Mobile Broadband signals the Death of WiFi Hotspots

Its been a long time since I last wrote a proper post and I doubt this will be that, however having just spent the afternoon chatting with the guys at carsonifiedabout whats happening in the mobile industry I’m feeling all inspired.

Currently I’m sat in Starbucks in Bath and I’m using my Orange Mobile Broadband dongle to get online, quite frankly its great! Whilst I loved the idea of Wifi hotspots in Starbucks (coffee & the web my 2 favorite things) I very rarely used them. Why? well mostly it came down to cost & usablity. Paying per minute for wifi is just plain crazy and especially at the rates TMobile charge. Mobile Broadband dongles are availble for around £15 per month and that gets you about 3 gig of data, whilst that may not seem much if your comparing it to a home broadband subscription its plenty for using a laptop on the go. I suppose I could get a subscription to TMobile’s hotspot but I really don’t want to as it feels like a lot of hassle and wouldn’t work everywhere.
Ok so full disclosure time I work for Orange and don’t pay for my mobile broadband but when I leave I think I will get one and pay the bill for it!
The usability is spot on, Orange have even created a Mac client so I just fire up the software, plug in the stick and click connect, The odd time I’m tried to use a paid hotspot its been a real mess of trying to get the connection, then open a browser, wait for the re-direct and then get out my credit card to pay for it. It just doesn’t seem to fit my work flow.

The speed is perfectly good, I don’t know what I’m getting here but its probabbly around 1 meg and I’m browsing and watching the odd qik video without even thinking about it. I’m not gonna download a whole software update via this but that can easily wait till I get home. I’ve certainly never thought that a hotspot had amazing performance.
The cloud wifi have got a nice setup where the account is tied to the hardware mac address of a device and therefore it connects seamlessly, this works great for my iPhone on rail stations but I think when we see the 3G iPhone its usefulness will diminish, again the hotspots aint everywhere.
Now the only problem is I’m out of coffee and don’t want to pack-up my laptop to go downstairs to order another one, anyone know if the Bath Starbucks is on Twitter? :-P

2008 Predictions in Mobile

Better late than never, I`ve put down some of my thoughts as to what mighthappen in the mobile industry in 2008.
1) Location Services
Location is going to be big in the mobile Internet in for 2008 but this will be in spite of the networks not thanks to them.
Mobile operators have had services allowing applications to determine a users location for year but they have kept prices so high that it makes any kind of web business model unworkable. However, we are no starting to see 3rd parties building location services to bypass the operators, in addition handsets are appearing with GPS. this combination of these 2 factors mean that we are in store for some pretty cool location aware mobile web apps.

2) Handset vendors will gain more strength.

2008 will see a rise in the popularity of handset manufacturers as they start to compete with the operators for the relationships with the customers. Nokia`s OVI and Music Store are good examples of this.
Users feel a strong attachment to their handset more than their operator and this will translate to a better brand awareness for the likes of Nokia, people choose the handset that they really WANT whereas they choose their network based mainly on price and coverage.
Handset makers will also exercise their advantage to pre-install software on their devices that drive usage of their own services, the operators won’t like this but in the end they will have to accept it or not offer the handsets which will loose them customers. The iPhone will lead this shift.

3) Operators arn’t dead (yet!)
Whilst from within the industry it will look like the mobile operators are condemned to be little more than bit pipes they will still continue to run successful mass market services as the majority of customers out there won`t fully understand what alternatives are out there. The operators have a hug installed base of non tech-savvy users and they rely on these people for their revenue, however this base can only decrease but I doubt that the operators will realise until its too late!

4) An MVNO might get the mobile Internet right

This one is more a wish-list than a prediction, I’m not really convinced it will happen in 2008 but hopefully it will one day.
Mobile operators are sitting on some huge advantages when it comes to data services, they have full and open control of pricing, identity and all sorts of meta information on users. However they seriously lack innovation and most of them are now part of giant lumbering corporations therefore are unlikely to do anything revolutionary. However we are seeing multiple virtual operators spring up, in the UK these are people like Tesco, Virgin, and Carphone Warehouse. Until now most of these have competed at the bottom end of the market offering cheap voice calls or just wanted to extend their brand. Blyk are once operator who are doing something a bit different with their business model but ultimately they attract customers on price.
However I think there is real scope for a web company to open up as an MVNO using a combination of their brand, technology and infrastructure to provide some killer mobile web services, oh and of course basic voice calls will still be there just the same as anyone else. Can you imagine how cool it would be if google was your service provider!
There is a chance that some startup could do this too and then maybe sell out to someone like google or yahoo but I`m not sure if they’d have the momentum to get there (unless they’ve got some major VC backing) Still if there are any startups out there that fancy doing this I`m always looking for a job ;-)

5) There is no 5
Why do online lists always have to be top 5 or top 10! I’ve only got 4 ideas so I`m stopping there not cramming in one more obvious idea just to round the numbers out.