Thursday, 30 September 2010

If TomTom were a country, its mobile penetration would rank between Gambia and Gabon (137th)

In the report I wrote for the Dutch government on M2M (or embedded wireless, or internet of things), quantifying the size of the market for M2M was one of the important issues. Today TomTom published some of its ambitions with real time traffic information and its HD traffic product in a Manifesto. As part of this they give a number of the amount of devices that are GPRS/UMTS enabled: 1.38 million!

If TomTom were a country, it would rank between Gambon and Gabon in terms of active mobile devices or 137th. Its goal is even more ambitious and that is to bring 20 to 25 million devices on the road, which puts it in the range of  The Netherlands, Australia and Taiwan, somewhere around 35th to 40th in the world rankings. Yes people, that would mean that TomTom would have more devices in the field than many European mobile companies.

M2M is going to be really big and it will change the relationships between telco's and M2M end users.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Logica report on switching costs for M2M (by me)

This last year I've worked on one of the most interesting subjects I've ever come across: Switching costs for Machine to Machine users (or embedded wireless as the GSMA calls it). The result is a report for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. It's about how a simple rule change in who can apply for numbers (E.212 and telephone) could open up a market for M2M communications. It would more or less remove the difference between public and private networks and result in a more flexible market, like we now already see for internet connectivity.

 Though I independently came to a solution, I can't claim I've thought of this solution first. That honor goes to at least 2 of my Logica colleagues in the Nordics and the UK or maybe to someone at Stratix consulting, but more likely someone somewhere, elsewhere. I do think I can now claim to have written the first full research in a public document on the subject. It's called "Onderzoek flexibel gebruik MNC's"(downloadable pdf, in Dutch). (and yes please put the links that prove this wrong in the comments, someone must have done this before, but I couldn't find it) :-)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Wrote article for Ars Technica on Belgian broadcasters try kneecapping DVRs, demand compensation

I sent in a linktip to Ars Technica and was asked to write it up in English. With a little help from Inside TV International, who had the original letter, it became an interesting post. The short story is: Belgian broadcasters are mad about the use of DVR's in Belgium as it messes up their product, the full evening of TV. Say what? See the link:

Monday, 6 September 2010

Free lesson: KPN Fiber receives a death blow and Reggefiber is left with the mess

If you work in telecoms, read this and learn. This happens if you don't pay attention to detail and just because this is an incumbent doesn't mean it won't happen at your FTTH project. Pay attention or it might cost you your FTTH-dream. 

KPN must have had one of the worst nights in a while tonight. Their fiber offer was on TV in Dutch consumer advocacy programme Tros Radar. The words consumer advocacy say enough: Guilty and no way of proving yourself innocent on TV. The piece was lacking in some technical areas, but was damning in many others. The most damning, hidden camera footage of an actual purchase and install. Some of the claims:

  1. Fiber isn't always fiber. It's often VDSL2 where the fiber end only goes as far as the start of the neighbourhood. Fair enough, UPC does the same with Fiber Power (Docsis 3.0). But still, people claim they are cheated and the name "KPN Fiber" has now been tainted. 
  2. KPN's sales and billing are completely detached. People are told they will pay 65 Euro a month for the whole package and then find additional costs on the bill. Sales for instance promises a third IP-TV decoder, for which they are charged extra, just to get the sale. Customer service can then mop it up, but doesn't seem to be able to fix things straight away. 
  3. The technician who installs the technology in the home will do it all for a fee of 35 payable to the technician. THIS IS A NO NO. NEVER ALLOW THIS ON YOUR PROJECT. The technician quickly turned it into an extortion racket, a complete con job. He just claims that several things are not on his job list, like the third decoder. Also he says there is no electricity near the fiber drop (in The Netherlands the meter closet) and that that is extra. Everything that isn't on his list is some number at KPN and he can do it for half. Yeah yeah, so pretty soon the charges add up and he walks out with alot more and KPN doesn't need to know about it. Nice huh how people who work for you can F your product. I'm betting as of next week installation is free and KPN doesn't allow any money to be charged at all. The free bit is only because fixing the billing system to work with a 35 euro charge is more expensive than just giving installation away for free. 
  4. KPN uses a product it calls wireless to deliver the IPTV in the home. Of course it isn't wireless, it's actually some version of Powerline communications, probably Homeplug (I didn't Google it). Branded with KPN's logo, it doesn't actually perform as expected. Speeds are low. It isn't really wireless and brings unsightly plugs in the home. The nasty thing is that sales pushes it hard... probably to shift inventory and customer service tells people it is a lousy product. Yes, that's right KPN customer service knows its a rotten product and tells its customers so. 
  5. KPN's IP-TV service mine is shown on TV as malfunctioning. It doesn't do HD-TV at one customer and at an other the pause function is malfunctioning. It's not a nice picture. My wife asked me if it didn't do the same at our home, but that happened to be the DVB-T service of KPN called Digitenne. However, you can get the idea, if my wife thinks TV over FTTH is the same as DVB-T quality wise... than you're in deep trouble. 
  6. Other problems have to do with the entire delivery process. There was a customer whose telephone line couldn't be found, probably for VDSL. There was a customer who found out on delivery that the price was different as quoted. There was one who thought he would get HD-TV in the cheapest pack and didn't get it. 
  7. 1200 KPN Fiber customers were interviewed. 47% reported speeds weren't as promised. No explanation, probably because of the use of Wifi that speeds aren't up to snuff.. but try to explain that to a consumer. 
Now as said at the start, in this programme, you're guilty. Not even until proven innocent. They'll have a talking head lawyer tell you that this is against the law etc etc.They'll have the socially inept discuss your product. They have someone who "works in IT".  They'll tell people KPN uses coaxial cable into the home, whereas that's not the case of course. They won't look at the normal marketing material, which contains the caveats. They won't talk to people who are happy with what they got. But it doesn't matter. KPN messed up big time and it should have known it's too easy and too big a target not to shoot at. It's like painting a big bulls eye at the face of the CEO and then handing out pies at an amusement park. 

That said, KPN's partner Reggefiber, who installs the Glashart network KPN uses and pays for it out of its own pocket, must be fuming. The way to mess up a billion euro project like Reggefiber's is to have untrustworthy partners. Instead of the likely thing to happen, that one of it's minor service providers, like Solcon, Lijbrandt, Tweak, Concepts or one of the other one's messes up, it's the big one. The one that is known to every one in the country and it takes everyone with them. KPN paid for a 41% share and caused almost as much damage.