Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category.

Smart(er) Customer Service for Smartphones

As Smartphones increase their market presence and more and more newer devices appear in the market, the complexity of the Smartphones has the potential to cause significant problems for the subscribers and carriers. A typical life-cycle of the Smartphone includes – Purchase, Activation, Network on-boarding, Configuration, Control, Check/correct(Diagnostics), Update, Lock/wipe (Security), Backups, New application downloads and more.  Users obviously are accustomed to the reliability and ease of making phone calls and expect the same ease in operating their emails, their phone books, their Internet access, facebook, twitter and other applications.  When there is any trouble with any of these services, the first line of help is the carrier.  And, the help request is always urgent and immediate – therefore starts with a phone call to the carrier.

Yet, as the carrier receives the phone call to solve the subscriber’s problem, there could be potentially many “cockpit” problems with the handheld device that have nothing to do with the network.  Such “cockpit” problems are typically setup, configuration issues where the user may have inadvertently set something incorrectly – as a result of which the device may not function appropriately.
The list of such issues may include:

  • E-mail configuration and setup
  • Link with PC/Mac
  • Network setup for Internet access
  • Wi-fi setup
  • Firmware upgrade
  • Device failures
  • GPS functionality
  • Other

In order to address the “cockpit” issues, a Customer Service Representative (CSR) may have to spend over 30 minutes during just one conversation to help the subscriber configure her email on the new device or set up the link with PC/Mac. Multiply the 30 minute phone conversations by over 40 million Smartphones shipped each quarter and that amounts to a 1.2 billion-minute problem for the carriers for just one quarter!

Mobile Device Management (MDM) for fast problem resolution

Jim Barthold, of points to a couple of vendors, Innopath and Mformation who have created solutions to this massive customer service problem.  Providing the CSR with limited access to the subscriber’s device using Mobile Device Management, this 30-minute plus conversation can be easily reduced to 5 minutes or less.  Which means – Happy, loyal subscribers who can go back to using and consuming more voice and data services;  Happy, loyal subscribers who recommend the service to their friends and family; Lower costs of service to the carrier; and Happy, loyal Customer Service Representatives who have more time to up-sell and cross-sell.
In addition to helping serve the subscribers quickly, MDM can also help in passively monitoring and benchmarking the customer’s experience by monitoring call quality, bandwidth consistency and other measures of quality of service.

Future –Cloud-based Services for your Mobile Device?

The incorporation of MDM into providing faster customer service points to a future where many of the services required by subscribers will be cloud-based and served effectively through the cloud.  As one can see from the “Everdream” offering by Dell – the services may include: Software/firmware distribution; Security software (anti-virus/anti-malware); backups; data encryption; remote access to the device and many more.

Future – More Personalization?

MDM also opens up tremendous opportunities for personalizing subscriber services provided by the carrier. For example, a carrier may use MDM capabilities provide a premium subscriber with a higher quality of service, time-limited access to various paid applications to entice the subscriber to add them to their services, time-limited access to content such as music, streaming video,  games etc. as an up-sell offer, upsell offers for value-added services such as Person-to-Application (P2A) SMS and more. Additionally, the carrier could continuously update the subscriber’s firmware using Firmware Over the Air (FOTA) updates.

Global Mobile Market Share – by Region and Operator/Carrier

As of August 2009, Wikipedia shows global mobile subscribers exceeded 2.8 Billion. The market share by regions shows Europe (including Eastern Europe and Australia/NZ leading with over 42% market share) and China with 22% market share:

Global Mobile Market Share by Region

Global Mobile Market Share by Region

And, based on the carriers/operators, the distribution shows the world’s largest carrier, China Mobile at 17% market share, followed by Vodafone at over 10% market share:

Global Mobile Market Share by Carrier

Global Mobile Market Share by Carrier

iPhone 3GS – 1 Million & Counting – Where’s the Bandwidth (Beef)?

In the 1980’s, the Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” became extremely popular. This commercial helped Wendy’s catapult its position in the market as a fast food restaurant delivering the “beef.” Fast forward to Father’s day (June 21, 2009) when more than a million iPhone 3G S were sold on the 1st weekend of its debut. Adding to more than 139 Million Smartphones sold worldwide in year 2008 (Gartner), Smartphones have now attained a stable 12% proportion of all mobile device sales worldwide. Not to be left behind, cloud computing is also quickly gaining momentum with worldwide sales of “Netbooks” – devices that are expected to be “always-connected” and rely on the “cloud” for business applications and storage approximating 15 million units in year 2008, expected to reach about 27 million units in year 2009 (Displaybank).

