Back in May this year I wrote a post about the new 28 different HSDPA Categories and the defined top speed now reaching 84 MBit/s. At the time I also updated the Wikipedia article on it, especially the HSDPA category table. I didn't have some of the info at the time so it was incomplete and I asked in the blog and hoped someone would pick up the pencil and complete the table. And somebody did in the meantime, it is now complete. Very nice, I very much like Wikipedia!
I am fortunate enough to live in an environment that is incredibly well covered by 2G and 3G networks day in and day out and further progress can be noted every now and then. But some places seem to remain black holes. Take big furniture stores for example, like those of Ikea. The mix of concrete, corrugated metal and heat reflecting glass doesn't only keep the heat out but also the signals of cellular networks. So how about it Ikea, you are big enough to be taken seriously by wireless network operators when it comes to improving coverage. Get some femots or repeaters inside and do your customers a favor!
Here's a little comparison between prepaid tariffs in Germany back in 1998 compared to 2010. The comparison isn't quite easy as there are so many different tariffs and operators today that you can easily come up with something cheaper but with different strings attached. So this comparison just gives a general idea of how things have moved in a decade.
There we go, according to this (very old) article in a "Fokus" magazine back in 1998, prepaid prices in the D1 network were DM 1.99 (€ 1.00) during daytime and DM 0.99 (€ 0.50) after 8 p.m. In the same network today, service providers offer calls for € 0.09 a minute around the clock. In other words, it's 10 times cheaper today (compared to the former daytime tariff) than a decade ago and still 5 times cheaper when compared to the night time tariff.
Equally amazing is the initial price of the SIM card. Back in 1998, the SIM card cost DM 149.- (€ 75,-) with € 25.- of credit on it. And that didn't include the phone. Today, you get a SIM card and a very basic phone for € 10.- with some credit already preloaded. Again, a significant magnitude cheaper then a decade ago.
Yes, I know, 9 cents a minute is by no way the cheapest offer on the European playing field anymore. Austria, for example, has prepaid tariffs for 4 cents a minute (example can be found here).
I'm a bit on a history trip at the moment because it's interesting to discover what has changed in a decade which might help a bit to estimate how things will develop in the future. Let's have a look at entry level phones today vs. 10 years ago.
The cheapest phones are now available for €29.- in the rummage table while what I would consider entry level phones from back then such as the Bosch 738 I had at the time cost in the order of 200 euros, had a two year contract with a basic monthly subscription fee attached and were bought after a lengthy discussion an form fill-out session in a shop. In other words, from a price point and sales experience point of view, the difference is quite significant.
From a feature point of view not much has changed compared to entry level phones 10 years ago. Still, entry level phones are very voice and SMS centric and the cheapest of them come without GPRS and basic Internet functionality. That comes for a couple of Euros extra, however. Also, most entry level phones are only GSM dual frequency capable. The main difference between then and now is size, weight and the color screen, although on entry level devices, resolution is quite poor. Nevertheless, back 10 years ago, such displays would have been stunning.
So how will entry level phones look like in 10 years from now? From a price point of view a few additional euros might be cut but then that's just about it and won't matter a lot. Also, what is there beyond the rummage table? Get a surprise phone in every 20th pack of cereal? So while in the past 10 years it was all about driving cost out of the entry level segment it seems to be this might gradually change into putting additional features in without increasing the price.
With that in mind I think it's quite reasonable to assume that (basic) Internet connectivity will go into such devices with (ultra) thin clients for fashionable services such as Instant Messaging, e-mail, Facebook and other social networking sites and in the future whatever replaces or complements it. Flash memory becomes cheaper by the day and at some point, a euro or two extra buys you enough storage capacity to keep your music library with you even with very inexpensive phones. Same goes for the camera and image storage.
Every now and then I stumble across a nice diagram showing the market shares of different smartphone operating systems such as Symbian, Android, iOS, and so on. Wikipedia, for example, has such a figure on this page. However, I think these are a bit misleading as they implicitly suggest, at least to me, that the percentage of each OS also equals the percentage of devices with a certain OS being used with a data subscription, i.e. to access services on the Internet.
While this might be true for most iOS and Android devices, as they have specifically been built and bought for this purpose, other operating systems like RIMs operating system for the Blackberry and Symbian are bought by many people without having Internet services in mind. So I highly doubt that the market leadership of Symbian, even though I personally prefer it over the other OSes, translates into an equal device market share that is actually used with a data subscription. Maybe this would be a much more relevant statistic to come up with?
