First of all, hello. This is my first entry into Juniper’s blog on the world of mobile communications, and comes with the usual rider that the opinions and comments are those of the author, but that they will concur, wherever possible, with those of Juniper Research. (But when, for example, I offer either heartiest congratulations or commiserations to Liverpool FC - depending on the previous day's results - this is to be taken purely as a personal and not a corporate endorsement.)
And now on to mobile communications, or the lack thereof.
For, I have to say, I was in a bit of a hole the other day.
There was, you see, an unknown quantity affecting my home phone line, and the other day being a day when I was working from home, I was finding my ability to do said work rather curtailed.
No email, no server access, no Internet, no VoIP phone, no landline, no nothing.
Now, being the sort of cove who gets withdrawal symptoms when he’s offline for more than half a dozen minutes at a time, I naturally turned to the mobile as a means of maintaining my contact with life’s little essentials (you know - Google, BBC News, Cricinfo). And the following chain of events unfolded.
Connected to mobile internet. Tapped in BBC news web address. Went to site. Saw headline for potentially interesting story on site. Pressed link to potentially interesting story. Connection cut out and screen returned to menu. Swore at screen. Connected to mobile internet again. Tapped in news address, went to site, saw headline, pressed link. Story began to open. Story then thought better of it, connection cut out again and we were back to the menu. Swore profusely, considered hurling handset at wall and ultimately decided better of it. Went and made nice cup of tea.
Now, encapsulated in this little episode, is part of the problem with mobile entertainment. Some of the hurdles to mass adoption have been addressed. Improve the user interface – tick; reasonably priced data bundles – tick (although still large red crosses against reasonably priced data for casual prepaid users, but let’s not go there today). And then we come to network coverage, and sigh.
A few years ago, operators in most Western European countries would, as a matter of course, proudly proclaim that they had achieved ninety-nine per nine nine per cent recurring population coverage and a geographical coverage that was only point zero zero one per cent behind this. Now, these pronouncements invariably produced a fairly high snigger quotient amongst analysts, primarily because they were not, shall we say, entirely accurate. Unless – and I don’t believe any of the operators tried this – you footnoted these percentages with fairly comprehensive caveats along the lines of “Excluding rural areas. And houses. And trains. Oh, and cars, don’t forget cars. And, really, anywhere else if the wind gets up”.
I may be exaggerating slightly, but only slightly. It remains the devil’s own job to get voice connectivity – let alone BBC headlines – in many areas. And the problem is that many mobile entertainment services are being sold to us on the basis that they are, well, mobile; that you can access them at will. Thus, when consumers find that they are not, or at least have a tendency to drop out when you enter a building, or travel out into the country, they will not be best pleased. And they will not readily return to those services. So, if operators want mobile entertainment services – and particularly those which require “always-on” connectivity, such as streamed TV, radio, multiplayer gaming and the Internet – to gain mass adoption, it is incumbent upon them to address this issue.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the mobile Internet. I love the fact that it enables me to search for esoterica on the move: it is thanks to the fact that Google has moved into mobile that I was able to spot a flag flying outside a restaurant, type in “Red flag green circle” and find out seconds later that the flag in question was that of Bangladesh. And I want to be able to do that kind of search with increasing regularity. I want to be able to surf the mobile Internet on train journeys. And I want to do it at home when unknown quantities* affect my phone line.
*The quantities are no longer unknown. One of the cables under the floorboards was frayed. It has been dealt with and I am a happier analyst.
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