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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

T-Mobile Edges Verizon and AT&T in Speed Test

T-Mobile US swept the latest network test awards competition given by Open Signal, the U.K.-based company specializing in mobile network coverage mapping. Rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless showed a drop in 4G/LTE speeds. In tests conducted in April to June, T-Mobile scored best in availability, download speeds and latency.

Compared to the last tests, which Open Signal conducted in February 2017, Verizon showed a drop in average 4G speed of 2 Mbps, to 14.9 Mbps, which the market researcher said was likely attributable to the launch of unlimited data plans by the operator. AT&T’s speed dropped to 12.9 Mbps from 13.9 Mbps in the previous report. T-Mobile and Sprint, which have been offering unlimited data for a longer period, both showed improved average speeds of 17.5 Mbps and 9.8 Mbps, respectively.

T-Mobile also became the first U.S. operator to surpass the benchmark of 90 percent 4G availability in the tests, achieving 90.9 percent. Verizon was close behind with 4G available 89.8 percent of the time.

T-Mobile’s “Un-carrier” strategy has been widely noted for its aggressiveness in terms of plan features and pricing, and indeed has transformed the U.S. mobile market, with rival operators having to follow suit by offering no-subsidy smartphones and similar unlimited offerings. However, the major countervailing factor has been the perception that T-Mobile’s network did not match up to its plans, or even that the advantages of its generous plan features would be vitiated by the lack of quality and coverage of its signal. The recent test by Open Signal, while certainly not conclusive, strongly indicates that this is not currently an issue.

Open Signal itself acknowledged that T-Mobile may be getting higher ratings on availability due to its focus on urban areas. In the 4G speed category, Verizon won in six markets and tied for the top spot in 24 markets, while T-Mobile won in four markets and tied for the top in 25 markets.

In any case, this test is a timely reminder that as operators compete to devise ever-more creative plans with novel value-added features to lure customers, network performance is key and cannot be neglected. Consumers need speed, coverage and reliability; if these are not sufficient, any operator is likely to lose its competitive advantage.





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 7, 2017

Telefónica Launches Tuenti MVNO in Guatemala

Spain-based multinational operator Telefónica has announced the debut of its prepaid, youth-focused Tuenti MVNO in Guatemala, which it says will feature flexibility and transparency. The available voice-and-data bundles range from 1.5 GB of data and 75 minutes of calls for GTQ 50.00 (US $6.50) to 3 GB and 100 minutes for GTQ 75.00 (US $10.00) and 5 GB and 125 minutes for GTQ 100.00 (US $13.50). The plans also include unlimited access to WhatsApp, unlimited calls to other Tuenti subscribers and 25 minutes of VoIP calls through the Tuenti app.

Guatemala is the fifth Latin American market in which the Tuenti MVNO brand has been launched; first Mexico in 2014, then Argentina, Peru and Ecuador. The Mexican experiment did not go very well, and Telefónica discontinued Tuenti in that country, but that does not appear to be an indicator that this type of service is, generally speaking, a weak competitor. Most likely, the budget MVNO faced too much competition in Mexico, while in the other markets it is able to garner more market share.

As we have written in the past, the youth market is a fast-growing and potentially very lucrative one for mobile operators. Young people, while budget-minded by necessity, are strongly inclined to use large amounts of mobile data, and they are at an age when consumption habits and brand loyalties are being formed. Therefore, generous and low-priced offerings of data on a prepaid, low-commitment basis are the right way to get and keep these valuable customers.

Tuenti’s Guatemala service fits the bill in terms of price as well as data allowances—which, though not princely, they are adequately generous and appropriate for streaming entertainment content. The zero-rating of WhatsApp recognizes the fact that youth tend to rely heavily on OTT messaging.

While Tuenti does not offer specifically youth oriented entertainment content, it does offer calls to other Tuenti users, which is at least a nod to the particularly social nature of its target demographic.



