Come on, come on, let’s get together…
Well they had to call it something, and as “NotVodafone” was probably deemed to be a little too direct, FreeMove at least gets over some of what the partnership between Orange, T-Mobile, Telecom Italia Mobile and Telefonica Moviles can offer. You are free, to move. Although it won’t be free, just easier, when you are abroad, to access messages, get customer service in your own language, a replacement SIM, and so on.
The alliance might also have been called, “Buy ten get one free”, given its increased purchasing power. It’s interesting that the alliance is putting its shoulder to the vendor community, aiming to drive standardisation (not to mention cost reduction) across new services. First, it suggests that despite existing standards, there are still many ways to skin a cat, which we knew. Second, it shows that the drive for operators is still to get the services out there, and then worry about being able to differentiate and compete within that harmonised environment. T-Mobile’s Nikesh Aurora, (see page 15 for more) emphasised exactly those two points for us.
“We are trying to harmonise 3G requirements. There are probably two thousand areas in the standards where manufacturers and operators can decide to do things differently. We can make those decisions consistently. But look, in some areas the pie isn’t even made yet. Would you say that picture messaging and other data services have been the success they can be yet?”
The other thing it is important to understand about FreeMove is what it is not. Much comment at the time of the brand launch was from those concerned that operator alliances don’t work. Look at Concert (AT&T and BT) they said, for an example of how these things don’t work. Thing is, Concert was a completely different samovar of caviar. For a start, it was treated as a separate operating entity, the two operators outsourcing people and resources to it. FreeMove is not like that. Its an agreement between the operators to cooperate on certain aspects. Customers may well be presented with the FreeMove brand, but a BA customer travelling with a StarAlliance partner understands he’s flying with that partner under the alliance umbrella. He doesn’t believe in StarAlliance as a carrier in its own right. This need be no different.
FreeMove’s operator ceos and heads of marketing will be meeting every four to six weeks. That makes good sense, and will probably lead to many more areas of cooperation than we see now. It’s going to be interesting to see how a T-Zones client operates on an Orange network, say, so those regular meetings will be vital.
In the meantime, Vodafone need not be too worried. More flattered. One area on the horizon, though, would be the reach into the US and Latin America that T-Mobile and Telefonica Moviles can bring to the alliance. At the moment, Vodafone can’t offer a technically compatible presence in the USA. Will European and US corporates feel it would be easier to be with a provider that can offer them technical fluency from the USA into Europe? FreeMove is hoping that they will.
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