I'll stick to my comments and continue to believe that regulation had a stronger impact on the mobile sector than the economic crisis. The recent announcement that the French telecom regulation authority eventually (after years after back and forth discussions and lobbying) granted the 4th 3G license to Free/Iliad (one of the largest ISPs) is a good example of that. The new entrant will not launch before early 2012 but aims at captuting 10% market share by introducing cheaper tariffs (a competitive 3 hour package for less than 20€), bundling Internet access and offering interesting conditions to MVNOs. Evolution of termination rates or roaming tariffs as well as other regulations on spectrum have a much greater impact on operators' bottom line than reduced spending from consumers.
I recently returned from a trip to the UAE (Dubai mostly) and Oman. While there I did a bit of research on my own - just talking to folks about how they use their cell phones and so forth. I also had the chance to interview the head of mobile banking services in EMEA for a large, global bank. More on how global banks are avoiding building new branches by offering mobile banking services in another post.
First, I took the public bus from Dubai to Oman. The average income per family in Oman is far below that in the States - probably less than half. Gas and other utilities are cheap as is education and healthcare. That said, we know that cell phone usage has little to do with income. One of the first things I noticed is how many of the men had at least two cell phones. My initial hypothesis was a work phone and a personal phone. I was soon corrected by my guide who drove me up to Jebel Shams. In a country where men can have more than one wife, apparently more than one cell phone is necessary. My guide's father has five current wives, but has had nine all together. My guide had two cell phones and a lot more SIM cards.
My guide was 37 years of age. He had four children and seemed to have an about average income. He worked in sales when he wasn't serving as a guide. He's probably easily one of the most sophisticated cell phone users I've ever met. His cell phone was his portable media player for both music and video. I was astonished by the number of videos he had sideloaded from YouTube. The ringtones were pretty much driving me crazy after about 15 hours in a car with him road tripping. He only had a couple of different ring tones and his phone rang a lot.
ACCOR, the global hotel chain, just launched an iPhone application.
This is just one of the many examples of travel brands leveraging the mobile momentum. Airline companies have always been at the vanguard of integrating mobile into their strategies, but it looks like many other travel brands from hotel chains, airports, rail companies, car rental companies, and travel-related brands (from Lonely Planet to luxury brands) are now tapping into existing mobile opportunities and building mobile products that meet burgeoning customer demand.
Travel is indeed inherently mobile. Now that the promise of location-enhanced services is beginning to be fulfilled on mobile phones, travelers are starting to use their devices as personal travel assistants. More than 10% of European Internet travelers use their mobile phones to look up flight or train schedules. Frequent business travelers are the ideal target group, as they are more likely to be regular users of the mobile Internet and are more likely to spend while traveling. More than 30% of them are interested in booking train tickets or checking in for a flight via their mobile phones.
Another interesting announcement was made this morning at the LeWeb conference in Paris, where Orange officially announced the launch of its Application Shop (available in beta in the UK and France for several months). This shop will first be available to 1 million customers in these two countries before being roll-out to millions more customers throughout 2010. For now it gives acess to 5,000 applications.
Replicating Apple's success will not be an easy task and operators should not follow this route. They should on the contrary leverage their key assets to offer: