Ten Things Follow Up

Since I posted the first results there has been a lot of interest in the post which has been excellent to see since one of the objectives was to promote a conversation and I’m genuinely happy to see this happen!

Thanks to all that cross posted the article and drew attention to it, there have been a few posts I’ve come across where folks have created their own ‘Ten Things’ which seem to address similar points, for now there are a couple of points that have been raised which I wanted to try and address.

The first one is that this is an initiative to help Telcos help themselves

I think this could evolve into an industry self-help wiki, if Ian has the energy to run with it.

James Enck

I suggest to dedicate the full blog or to create another one to just this issue, point by point, on fixed service, mobile service and content&application services.

antonio del corral

I really like the idea but for one I’m not sure I have the bandwidth to do it myself, you only need to look at my sparodic posting rate, saying that I’m happy to be part of a collaborative effort to run a blog, probably a new one as I’d still like to keep this one for what it was intended.

The second one is to see more of the survey results, in Tim’s excellent but slightly differently titled post he generated a lot of comments that seem to be asking for pretty much the same things ‘make it simple, make it work’ and an interesting comment about really simple phones for the elderly, Vodafone have launched devices like this. Some of the comments pointed out that the list was more about what you want from a carrier than a handset manufacturer, I assumed that what Tim meant by Phone was that he got it from a carrier, hence the same thing, moot point though.

I digress, Tim put up the various O’Reilly replies in full so here are all the answers for completeness:

Brian McConnell

#1 An Open Network

We want a network that is based on open technology (SIP, RSS, XMPP).
We also want a network that is open economically.

#2 An Open Marketplace

EBay is a global success because they created an efficient market and make it easy for sellers to find buyers. We want a telephone network that is open to everyone, not just one carrier’s handpicked favorites.

#3 Simple, Fair Pricing

Stop gouging customers. We don’t expect you to turn into Skype, but we want customers to know they can pick up the phone and talk without getting ripped off. The world’s most successful companies learned to operate on tight margins. Restructure your business so you can make money at rates of less than 5 cents per minute.

#4 No More Geographical Tolls

The cost to transport a call internationally is almost never more than a few cents. Stop ripping customers off on international calls.
They’ll start using you instead of Skype.

#5 Turn Wireless Data On By Default, With Flat-Rate Pricing

Don’t ask customers if they want wireless data, just give it to them.
Give them cheap entry level service that is throttled (say 50kbps), then let power users upgrade to high-speed plans for a premium. Don’t charge by the kilobyte, nobody understands this model.

#6 Set Technical Standards For Handset Vendors

Set standards for a half dozen or fewer reference standards for handsets. Each reference standard will address a particular use case (i.e. mobile office worker, young user, etc). For each standard you

* base operating system (Linux, Windows Mobile or Symbian)
* basic parameters for screen dimensions, I/O capability, etc
* radio (network type, data options, etc)

Manufacturers will be free to experiment with the form factor, but the key parameters that affect software developers (e.g. screen height-width ratio) will be fixed. This will enable developers to build apps for a small number of device profiles rather than 50-100 different permutations of devices.

#7 Make App Download and Install Simple

Installing third-party apps on a device should be as simple as possible. One option to seriously consider, download by shortcode.
The user goes to a phone’s browser, types a shortcode for an app.
Your proxy server converts this short code to a web URL, the phone downloads the app and is ready to go.

#8 Share Revenue

Develop a simple and consistent revenue sharing program for voice, data and SMS/MMS services. Make participation easy and almost automatic, to encourage developers to experiment, and to drive usage on your network. Don’t gouge your developers like you currently do for PSMS.. Charge fees similar to what credit card processors collect (STL partners (Telco2.0 initiative)

1. Predictable pricing
2. Ability to manage business and personal use separately
3. Flexible price plans (eg. T-Mobile Flext)
4. No device lock-down
5. Self-service for all common care requests
6. True reward for loyalty
7. More bandwidth capacity
8. Improved usability of basic telephony and messaging functions (eg. Voicemail)
9. Better integration with PC tools and internet services
10. Much cheaper international roaming (fair prices please)

Moshe Yudkowsky

But here’s what I want most of all from Telcos: Be a Telco, Not a Studio.

Here’s what I mean. The reason for the current lack of cool applications for mobile stems in part from the lockdown of the handset and pipeline thereto. Carriers think they’re in the studio business — making and distributing entertainment — instead of the Telcom business, which is moving data around in an efficient fashion.

