HomeMobile EuropeLike, so what?

    Like, so what?


    ..despite the impressive technical achievements consumers often remain underwhelmed by 3G and multimedia mobile services. And?

    This month we have a busy issue, which takes readers right through the range of issues which concern operators, their partners and suppliers at present. First off there is a focus on 3G, which we have called “3G and beyond”, partly because of the publisher’s resemblance to Buzz Lightyear and partly to illustrate the point that the world hasn’t stopped moving on just because we have seen some 3G mobile networks rolled out. Believe me, these rollouts are impressive and combine an immense amount of technical know how. Believe me, your average customer is profoundly unimpressed. I know this because I am one, and know many more. We all do, and beyond the odd person who is in love with his Blackberry because he can now answer emails from, like, anywhere, who do you know in the “real” world who gets or cares how difficult it is to hook up all this stuff? I don’t know if it’s partly the cheap cost of the handsets relative to other pieces of consumer electronics, but there seems to be an assumption amongst users that mobile data should be easy for operators, and instantaneous for users. Someone I know who works in technical design (so theoretically no dummy) was recently highly disparaging about the service he was getting as a trial consumer on Orange’s 3G network in the UK. “But it’s just a trial,” I said, “You’re going to have problems.” But no, he wasn’t happy. The download speed wasn’t fast enough, the browser was slow, even the phone itself was too big, too hot and frankly he wanted his old phone back and when Orange offered him 3G proper he was going to take a lot of convincing.
    This is the kind of thing operators are up against. This is why we spend time this issue looking at things they can do about it. About what HSDPA might actually mean to them in terms of faster downloads and more radio resource management. About how to make sure applications are certified and tested so they work on the network with the handsets in their portfolio. About how to get the best information possible from your UMTS network so you can configure it in the best way possible to serve the actual user behaviour on the network.
    And if the consumer press and some analysts are doom-mongering about MMS, remember the technology is only three years old in total, and the fightback has already begun. Operators are getting better at the marketing and the technology suppliers are getting much better at getting a message from one phone to another in tact and in time.
    Finally, there will be much talk this year of convergence, and converged service platforms. Who will be the best placed to address the triple play needs of content consumers? Well, when it comes to the voice part, and perhaps even the data, the mobile operators still have a good play, as we find out. As for TV, we’ll be in Cannes to find out more ourselves.
    So amidst all the backslapping in Cannes and the congratulations for the nth 3G network to go live, always hear if you will the authentic voice of the never-satisfied consumer saying, “So what?” And then tell him to shut up.