And one more thought on the topic: Concerning Android, I also see it on devices now being bought by people for other reasons than using Internet based services. Take the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini for example. So maybe in a couple of quarters, Symbian won't be alone with a high percentage of devices not being used with a data option.
An international roaming thought today: While in the past I used manual network selection while roaming mainly to reduce the number of unwanted welcome SMS messages I have recently found another good use for it: As I am usually always connected to the packet side of the network, using manual network selection and thus locking the mobile to a particular foreign network prevents the PDP context from dropping every time there's a coverage hole and the mobile phone searching and attaching to another network. Quite a nasty thing if you are billed extra for each context activation or in big increments. But I would certainly trade manual network selection for affordable data roaming prices...
Back in 2007 I wrote a post about why I think that the 'Average Revenue per User' (ARPU) has become totally meaningless and needs to be replaced by another measure. Three years later, not much has changed on the reporting front, but I think in terms of definition, the general ARPU is even more meaningless now as back then. In fact I think the lower the ARPU reported by a network operator is today when compared to other national operators and operators in comparable countries, the better it is for the network operator.
The lower, the better!? Look at it this way: The lower the ARPU, the more subscribers have been won over by the network operator to use the network that do not spend as much as subscribers that use the network more. But even though those subscribers spend less, they are by no means less valuable to have. Also, there's a growing trend of people owning more than one SIM card for various reasons such as making cheaper calls to other networks with a second SIM card (hello Dual-SIM phones), an additional subscription for business, a 3G stick for business use, a 3G stick for private use, additional 3G enabled gadgets such as the iPad, 3G enabled netbooks, etc., etc.. All require a separate SIM and hence a separate prepaid or postpaid subscription that generates its own ARPU.
From this point of view I generate at least 5 separate ARPUs today and even more if you count the various prepaid SIMs I occasionally use for test purposes. So the PU "Per User" part of the ARPU is far from reality today. It's really time for a new measure...
Interesting self observation: I regularly use two computers, one notebook at home that remains on the desk 99% of the time and is fully wired to the local infrastructure (mouse, printer, scanner, power supply, etc.) and a netbook I use a lot while traveling and commuting. One of my printers has a Wi-Fi interface while the other one only has a USB connector. So while I use both printers from the notebook that is always on the desk as it is connected to both permanently anyway, I only use the Wi-Fi enabled printer from the netbook.
Not that it is a lot of effort to unplug the USB cable of the other printer and plug it into the netbook but it is really very inconvenient compared to just clicking on the 'print' button on the netbook and the page magically appears on the printer without any further action. And I can even print from another room if I happen to use the netbook somewhere else for a change. Also, I use a wireless mouse with the netbook so there's no fumbling with the cable of the mouse when I get the netbook out of the bag.
As Internet connectivity runs over Wi-Fi, too, the only cable that remains for the moment is the power cable. Some early solutions for this are also in sight with induction based chargers that are now sold for mobile phones (e.g. the Touchstone for Palm Pre) and currently standardized in the Qi Wireless Power Consortium. I'd really like to have that for my netbook as well. Just put it on the table when coming home and it magically recharges without any further action to be taken.
About five years ago (November 2005 to be exact) I started this blog as a bit of an experiment to figure out what to do with this new 'blogging' thing and to see if it could be of use to me and others. Now in 2010, more than 1100 blog posts and 2000 comments later, I have found it to be an incredibly useful tool to gather my thoughts, share them with a wider audience, ask for your opinions and to meet others in this industry either virtually over the net or in real life. I have learnt a lot by writing the posts and from reading and responding to your comments. A couple of days ago, the blog has passed the one millionth page view. To me that's an incredible number and another sign that the information an my opinions on this blog are useful. Thanks to all of you, that's great additional encouragement to keep writing and developing the site!
I always find it interesting how public Wi-Fi hotspots deny access in some form or another for some services. The free public Wi-Fi hotspot at an Avia gas station in France I recently encountered gets the prize for the most innovative blocking I have seen so far. Encrypted POP3 and SMTP are blocked so no e-mail. On top, SSL VPNs are blocked so also no privacy here. The blocking is actually quite intricate when taking a closer look:
As I can use port 443 for https, which works, I was wondering how they could let https go through while the VPN is blocked. With Wireshark, I could determine that the TCP sync packet gets a response from the VPN server, so these packets pass their filter, while all further packets are discarded. So it looks like they don't only filter on a port basis but in addition do some deep packet inspection to determine if a TCP session establishment over port 443 contains certain SSL header elements for HTTPS. Hm, time for a HTTPS emulation for my VPN then...