OK, that’s fine, I can live with a Telco that thinks it can compete with Pixar. However, when the Telco locks down the handset and tries to create a vertically integrated but locked and DRM’d pipe, what you end up with is a mess.

You gain very little creativity on the handset itself because they are distributed by the telcos and they have limited vision as to how the handsets should look. The content becomes limited because of limited access. Everything is minute-metered. Applications must hurdle expensive barriers.

Contrast this to the Internet, where $7 buys you a domain name and $7/month buys you a web site, and no one can lock you out of the browser (although Microsoft will certainly try).

In other words, the Telcos are attempting to move away from dependence on a commodity of cell phone minutes — but they’re doing it by re-creating AOL.
Even AOL eventually realized that the AOL model wasn’t going to work when people can get content from anywhere. Citywide wifi is around the corner which will bring content in from all across the network — just *what* do the telcos think they’re doing?

I call on the Telcos to disaggregate the act of being a carrier from the act of being a content provider. For mobile content to grow we need disaggregation of authority (over what travels over the network) and ownership (of content, and of who controls the pipelines).

Kevin Perkins

1. Coordination between headquarters and specific country markets to implement a consistent offering
2. Shorter review/evaluation periods for new products & services
3. Adopt an “open model” for device choice
4. Embrace a “mesh network” approach for highest user experience
5. Become the dominant force in local anything (telco already has all the listings… why am I going to Google?)
6. Make “voice” superb first before adopting high-capacity services such as mobile video
7. Hire product people that will still be there in 3-6 months
8. Take chances
9. Don’t try to be all things to all people
10. Most important for last… simplify the offering across the board

11. Bonus: Don’t roll over and give your customers to the search engines!

Andreas Constantinou

As a user then I would like my operator to:
- Treat me as an important person – for example I expect my operator to know who my friends are and offer a discounted rate to calling my friends. And offer me some discounts/thankyous etc, because I pay a lot of money on mobile phone bills each month.
- Not ask me stupid questions when I call customer service (like what phone are you using ?)
- Offer me replacement phones more often
- Allow me to know how much money I ‘m spending and where.

Jim Van Meggelen

1. QoS to the last mile, unbundled from any telco product
2. An acceptance of the fact that delivering services to end users is going to be full of new players, and a treatment of those players as a new kind of customer, as opposed to competition

Tim O’Reilly

1. I want my phone to sync seamlessly with my address book to remember everyone I ever communicate with, not just those I explicitly add, and to use heuristics like Google does to find the top web pages to help find the most likely addresses to remember for me. Obviously, adding someone explicitly is the highest priority form of remembering, and deleting them is the highest form of forgetting, but in between, there are all kinds of interesting options: give higher priority to people I communicate with most often; give higher priority to people I respond to most quickly; give higher priority to people with whom I spend the most minutes communicating; give higher priority to people with whom I communicate using multiple methods (see point 2 below); demote people who call me and leave messages but to whom I never respond; demote people on known telemarketer lists.

2. Integrate with other non-phone communication methods (e.g. email and IM, for phones that don’t support it), and use all the same metrics as in #1 above to give me an address book that reflects my true social network.

3. Give me a PC-based app that lets me manage my social network (and visualize it), in much the same way that iTunes lets me manage my music, with more sophisticated controls than are easy to cram onto a handheld device.

4. Interoperate with Skype and other VoIP technologies, from both my PC communications console and from my phone.

5. Make it easy for me to script telephony applications (again, perhaps using my PC “iPhone” program), so that I can, for example, easily have different messages for different callers, even set up IVR type applications, set messages to be sent to myself or others at some future time.

6. Give me Text to Speech, so I can have things read to me by my phone, and so I can email messages to myself or others. For that matter, give me speech to text, or at least forwarding of voice enclosures to email. We do this from our asterisk server, and it’s great.

7. Stop charging me when other people call me. Move to the sender pays model. (But we like flat rate as well!)

8. Don’t compete with other carriers on cell towers. Work together to give me the best reception everywhere, regardless of who owns which spot on a tower. It’s silly to be in places where on carrier’s phone works, and another doesn’t.

9. Rate plan commitments as a tradeoff for a discount on a new phone are fine, but requiring a new plan commitment merely to change the plan for a better one (as many carriers do) is a sleazy practice that actually encourages switching.

