Coverage in Antarctica, but Not Palo Alto

I received a press release from Altobridge in my Inbox this afternoon - there is now GSM coverage in Antarctica. I don't even have cell coverage driving from San Francisco to Palo Alto - the last time I tried to do a conference call from 280S, my call was dropped five times.

Australian Antarctic Station ‘Casey' Goes Live with
Altobridge Remote GSM Solution

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Hotspots - Not Ubiquitous, But Beginning to Seem That Way

T-mobile made a number of announcements today one of which is the near doubling of their current footprint. They are also adding hotels and other venues where mobile professionals may find themselves. (I wanted to add a link, but it somehow is not on their site.) In any case, it's good news and confirms some of the trends that we are seeing in our research. We are also seeing increased interest in usage as well as willingness to pay. 3G service providers will always be able to claim more ubiquity, but Wi-Fi service providers like T-Mobile are getting ever so much closer to having networks that mobile professionals will perceive as being ubquitous to them.

A piece on T-mobile from the San Jose Mercury News.


Why Wireless Carriers Fear Unlimited Anything

My colleague Gary Stein forwarded this article to me a couple of days ago. A gentleman sent 182K text messages in one month and received a 1400 page phone bill.

It reminded me of a phone bill that a friend of mine gave to me once. I haven't counted the pages, but it's probably a 12" stack of paper - I use it as a foot rest at the office. It is so big that it was delivered in a box by UPS. Also, no charges. There wasn't even COD on the bill itself.

My friend's SMS's were generated by a machine. I'm not sure how this gentleman generated 182K messages - or by his estimates 6000 per day. His goal is 10,000 per day. 31 days per month x 24 hours per day x 60 minutes per hour ... he was busy and that assumes he didn't sleep.


New Wi-Fi Business Models

A lot of the discussion around the financial viability of public hotspots has centered on consumer access fees - which to date have not been as high as hoped due to lack of consumer interest and the availability of free public access. Not much press attention has focused on the other uses of the network.

I just recently saw this news story again in the press and it is one that intrigues me more than some of the other business models we've evaluated.

Nintendo Plans Wi-Fi Launch
Nintendo announced it will establish 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan by the end of 2005 where owners of its DS portable game machines can play games with others online for free. The company is planning similar services for overseas markets, aiming to expand sales of the DS and protect its leading position in the handheld game console industry. (Source: Reuters)

It reminds us that Wi-Fi will show up in a lot more consumer electronics products than just laptops. And, there will be a lot more ways that venues can make money from Wi-Fi than by simply offering connectivity. Kodak and T-mobile announced the Wi-Fi-enabled camera and integrated T-mobile set-up/connection to T-mobile services at CES this past winter.

We'll be publishing a piece that explores this topic futher towards teh end of the month.


Digital (Virtual?) Asset (Out)Laws

Yesterday, my colleagues Michael Gartenberg, Nate Elliot and I did a Juptel on portable media players and digital media. Our primary focus was music, photos and video.

A friend of mine forwarded this article to me yesterday. I don't usually blog about games or digital assets of this nature as they are not in the wireless domain, but I thought it was an interesting article. Less extreme, but well known examples of digital assets being stolen have popped up here in the United States - Paris Hilton's contact list, the rockstar's video, etc.

Qui Chengwei stabbed Zhu Caoyuan in the chest when he found out he had sold his virtual sword for 7,200 Yuan (£473).

The sword, which Mr Qui had lent to Mr Zhu, was won in the popular online game Legend of Mir 3.

Attempts to take the dispute to the police failed because there is currently no law in China to protect virtual property.

Appeal plea

Buying and selling gaming artefacts such as imaginary weapons is a booming business on the web.

The internet games section of Ebay saw more than $9m (£5m) in trades in 2003.

While China has no laws to deal with the theft of virtual property, South Korea has a section of its police force that investigates in-game crime. (BBC)


CPG Company Sells Mobile Content Online

I was reading a press release from Versaly Entertainment today regarding their support of SoBe's mobile content portal. At first, I thought it would be free ring tones and wallpaper associated with the SoBe brand. As it turns out, there are a few free items associated with the SoBe brand, but most of the content is for sale for $2.00. I'm not sure what the business model is, but I plan to follow-up with Versaly to find out. I'm equally intrigued by a CPG company marketing a third party's content and content showing up at what could be an unlimited number of online sites. I understand both sides. On one hand, SoBe is providing attractive content that will drive traffic to their site and assist in developing a community. Content providers get additional traffic. I'm unclear in terms of how SoBe will drive traffic to that portion of their site or how it will translate into more beverage sales - or if that is at all relevant. The content is not as explicitly tied to their brand as I would expect.

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SMS Campaigns - Staying on Track

A while ago, I registered to receive more offers from McDonald's after opting in through SMS for an NBA sweepstakes. The first one arrived yesterday.

McD offer.jpg

McDonald's really misses on this one by not tracking the source of registrations. Even if I didn't provide detailed demographic information, it's fairly same to assume that I'm young and a sports fan - not a mom with young children looking to buy Happy Meals.


Games on Cell Phones - Classics Still Top the Charts

Verizon announced their top selling games today ... I had to keep flipping to the front page of the release to see if the date said June 1, 2005 or October 26, 2004. Aside from the total number of downloads as well as the selection (500 now available), the press releases look similar.

In October 2004, Verizon was announcing more than 100 million downloads. They had 34 million downloads alone in Q1 2005.

Here's the top 5:

1. Tetris by JAMDAT Mobile (also #1 in 10/04)
2. Downtown Texas Hold'em by JAMDAT Mobile (#2 in 10/04)
3. JAMDAT Bowling/JAMDAT Bowling 2 (#6 previously)
4. PAC-MAN by Namco (#3)
5. Ms. PAC-MAN by Namco (#5)

Only Driv3r by Sorrent has been displaced from the top 5 overall even though it remains the top selling action game.

Seeing the same set of top sellers on the list as six months ago despite the introduction of a plethora of new games raises a lot of questions around the need - or lack thereof - for 3D and more sophisticated hand sets to drive this market. For now, consumers seem content with fairly straightforward, easy to play, well known games from online.

Despite the recent interest in movie titles, only Shrek 2 survives among the top five movie games.


Teens - Sweet Spot for Wireless Services

We have two new reports that discuss how consumers are using their cell phones. The first is a report on Teens. The second is our annual consumer survey of wireless subscribers.

One of the most interesting findings for me is that 26 percent of teens use their cell phones only for voice. Among adults, the number is 43 percent. With the behavior of teens and young adults (18-24) being so different than the average cell phone subscriber, it's easy to see why MVNO's are building out services for that segment alone. We'll be writing more on that topic later this year.

Both reports are loaded with detailed information about which carriers are leading the wirelesss data services market, how consumers are using their phones, how usage differs by age, etc.


Are you in touch with your dog ' s emotions today?

KTF Launches Service Interpreting Dog's Bark
"South Korean wireless carrier KTF launched a new service that enables dog owners to know whether their pets are feeling happy or sad. Users must first connect to the Internet with their wireless phones, then register information regarding the dogs breed and age. The service will then record the dog's bark. The owner will receive text messages telling them how the dog feels, such as "I am happy" or "I am frustrated". (Source: Associated Press)"

I really don't think there's much more I can add to this.

I think one thing that it does show - it's very hard to predict what will be a successful wireless data service. It also gives weight to the side of the argument for carriers to open up their networks - let the consumers decide what applications and content they want.