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, August 4, 2017

Virgin Mobile USA Offers a Year of Service for US $1.00

The MVNO Virgin Mobile USA has launched a new iPhone-only offer in which customers will get one year of unlimited talk, text and data on Virgin Mobile’s nationwide network for US $1.00. That offer is valid through 31 July; those who join after that will get six months of service for the same price. After the promotional service periods end, the service will cost US $50.00 per month.
 
For a limited time, members of Virgin Mobile’s “Inner Circle” loyalty program will also be able enjoy a number of benefits including a round-trip companion ticket to the U.K. on Virgin Atlantic, one night’s stay at Virgin Hotels, savings of US $170.00 on an introductory offer to Virgin’s wine club, up to 20 percent off Virgin America flights and 20 percent off the Virgin Sport San Francisco Festival of Fitness.
 
With this offer, Virgin becomes the latest operator to sell its service in Apple stores and through Apple’s website, and it becomes the first iPhone-only operator in the United States.
 
 
Virgin is making a bold, attention-getting move to jump ahead in the U.S. MVNO market, in which its competitors include AT&T’s Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile’s MetroPCS. Without a doubt, a nearly-free-of-charge offer of a year’s unlimited service should make potential customers sit up and take notice, and the tight deadline for the full 12-month promotional period is obviously designed to pull in the lion’s share of new subscribers rapidly. If those subscribers can be converted to US $50.00-per-month subscribers after a year, the operator will have scored a significant victory.
 
In order to do that, though, Virgin Mobile will need to meet subscriber needs over time in ways other than just price. And in this respect, we are not sure whether they will be able to do so. For one thing, the term “unlimited” for this service is a bit of a misnomer—the speeds of customers who use more than 23 GB of data during a single billing cycle will be throttled as needed, depending on usage in the customer’s geographical area. In addition, there are concerns about domestic roaming: For areas to which Virgin’s coverage (on Sprint’s network) does not extend, subscribers will get 800 roaming voice minutes and 100 MB of roaming data, so subscribers would end up paying potentially hefty roaming surcharges after these modest limits are reached.
 
Another caveat: Until now, Virgin Mobile offered only Android phones to new subscribers, so the exclusive focus on the iPhone marks a major direction change that could positively affect the operator’s market position. However, the available iPhone models will be offered at retail price through Apple, not at a discount. In light of the extremely low introductory price of the plan, that may not be a problem, but then again it could be, simply in terms of cash flow, if payment has to be made in full up front as opposed to spread out over a 12- or 24-month period as with some of the major U.S. operators.
 
Finally, the incentives pertaining to the larger Virgin company’s non-mobile products and services, while no doubt appealing to some, are not likely, in our view, to be a major contributor to subscriber uptake, because of the fact that they are limited to just one 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 

Monday, July 31, 2017

3 UK Introduces "Go Binge" With Zero-Rated TV Content

Mobile operator 3 UK announced a new data service called “Go Binge,” which will enable customers to watch and listen to Netflix, TVPlayer, SoundCloud and Deezer on their mobile devices without using any of their data allowances. To take advantage of the service, existing customers on any contract, SIM-only or broadband deal must move to a higher price plan. New customers on Advanced plans with 4 GB or above will automatically get the service.

To promote the launch of Go Binge, 3 UK has introduced the “Bed n Binge” luxury retreat, which it calls a “pop-up glamping experience” (glamping being a reference to “glamorous camping”). The retreat, which opened on 5 July, and lasted for five days in Osterley Park in Middlesex had people pay for a night at the retreat by binge-watching. Guests were handed a Samsung S8 or S8+ smartphone connected to 3 UK and invited to stay in one of 15 luxury cabins inspired by Netflix programs, such as Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, Narcos and the new show, GLOW.

3 UK said Go Binge was created in response to the UK’s obsession with keeping up with the latest and most popular series, “no matter what the consequences, even if that means missing a social engagement or ‘cheat-watching’ on their partner.” A survey by the operator found that 21 percent of Brits say bingeing is now the only way they watch a TV series. Another 22 percent regularly binge content on the go. However, nearly 40 percent worry that streaming on the go will use up too much data.


