokémon Gamers


South Korean mobile operator SK Telecom has signed a partnership agreement with Japan-based The Pokémon Company to roll out joint marketing initiatives. Together, SK Telecom and The Pokémon Company will promote the AR (augmented reality) technology-based mobile game, according to a news report. SK Telecom said its 4,000 official retail stores throughout South Korea will serve as “PokéStops” where users can obtain virtual items and “Gyms” where they can engage in gaming battles using the Pokémon characters.

In cooperation with the U.S.-based AR software company Niantic, developer of the Pokémon mobile game, SK Telecom will enable its customers to play Pokémon Go without using their monthly data through the end of June. The company said the decision was made because younger game players are usually subscribers to cheaper data plans.


We have written frequently about mobile operators partnering with entertainment content providers in order to strengthen their brands, increase retention, or even directly drive revenue. This three-way partnership between an operator, SK Telecom, and both a content provider and a software developer, while it does not provide exclusive access to premium content, is nonetheless a creative plan that is likely to deliver benefits to all parties.

For the operator, the Pokémon agreement would achieve the following: First, it would associate SKT’s brand with that of a hugely popular, multi-platform pop-culture phenomenon. While most mobile co-branding takes place only through mobile devices, this plan to create play centers within SKT’s 4,000 physical stores adds another dimension to the cross-promotion and increases visibility. Because this visibility is at street level, it would also have the ability to attract a large number of potential customers who are not yet SK Telecom subscribers and thus could aid with acquisition as well as retention.

Second, by zero-rating Pokémon game-play data, the operator will be encouraging rapid uptake of the service. Since this is a relatively short-term data promotion, it is to be expected that after it ends, the operator will be able to convert a fairly large percentage of the trial users to long-term ones who will pay for the data needed to play the games. And since AR requires a large amount of data, this could prove particularly profitable. Given the addictive nature of mobile gaming, its power to upsell users will likely be strong. SKT is also smart to target the youth market with this offering, given the over all importance of early cultivation of this rapidly growing and data-hungry—though temporarily budget-minded—demographic.

Third, associating itself with cutting-edge technology such as AR is yet another good way for SK Telecom to burnish its brand and stay up to date.


 
Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Wind Adds Nest Smart Home Devices to Portfolio


Italian operator Wind has announced that it has added a range of Nest-branded smart home devices made by Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to its Digital Home & Life catalog. All customers of Wind and its fixed line division Infostrada can acquire the energy-saving Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Cam Indoor security camera or the Nest Cam Outdoor security camera at special rates and pay for them in monthly installments via their phone bill.

For postpaid customers, the devices can be can be bought with a small upfront payment and 30 monthly payments of as little as €2.00 (US $2.14), which means a discount of up to €110.00 (US $117.50) for the Nest Learning Thermostat and €90.00 (US $96.10) for the Nest Cam. For prepaid customers, the installments can be as low as €4.00 (US $4.27) per month, according to the operator.


As the range of mobile-enabled services expands, operators have numerous opportunities to benefit from them. As we have pointed out before, they should be looking for ways to profit from such services beyond simply providing the necessary mobile bandwidth. Connected devices such as those branded by Nest can, of course, be bought and used independently of any mobile operator’s network. But Italy’s Wind is making a savvy move by bringing Nest products into its ecosystem.

By offering discounts and purchasing plans for these increasingly-desirable devices, Wind is ensuring, first off, that it rather than another operator will get the revenue from the data consumption that will occur once the devices are installed in its customers’ homes. In addition, the convenient installment plans, by making it easier for subscribers to afford the smart home products, have the effects of increasing customer satisfaction with the operator in near term and helping with retention over time.

Finally, by linking itself with a popular global brand, Wind is boosting its own brand. By making it clear that it embraces new technologies and helps them to proliferate by making it easier for its customers to afford them, the operator increases its relevance in the ever-evolving marketplace. 





Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One-Third of Chileans Unaware of How Much Data They Consume

Around 32 percent of Chilean prepaid and postpaid subscribers have no idea how much data they consume every month, according to a report conducted by mobile operator WOM.

The actual usage figures are as follows: 36 percent of postpaid customers use between 2 GB and 5 GB per month, and young people aged 18–24 are the heaviest users. In terms of monthly spend, 26 percent of the 18–24 demographic spend between CLP 20,000.00 (US $30.00) and CLP 30,000.00 (US $45.00) per month on data, and 18 percent of them spend more than CLP 30,000.00. Around 44 percent of the data use in this age range is for streaming services such as Netflix or YouTube.

Findings such as this one from Chile are, we think, very instructive for mobile operators designing plans. We often assume that customers and potential customers make rational decisions about their purchase of services, weighing their consumption habits against various pricing options. However, in many cases they are doing nothing of the sort, since they actually do not know how much data they consume, or how that data is apportioned.