10. Work with phone manufacturers to standardize power supplies! It’s ridiculous for family members with different phones to have to carry around multiple different power supplies (e.g. in the car or on a trip) when one would do. iGo and USB-based power adaptors help, but this whole thing is unnecessary, wasteful, and consumer-unfriendly.

Marc Hedlund

1. +1, or a thousand, to pt’s first point. The best way to drive early adopters crazy is to compile out functionality.

2. don’t nickel and dime me when I’m trying new things. It would have been ten million times smarter for US carriers to have made SMS unlimited-use (for a flat rate add-on if necessary) then to make people count characters or estimate monthly throughput.

3. don’t lock the platform. I never even thought about buying a sidekick because of this. If I can’t install what I want on it, it’s not a computing device, it’s just a fancy tin can, and I won’t buy it.

4. what I want most of all is one network with which I can use my laptop or cellphone at high speeds, anywhere. I’d prefer all of my data (by which I mean “voice” or other data — I really don’t care about the difference) going over wifi available anywhere. I don’t have any belief that the basic mobile phone services work at all, so what I really want is that. If my cell phone could actually receive phone calls when I’m sitting on my couch at home, I’d be less picky about this, but for all I can tell the cell tower / coverage map never got anywhere near filled in for me, and anything else is just expensive frosting on top of mud from my point of view.

5. don’t ever give my data over to anyone else without first making a loud and unsuccessful stink about it, and without suing everyone you have to to fight it. (I don’t use Verizon for this reason alone.)

I really tried to start writing this as “what I want” but it immediately turned into “what I don’t want.” I think it’s very hard, in the US at least, to start a conversation about mobile service without immediately tapping a deep abscess of hatred. As an aside, on the consumer rating site I run, cell phone companies are consistently the lowest-rated service providers for our users, across allregular expenses. So here’s what I really want: be the JetBlue of cell carriers. Come in and match a good attitude about customer service with reasonable prices and sane offerings. Take that combination and I’ll love you forever.

Phil Torrone

1. never ever ever cripple a phone. if a phone can do bluetooth, don’t cripple it so it can’t be used as a modem. if a phone can play mp3s, don’t cripple it so it can’t use mp3s as ringtones.

2. phone has a file system. if the phone has removable media (sd, tflash, etc) when plugged in via usb, it should act as usb host drive for easy drag drop file storage (and charging)…

3. green it. not really a top 10, but sorta important… make the phones more recycle-able, nokia’s “active disassembly” is an interesting start… http://www.nokia.com/nokia/0,6771,27610,00.html

1. when i pay $60 for “unlimited data”, in addition to the other cell phone bill, don’t fine-print-me-out with doubletalk and how it’s actually not “unlimited data”. [See] the limits of “unlimited” EVDO

2. give me a bill of rights. it’s weird to know that there isn’t a data retention policy i can see, my carrier has my text messages forever? 2 months? 6 months? no one knows. one time i called up to ask to see if i could get a copy of them or know how long they keep them. of course this went nowhere. i mentioned this in 2004 – http://www.engadget.com/2004/06/18/at-t-wireless-keeps-all-your-text-messages/ if you use google over sms or any service over sms, those are kept too. my guess is they’re mined for data, saved and stored forever, or until they’re lost / stolen / handed over. i’m sure we’ll see a terabyte of text messages hit the web, just like the aol search results…

like marc said, be my jetblue.

7 comments so far

  1. Dave Gale on

    Whoa! A wealth of diverse thought in one post!

    Would be great to know how the individuals behind these thoughts relate to telecoms.

    Tim O’Reilly’s ideas fascinate me and have kicked off a good few cranial processes in my head, but I guess he’s ahead of the curve in telco-tech thought-leadership?

    Andreas sounds as though he could be one of my customers.

    Jim sounds like he works in the next cubicle! ;)

    blog or wiki, I hope you have the energy to get keep something moving here Ian – good work!

  2. Fashion Devo on

    Wow, lots of information. You would need a wiki just to catorgorize all this information. By the way, I lean towards the wiki.

  3. Jonathan on

    I say ti again… What is a wiki? I hear this all the time. Great site. Thanks! Froggy

  4. Paul on

    Devo I lean that way too.

  5. Usb Guitar on

    A termite walked into a bar looked around and said “Where is the bartender?”

  6. Shelley Wright on

    Hi, your blog looks really good and gives great information! Anyway, nice job. Keep it up please!!! My best wishes to you all!

  7. Mark on

    Thank You

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