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Monday, August 22, 2016

Google Unveils Video Chat App


Google has released a simple video calling application called Google Duo for Android and iOS devices. Designed as a no-frills rival to Facebook Messenger and Apple's FaceTime, the app was first announced at Google’s I/O Conference in May and will begin to roll out in 78 languages over the next few days. To get started, users simply download the app and can then instantly begin a video call with a single tap of the face of the person they want to call. Contacts who do not have Duo can be invited over SMS with an app download link. For video calls on the go, Duo will switch between Wi-Fi and mobile data automatically without dropping the call, Google said. The Android version of the app comes with a feature called Knock Knock, which allows call recipients to see live video of a caller before they answer the call.  According to Google, “Knock Knock makes video calling more spontaneous and welcoming, helping you connect with the person before you even pick up.”

Google is a late entrant into the OTT video calling game, and its offering is not revolutionary in nature. However, it has features that could make it a game-changer. Most importantly, Google is going head-to-head with mega-rival Apple’s FaceTime app, with one major difference: Duo is device-agnostic, whereas FaceTime only works between Apple devices. In general market-strategic terms, Apple has always emphasized its hardware, while Google has emphasized its universally-available operating system, Android. And of course, here Google is going Apple one better by offering its Duo app for iOS, as well.

Duo, which has few frills, is intending to appeal to consumers with signal quality and reliability. Calls are encrypted, and the resolution is automatically adjusted according to the prevailing signal strength. Google has said that it created a new protocol for Duo, which guarantees fast and secure calling, in partnership with the developers behind the open framework WebRTC. In short, by offering the FaceTime experience to the vast majority of smartphone users worldwide, across platforms, with potentially greater reliability and security, Google, is in a position to get a large chunk of the video-calling customer base and hold onto it. The fact that Google has an enormous pre-existing customer base only adds to its chances of success. For mobile operators, then, Duo represents a further challenge to its voice calling revenue streams, since video calling competes directly with voice. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Orange Poland Offers New Version of VoIP App Libon

Orange Poland has introduced a new version of the application Libon for VoIP calls to any country in Europe and North America. For 10 minutes of calls customers pay PLN 4.29 (US $1.09); 100 minutes cost PLN 30.49 (US $7.75); 200 minutes cost PLN 52.19 (US $13.26) and the biggest package of 400 minutes costs PLN 82.99 (US $21.09), i.e. PLN 0.20 per minute. National calls within Poland as well as calls from anywhere in the world to Poland are cheaper—the package of 100 minutes costs PLN 7.99 (US $2.03); 250 minutes cost PLN 16.49 (US $4.19) and 500 minutes cost PLN 24.99 ($6.35). A free package of 100 minutes is available as a bonus upon registration for the app.

Libon, launched in 2012, is a VoIP app for iOS and Android created by France-based telecom giant Orange. It represents an attempt on the part of a major multinational operator to compete with the OTT services that have been undermining the voice services of MNOs, especially when it comes to out-of-country calling. While Libon is available for download even to those who are not Orange subscribers, and even in countries where Orange has no presence, in many cases it is used as a strategy to keep customers inside the Orange ecosystem, instead of resorting to WhatsApp, Skype or other similar services. The new version launched in Poland offers services that are attractively priced. In the domestic market, the prices are especially low; the question arises, then, as to whether or not they will cannibalize the operators cellular business within Poland, and whether that would be counterbalanced by revenue increases from international calling on the part of Orange subscribers who choose Libon. 



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 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Vodafone Ghana: LTE Too Expensive to Roll Out Now


Vodafone Ghana says it is in no hurry to roll out 4G/LTE services, citing the poor penetration of 4G-enabled gadgets and unfavorable market conditions generally, according to a report. Vodafone CEO Yolanda Zoleka Cuba said that despite the many advantages of LTE, the company views the high-speed network technology as a long-term venture, since only 1 percent of the population have 4G-enabled devices. Cuba further stated that the low penetration makes it very difficult to justify the US $67.5 million 4G license fee required by the country’s National Communications Authority.
 
 
Device penetration has always been the Achilles heel for LTE adoption. In chronicling the spread of high-speed networks, we have frequently noted in these pages that the revenue potential of LTE networks—and in many cases, indeed, their success or failure—depends on how much of the customer base either has LTE-enabled handsets or can be induced to purchase them. The spread of budget-priced smartphones worldwide has made it a viable option for operators to incentivize customers to make their first purchase of an LTE-enabled phone. However, in the present case, Vodafone Ghana has decided that LTE-enabled device penetration in the country is simply too low (at 1 percent) to justify the expense needed to roll out the corresponding services.
 
However, there is another side to the question. Despite the very low uptake of LTE-compatible devices, there are some encouraging trends in the Ghanaian market. Mobile data use is on the rise, with the total number of subscribers at 18.75 million at the end of May and a total penetration rate of 67.67 percent, according to the National Communications Authority. Vodafone’s larger competitor MTN (which has 49.54 percent market share as compared with Vodafone’s 17.82 percent) has already begun to offer 4G/LTE, despite the lack of subscriber base, in partnership with Ericsson. Vodafone CEO Cuba has said that Vodafone cannot compete with MTN in this sector, and apparently, neither can rival operators Airtel, Tigo, Glo or Expresso. At this point, only the market leader can afford to experiment with LTE, but the fact that it has taken the step bodes guardedly well for the market’s future—albeit that future is still a quite a way off. 