While consumer ignorance could work to the MNOs’ advantage under certain circumstances—for example, by causing some users to pay for more data than they really need—in general we believe that it is in operators’ interest for customers to be well informed about their usage. With operators taking pains to craft packages with multiple options and price levels aimed at various user profiles, subscribers need to have accurate knowledge about their use of data (as well as voice minutes and SMS, for that matter) in order to make good decisions about which plans are right for them.

Therefore, operators need to take action. First, they should be conducting customer surveys to assess the level of awareness about service consumption. Then, if they identify a problem—as in Chile and in many other markets—they should implement new practices to remedy the situation.

One possible solution is simply clearer and more transparent billing to make it obvious to subscribers exactly what their consumption was in a given period and how much they paid per service. Beyond that, operators could set up procedures so that users are regularly informed about their usage levels, via text message or otherwise through their devices, at regular intervals and not just when top-ups are about to run out. Another approach is a voluntary subscription check; the operator 3 Denmark is currently offering this option, which it decided to do after an independent survey found that 54 percent of Danes did not know their mobile consumption levels. Of the customers who have agreed to the check, about 25 percent have actually changed their mobile plans.

We believe that an informed customer really is the best customer, and any campaign to raise awareness levels about usage would be a win-win proposition. Otherwise, many of the intricacies of plan design could end up being wasted effort. 


 


Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Facebook Launches Low-Cost WiFi in Kenya


Facebook has activated low-cost internet access in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, according to a report. The launch, which is part of the U.S.-based internet giant’s “Express Wi-Fi” program, is a joint project with Surf, a Kenyan ISP, and went live about three weeks ago.

The service is currently available in Nairobi and surrounding areas. Express Wi-Fi offers a 10-day package in which users get 100 MB free per day, after which they need to top up through recharge agents. Daily internet bundles cost KES 10.00 (US $0.10) for 40 MB and KES 20.00 (US $0.19) for 100 MB, while weekly Express Wi-Fi bundles cost KES 50.00 (US $0.48) for 300 MB and KES 100.00 (US $0.96) for 500 MB. Monthly bundles cost KES 200.00 (US $1.93) for 1.25 GB and KES 500.00 (US $4.81) for 3 GB. Surf Kenya CEO Mark Summer said that the prices are subject to change subsequent to the launch.


Express Wi-Fi is Facebook’s latest attempt—under its Internet.org initiative—to spread internet access in developing countries, the intent, of course, being to add users to Facebook. Before Kenya, it recently launched in Uganda, Nigeria and India. A previous program, called Free Basics, ran into trouble because by offering zero-rated access to Facebook and selected other sites, it ran afoul of net neutrality principles and was banned by India’s national regulator in February 2016. Express Wi-Fi is different in that it will not zero-rate and there will be no free connectivity.

The question is, will Express Wi-Fi be a genuine threat to mobile operators in Kenya? Its data is certainly much cheaper than that offered by the MNOs: Safaricom sells a 65 MB daily internet bundle for KES 50.00 (US $0.48), and Airtel and Orange charge the same amount for even less data, 50 MB and 40 MB, respectively. However, it is by no means clear what quality level Facebook and Surf will be able to deliver, what the actual footprint of the service will look like and how many hotspots there will be.

Even if Express Wi-Fi delivers on its promises, we believe that there are things the MNOs in Kenya can offer potential customers that Facebook cannot, at least at this point. Beyond the idea of cellular data versus Wi-Fi, operators in the African markets have discovered the power of mobile money services—notably Safaricom’s M-Pesa—as a way of attracting and keeping customers, and from all the evidence we can see, access to mobile money is going to continue to be a very important priority for users in this region. Stand-alone, non-MNO data services, since they lack this incentive, may have a hard time catching on despite the low initial pricing.



Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

T-Mobile Austria Launches SIM Plan with Interchangeable Units


T-Mobile Austria has introduced a new offer of flexible tariffs that begins on 2 March, based on interchangeable units for minutes, SMS and megabytes of data. According to the operator, the SIM card “Wie Ich Will” (“the way I want it”) is the first offering in Austria to have complete interchangeability between all three services, according to T-Mobile. The card is valid for a 12-month period.

With this offer, customers get 4,000 units for €10.00 (US $10.58) a month or 15,000 units for €15.00 (US $15.87) a month. There is no activation fee or annual service charge. Initially, customers receive the 15,000-unit package for the first two months by default, and afterward they can switch between the two options each month.

Payment options are flexible—either one-time, monthly or automatic. Customers can decide to top up credit via vouchers or ATMs, as well as through their devices or the operator’s website. When a package is used up, customers may buy additional units for €0.09 apiece under the basic tariff.


Flexibility, as we have noted previously, is one of the most desired features in mobile plans today, and this trend cuts across a multitude of market conditions and demographics. The greatest flexibility comes from offering complete interchangeability between voice minutes, SMS, and data, which allows users to allocate their spend entirely according to their usage preferences and does not prejudice one kind of mobile service over any other. That is exactly what T-Mobile Austria’s new SIM package achieves.