Keeping up with and appropriately responding to consumer habits is key for mobile operators. The pop-cultural trend of binge-watching has been made possible by the internet-based delivery of TV content, which makes multiple episodes of a series available simultaneously. The increasingly prevalence of binge-watching over mobile devices causes the consumption of ever-larger amounts of data—and as 3 UK’s survey indicates, a sizable number of users have concerns about the amounts of data that their entertainment content will consume.

With that in mind, the operator is taking a bold step toward easing those concerns. By zero-rating the data not only for Netflix but for several popular streaming services, it is giving its subscribers powerful motivation to go ahead and binge-watch to their hearts’ content, without regard for the data quantities involved. The spirit of this offering is epitomized by the over-the-top “glamping” promotional event, which in addition to encouraging indulgence in data, also fosters self-identification with the Netflix content.

For the operator, there are several upsides to this data giveaway. First off, the terms of the promotion require existing users to upgrade their service in order to get access to the zero-rated content. The higher prices paid for the plans will over time offset, to some extent, the revenue lost on data charges from the zero-rating. Second, and more important, encouraging subscribers to use a lot more data will very likely affect their usage habits over time, which the operator can cash in on in the future. And finally, by acknowledging consumer desires and catering to them, the operator will be gaining the confidence and loyalty of its customer base. 



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 28, 2017

FreenetMobile Launches Entry-Level Smartphone Plans

FreenetMobile, part of German MVNO Freenet’s brand Klarmobil, launched three new entry-level smartphone plans starting at €3.95 (US $4.60) per month with a 24-month contract.

The FreeSmart 400 plan, which runs on Deutsche Telekom’s network, includes 400 MB of mobile data at speeds of up to 21 Mbps as well as 100 minutes, and costs €3.95 (US $4.60) with a contract or €5.95 (US $6.93) without a contract. FreeSmart 1000, on Vodafone’s network, includes 1 GB of mobile data at up to 21.6 Mbps as well as 100 minutes and 100 texts, and costs €5.95 (US $6.93) with a contract or €7.95 (US $9.26) without a contract, including a discount.

Finally, FreeSmart 2000, also on the Vodafone network, offers 2 GB of mobile data at speeds of up to 42.2 Mbps as well as 100 minutes and 100 texts, and costs €7.95 (US $9.26) with or €9.95 (US $11.60) without a contract, including a discount.

The connection charge is a one-off fee of €9.95 (US $11.60) under the 24-month contracts, or €19.95 (US $23.24) if the plans are taken out on a rolling monthly basis. Roaming is blocked for the first six weeks, and then activated automatically.


FreenetMobile, which runs on two different MNOs’ networks, is offering some boldly priced packages in an aggressive grab for German MVNO market share. The prices are about as low as they go, which should prove attractive to members of the heavily-courted youth demographic. And given the preference of young users for data over voice, the various plans all offer relatively large amounts of data and quite small amounts of included voice minutes. The rather meager texting offerings should pose little problem to customers, considering that most of them are likely to prefer messaging services, such as WhatsApp, that use data instead.

The operator is wise, also, to offer lowered rates if customers subscribe to 24-month contracts and higher data speed in the higher-end FreeSmart 2000 options. Since many of FreenetMobile's competitors publish much higher advertised speeds, the questions for users, though, will have to be whether the real-world data speeds are fast enough for their needs, which will certainly include data-hungry streaming services, and whether the coverage is good enough. If the answer is yes on both scores, FreenetMobile will doubtless be able to garner a sizable number of new budget-minded customers with its FreeSmart 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 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stand-Alone Messaging App from Amazon

U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon plans to launch its own stand-alone messaging app, called Anytime, according to a news report that cites a user who claims to have received an Amazon survey about the new messaging service. Amazon has not confirmed that it is working on this service.
 