While the Smartphone and Netbook sales are great news for the device manufacturers, one has to question how are all these devices going to be supported on the 3G networks? In other words, “Where’s the bandwidth?” published a study on worldwide user experience on 3G networks and found that in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, 10 out of 30 respondents reported very slow speeds, barely surpassing the speed of the EDGE networks. (

Somewhat in anticipation of increased demand, AT&T is rolling out HSDPA 7.2 to support the newer, higher speed devices; however, that rollout is expected to continue through year 2011 ( But, it is a classic case of demand far outpacing the supply.  Operators such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint clearly have a challenging situation on-hand. The increasing broadband data bandwidth opportunity for maximizing ARPU needs to be balanced with pricing/delivery models that provide the best consumer experience.

So, what are the possible options for the operators?

  1. Network Optimization – Vendors such as Openwave and Bytemobile provide solutions for data compression for efficient Bandwidth Management for the Wireless Networks.
  2. Policing the “Power Users” or “Abusers” – To maximize customer adoption of the wireless broadband services, operators provide unlimited usage for Smartphones. However, such “unlimited” packages can become resource sinks for the operators. Initiating policy that reduces the speed down to 2G speeds for abusers may be helpful in permitting the profitable users to continue to receive a great user experience. reports that Vodafone, Hungary is trying this approach.
  3. “Quotas” for data – AT&T already has quotas for its DataConnect plans for connecting PCs to the Wireless Internet – limiting total bandwidth usage to 5GB per month. Such “quotas” can also be extended to the Smartphone data plans
  4. Use creative limits or tiered pricing based on (Kevin Fitchard, has mentioned this approach)
    • Speed – For example, several tiers of services can be offered based on maximum data speed, while still providing an all-you-can-eat pricing for overall bandwidth per month
    • Quality of service – For example, guaranteed VoIP service for an extra price
    • Application – For example, video streaming or online games can be offered separate pricing
    • Subscriber profile –  For example, triple play subscriber may be eligible for different pricing
    • Subscriber usage history – For example, occasional heavy user may be eligible for different pricing
    • Device being used – For example, High-speed 3G (HSDPA 7.2) devices may be priced higher
    • Time-of-day – Off-peak users may be offered lower pricing
    • Other attributes

Clearly, the increase in Smartphone sales even during such recessionary times indicates the consumers’ insatiable desire for rich information on-the-go. The easier it gets to browse the Web, create and consume social media (Web 2.0) from sources such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., create and consume news, entertainment from a mobile device, the more the consumer is hooked on to become an “always-connected” person. However, it is very clear from the demand and supply curves for bandwidth that the demand is expected to continue to outstrip supply for the next 2-5 years.

One can easily draw comparisons to several other mature markets for services where a tiered/restricted pricing and delivery model has been well-accepted by consumers:

  • Wireline DSL – Pay more for higher speeds
  • Automated Teller Machines – Consumer pays when using an “out-of-network” machine
  • Electric utilities – Opt-in for lower off-peak rates if you agree to use major appliances during off-peak usage times

In conclusion, as many more Smartphones come online, the consumers will be asking the question, “Where’s the Bandwidth?” Operators can more than prepare themselves for this eventuality by adopting Network Optimization, Bandwidth Policies, Quotas or Tiered Pricing or a combination of these solutions for pricing and delivery of services to help consumers get the best user experience for their buck.  These solutions provide faster time-to-market, a value-driven user experience and significantly better ROI as the build-out of long-term, capital intensive infrastructure for 4G starts taking place.

Update:  Sept 30, 2009 – The lack of consistent bandwidth on the network brings down AT&T’s customer satisfaction ratings. (iPhone Actually Hurting AT&T Customer Satisfaction). See also (AT&T Is A Big, Steaming Heap Of Failure).

Update: June 2, 2010 – Finally, one year later, at&t cancels the “all you can eat” plan in favor of plans with bandwidth limits. $25 plan for 2gb and $15 plan for 200mb. at&t claims that the $15 plan is suitable for 65% of current users and the $25 plan is suitable for 98% of its users (2 sigma and 3 sigma on a bell curve). At least the announcement timing is right – just before the new iphone comes out. (AT&T caps phone data usage with new plans)