 
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, August 8, 2016

Vodafone India Offers 1 GB of Bonus Data on Pre-Booked 4G SIMs


Vodafone India has launched a promotion for its customers in the state of Haryana, where the operator plans to commercially launch its 4G services soon. As part of the campaign, customers who pre-book their Vodafone 4G SIM until 23 August will receive a 1GB 4G data bonus valid for 10 days from activation. To access the offer, Vodafone customers in Haryana need a 4G-enabled handset and an active Vodafone 3G package. In addition, Vodafone 4G customers from Haryana will be able to access 4G connectivity while roaming across all existing Vodafone 4G circles in India—Mumbai, Delhi and environs, Kerala, Karnataka and Kolkata. Vodafone has already made 4G-ready SIMs available at 250 branded stores and at over 5,000 multi-brand outlets across Haryana.
 
The capital investment required to launch 4G-LTE services is quite substantial, and operators will of course want to know that there will be a customer base in place to provide the return on its investment. India is a rapidly developing mobile marketplace making the transition from 2G/3G to 4G. To incentivize its existing customers to purchase a 4G-enabled handset in order to be ready for the launch of the high-speed services, and to be willing to accept the higher charges for that service, Vodafone is offering some free data. A one-time 1 GB giveaway is not particularly extravagant by developed-market standards, but for users who have not previously had the ability to consumer large amounts of data via high-speed networks, it will likely be very appealing. Most important, though, from a strategic point of view is the fact that Vodafone India is requiring customers to pre-book their 4G service in order to get the promotional offer. With enough pre-booked subscriptions, the operator will have the confidence of knowing that its new service will have enough subscribers to bring in enough revenue to make it viable. We consider this to be a very savvy approach. 

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, July 29, 2016

Verizon Announces Acquisition of Yahoo’s Web Assets

As we have pointed out on numerous occasions, as traditional mobile services approach commodity status, operators have become aware that content is king. Content, in fact, is the key to future revenue growth, and in order to have access to that content, operators must either license it or purchase it. Very few telecom players in the world have pockets as deep as Verizon, and given its assets of US $220 billion, the U.S. giant has the ability to spend generously for the assets it needs. The price tag of nearly US $5 billion for Yahoo’s web properties may seem high, but it represents a tiny fraction of the internet company’s one-time valuation of US $125 billion. Yahoo has declined precipitously since its glory days during the first internet boom, but it still has much to offer. In particular, it should significantly bolster the video content portfolio that Verizon began building with its acquisition of AOL.
Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said, “By acquiring Yahoo’s operating business, we are scaling up to be a major competitor in mobile media. Yahoo’s operations provide a valuable portfolio of online properties and mobile applications, which attract over 1 billion monthly active consumer views.” He added, “Going forward, this acquisition will put us in a great position as a top global media company and give us a significant source of revenue growth for the future.” Both Verizon’s cable and mobile businesses can benefit significantly from this acquisition, as long as the operator deploys the content in a way that meets the ever-evolving demands of consumers. But whether the operator can truly compete with Google and Facebook in the realm of content delivery remains to be seen. 

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 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Orange Invests in Smartphone Purchase Credit Startup

Orange Digital Ventures—launched in 2015 with a €20 million (US $22.5 million) annual budget, said it has invested in PayJoy, an online platform allowing people with poor credit profiles to buy smartphones in installments. California-based PayJoy, which also attracted funding from several private equity players, says that its business model addresses up to 1 billion potential smartphone purchasers. The system works by installing PayJoy’s management software on the device, making the smartphone itself the guarantee for the lender. Orange, which did not disclose financial details, said its investment particularly targets its 110 million clients in Africa and the Middle East.
 
 
Getting smartphones into as many hands as possible is clearly a desired goal for mobile operators worldwide. Without deep penetration of these devices, full utilization of networks is not possible, and MNOs’ investments in those networks will not achieve maximum return. For many potential customers, especially in the developing world, financial barriers to purchasing smartphones are high. Installment-plan device purchasing has already become widespread even in wealthy nations; it should be even more appealing to budget-minded customers in comparative poor ones. Therefore, it is good strategy, in our view, for a multinational operator such as Orange to engage in a partnership to make smartphones more accessible to such customers. PayJoy’s technology, which claims to use the device itself as a way to offset the risks involved in installment purchases by low- or no-credit consumers, claims to use the device itself as collateral for what amounts to a loan. The company cites research by McKinsey that estimates the potential global market for its alternative credit model at US $2.3 billion. Whether or not this particular model turns out to be a winner, we firmly believe that creative plans for smartphone proliferation among populations that currently find it hard to afford them is good for operators’ business, and that therefore they should seek them out.


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, July 20, 2016

Rwanda and Gabon Launch One Area Network



Rwanda and Gabon have introduced One Area Network, an initiative under which the two central African nations will get rid of roaming charges, allowing their citizens to enjoy reduced calling rates, according to a news report. The initiative is being launched by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Gabonese counterpart, Ali Bongo. Kagame said the development will serve to integrate the continent and enable citizens of the two countries to communicate cheaply. Kagame also said that the digital integration will serve to achieve the goal of having a single digital market. In order to achieve affordable and accessible internet, it is important to involve the private sector, Kagame noted, adding that wide access to broadband is difficult to achieve without public-private partnerships.

In the European Union, as we have written on several occasions recently, extra roaming fees attracted strong opposition from many policymakers and members of the public and as a result are being phased out. In other markets, operators are making significant revenue from roaming surcharges and there is no move afoot from state regulators or industry consortiums to eliminate them. This initiative from Africa is interesting because shows that, at least in the opinion of decision-makers in that region, eliminating roaming can be a stimulus to MNO revenues and to the regional mobile economy generally. An initiative similar to the present one was implemented in the Northern Corridor region, which covers Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya; it increased mobile traffic in the region by about 800 percent and thereby increased profits for operators in the region. Kagame intends the One Area Network to be the first step toward the goal of achieving a single digital market for Africa. In that sense, his agreement with Ali Bongo is noteworthy, in that the two countries do not share a border; the digital unification of a region can transcend traditional geographic concepts. 

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