The app would be available to end-users of smartphones, tablets, PCs and smartwatches. The survey asks users which features are most important to them, and according to one customer, the survey seemed to imply it was a ready product. Anytime is described as an all-in-one feature-rich service that includes text messages and video chat. Anytime will also include features that can be used in groups, such as games, music, and food ordering.
 
The service will keep chats private and will allow users to “encrypt important messages like bank account details.”
 
While this report is certainly far from conclusive, Amazon’s ambitions have always been big and appear to be getting bigger. The company has already launched messaging services for both businesses and consumers, including Amazon Chime, the online video-conferencing service for enterprises. Recently it launched messaging and calling features for Alexa devices.
 
So it makes sense that Amazon would launch an all-purpose OTT messaging app to compete directly with WhatsApp, Skype and others. And considering the company’s highly aggressive approach in general, its level of capitalization and its huge existing customer base, we would not be surprised to see Anytime (if that is what it will be called) pose a major threat to all existing players. Perhaps it would eventually even acquire and take over some of those services.
 
For mobile operators, Amazon’s entry into the OTT space would not have the impact it would have on the OTT players themselves, of course. The game has already been lost, in a sense, with MNOs losing messaging business to OTTs and then striking deals to zero-rate their data and even engaging in partnerships to promote them. Still, a huge, possibly market-dominating new player could shake things up in the sector. Amazon would arguably have less reason to work with the MNOs for promotional purposes, and it could also simply, by virtue of its size and scope, take even more business away from SMS/MMS and even MNOs’ voice services. At the very least, an Amazon OTT would be just one more challenge for mobile operators to contend with in the traditional services space—and maybe beyond, given the possible presence of gaming, music and other non-traditional features in the putative Anytime.



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 7, 2017

T-Mobile Poland Introduces Unlimited Calling Plan With Family Discount

T-Mobile Poland has launched an offer called T-Mobile 1 – Without Limit, which features unlimited calls (including in the EU), SMS and MMS as well as 10 GB of high-speed data, starting from PLN 30.00 (US $8.02). The packages are also available with a smartphone; this option also includes a free one-year Netflix subscription.

There are packages for couples and families as well as for individuals. Without a device the cost is PLN 50.00 (US $13.37) for individuals, PLN 40.00 (US $10.70) per person for couples and PLN 30.00 (US $8.02) per person for families. With smartphone, the prices are PLN 80.00 (US $21.40), PLN 60.00 (US $16.05) and PLN 50.00 (US $13.37), respectively. Phones available include Huawei P9 Lite (2017) and LG X Power 2 for PLN 1.00 (US $0.27) up front. The operator also offers Sony Xperia XA1, Huawei P10 Lite and other devices.

Customers porting a number from another network will get an additional monthly discount of PLN 10.00 (US $2.68) during the whole contract period.


With this slate of offers, T-Mobile Poland is going back to basics—which might be just the thing for this particular market. For one thing, despite the ballooning of data-hungry apps and services, traditional voice calls and text messaging are still very important to many demographic groups. And in the EU, where the relatively small size of countries and the openness of the borders makes frequent travel easy, the end of roaming surcharges means that there will be increased demand for voice calls between countries. So unlimited voice and texts make for a timely offer. (Technically speaking, the data in these plans is also unlimited, but since the speed is decreased to 1 Mbps after 10 GB is reached, we do not consider it truly so).

The pricing of T-Mobile 1 – Without Limit has been structured to incentivize couples and larger families to subscribe, with prices per person decreasing as the number of users increases. This appears to be a good approach in terms of maximizing subscriber numbers over time and cultivating the younger generations. As younger members of a family leave home and set up their own households, they will be more likely to subscribe to T-Mobile on their own if their brand loyalty has already been established.

Finally, the free subscription to Netflix is a good way to sweeten the deal (perhaps not quite so sweet as zero-rating Netflix data), although the list of available devices may not be so attractive, since high-end Apple and Samsung phones do not appear to be among them. 



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