The pricing on this offer is not only quite low, as befits a budget SIM prepaid plan, but it is also sensibly tiered in a way that should incentivize customers to buy more units rather than less. For the higher price of €15.00, the cost of one unit is €0.001, while at the lower spending level of €10.00 it costs more than double that, €0.0025. And the unit cost of €0.09 if purchased individually is, of course, dramatically higher by percentage, although still worthwhile if needed in small quantities and on occasion.

Adding to the flexibility with respect to choice between voice, texts, and data is the flexibility regarding payment, as regards both intervals of payment and mode of payment. On the whole, we feel that this plan is an excellent one, well thought-out and likely to appeal to budget-minded users who do not need or want new devices at the moment. We will not be surprised if T-Mobile’s competitors launch similar offers before long, and we can also imagine this approach being expanded to postpaid plans.




Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Friday, February 24, 2017

EE Creates 4G/LTE Technology With Balloons and Air Masts

U.K. operator EE says it has developed a technology that can supply voice and data connection in the most remote parts of the country, as well anywhere in the country during and after disasters such as floods. The operator demonstrated the system, which uses a network of small cells, balloons and so-called air masts based on drones.
 
The operator explained that the technology uses mini-mobile sites attached to helium balloons, or Helikites, to supply wide-area 4G/LTE mobile coverage where permanent sites have been damaged, or in areas where there is no high-speed coverage. EE also showcased drones equipped with mini-sites, each including a base station and antenna, which can be used to provide targeted coverage, including in search-and-rescue operations. For calling and internet access, the technology uses small cells that connect back to the EE network via satellite or the operator’s 4G spectrum.
 
Patents are currently pending on the tethered and powered mobile air mast systems, and EE expects to deliver a deployed balloon solution in a rural environment at some point during 2017.
 
 
Even in highly developed countries such as the U.K., lack of sufficient network coverage due to geographic factors can be a significant problem for operators and their customers. While one might imagine that ingenious methods to spread coverage to rural areas is something more characteristic of developing countries with highly isolated communities and forbidding climates, they are sometimes necessary in mature mobile markets, as well.
 
EE’s plan to use drones and balloons that connect to small-cell networks is a useful example of how operators can take matters into their own hands and build infrastructure in non-traditional ways when traditional solutions will not work.
 
The U.K. in particular has suffered from the so-called “not-spot” syndrome for quite a while, and we believe that by addressing it this way—provided the technology lives up to expectations—EE will deliver higher satisfaction levels to existing customers and also garner some new ones.
 
The air-mast solution would not only bring in revenue and boost retention and acquisition, it would also distinguish the operator in its market. In addition, the disaster contingency and relief applications of the new technology should bring additional kudos to EE, in terms of recognition for public service, and thereby burnish its brand.


Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

GSMA: Almost Half of Mobile Users Talk and Text Only


Nearly half the world’s mobile phone users still only use their devices to make voice calls and send SMS messages, according to a report from GSMA Intelligence. The Global Mobile Engagement Index classifies users into four categories, from “Aficionados” (most engaged), down through “Pragmatists” and “Networkers” down to “Talkers” (least engaged.)
 
In 2016 the Talkers—those who only use their mobile phones to make voice calls and send SMS—accounted for 47 percent of adult mobile phone owners worldwide. However, the GSMA predicts that this segment will shrink to 29 percent of the total by 2030, as users in the developing world become more engaged with data use and advances in mobile technology make it more available and affordable.
 
The GSMA’s survey, which took in 56 global markets representing 80 percent of the world’s population, shows that the three highest-scoring countries in terms of mobile engagement in 2016 were South Korea, Qatar and the United States.

 
This report from the GSMA is very interesting and valuable as a reminder of where we are in the mobile market, and it suggests some strategies for operators. For all the talk of the mobile data revolution sweeping the globe—including in these pages—the report makes it strikingly clear that uptake of data services has barely broken the 50 percent mark.
 
Of course, that figure is an average that masks a great imbalance between developed and developing markets. However, the report indicates that the dichotomy may not be as stark as some might suppose: For example, it found that even in France and the United States, SMS is still more frequently used than IP messaging such as Apple’s iMessage or OTT solutions such as Skype and WhatsApp.
 
In our view, the GSMA statistic points to two paths ahead for mobile operators: Of course MNOs (and device manufacturers, too) will and should continue to innovate in order to make data services more affordable and available, continue to increase 4G/LTE network coverage, and keep on incentivizing customers to take up data use and then increase their usage. On the other hand, operators should not neglect the “Talkers.” Even though the report predicts that their ranks will shrink to a 29 percent global share by 2030, that is still a large number, and 2030 is still a long way off. Therefore, catering to the needs of the talk-and-text-only user should remain an important priority for MNOs now and in the future.
 
Not only are traditional mobile services far from dead, they are the only services for a large enough cohort of users that operators must tailor plans to them and maintain services for them—including methods for accessing popular content such as Facebook without a data connection—even as they encourage them to upgrade to data.


Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance.


To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com